December is low-season, which means winter sales and low-price hotels to attract tourists. Find out what things you can do in Istanbul at this time including activities during the festive Christmas and New Years season.
While Christmas is not official observed in Turkey, never underestimate the power of tourism. Most of the big chain hotels like the Four Season Bosphorus and Ciragan Palace Kempinski go full out in their x-mas decorations and that includes the bar and restaurant menus.
With winter sales also being a tourism boon, you’ll see quite a few Santa’s when strolling around, along with festive decorations spread about, especially around Taksim Square and Istiklal Street.
Christmas dinners are readily available all over town, with turkey feasts being available on New Year’s Eve too. If you wanted to visit a Christmas Market, have no fear, Istanbul has those too. While they won’t compare to those found elsewhere in Europe, they’ll still brighten up your holiday spirit.
Celebrate New Year’s
There are hundreds of New Year’s Parties in Istanbul, as it’s the holidays are heavily celebrated here in Turkey. Watching the fireworks display lighting up the night on the Bosphorus is a sight to behold.
While front-row seats are available on party dinner cruises, and even palace restaurants, there are so many different places where you can take in the view. Istanbul is full of hills that overlook the waterfront, so you can enjoy the fireworks from a park, a tower restaurant or even a rooftop bar.
In Ortakoy, you’ll find many clubs on the water like Ruby and Sortie that also offer excellent views. If you desire a club atmosphere like Ritim or places with live music like Babylon or IF Performance Hall is more your scene, most of them will show the fireworks on big screen TVs.
Taksim Square and Istiklal Street are also great places to celebrate and the crowds will be intense.
Enjoy World Turkish Coffee Day
Yes, this is a thing… and while it takes place on December 5th, you can be sure that coffee sales spike throughout the month of December and all winter for that matter. Now here’s some well-grounded trivia to mull over while your sipping black gold.
Turkish coffee is brewed with finely ground Arabic coffee beans in a special copper pot called a cezve. Two heaping teaspoons of ground coffee are used every in cup and it’s usually served with a glass of water and Turkish dessert. The water is meant to refresh your taste buds between sips, so you truly enjoy the coffee’s flavor throughout.
Turkish coffee has only 2 calories when served without sugar and in general, very little sugar is added during serving. When compared to 200-300+ calorie macchiatos and lattes, you’ll quickly understand why the Turkish blend is a much healthier option.
See a Whirling Dervish Show
If you can’t make it down to the Rumi Festival in Konya, why not celebrate the life of Jelaleddin Rumi in Istanbul,
Rumi was a 13th-century Sufi poet who founded the Mevlevi Order of Whirling Dervishes. His death in mid-December of 1273 (called Seb-i Aruz) is considered his wedding night; as he departed his earthly life to be united in love with the Divine.
Discover Santa’s Origins
While good ole’ Santa was not a Turk, the Saint believed to be Father Christmas of the western’s world Santa Claus fame has Turkish ties.
Saint Nicholas (or old’ St. Nick) was born in Greco-Roman Lycia and would later become the Bishop of Myra. The city of Myra however, would later fall into the hands of the Seljuk Empire and become part of Persia, or what is now known as Demre, Turkey.
December 6th is St. Nicholas Day and if you cannot make the pilgrimage in Demre, know there is at least a St. Nicholas Orthodox Church located near the Golden Horn in Fatih where you can pay homage.
The Atta Festival is an international art show that’s been taking place in Istanbul since 2016. This year’s dates run from November 18 through till December 8, so you’ll have to be in town early to take part.
The festival is geared towards children and babies with shows of 0-3 years, 4+ and 7-8+ that include music, dancing, ballet dancing, mine shows, and animated movies.
Learn Gastronomy from a Renowned Chef
There are a lot of cooking classes in Istanbul, but the one led by Chef Jaume Puigdengolas on December 13th at The House Hotel Bomonti is special.
Chef Jaume teaches gastronomy at Bahcesehir University and he literally has a doctorate in delicious food preparation. Limited tickets are available on Billetix.com, so get your s before they’re… eaten up.