Istanbul is one of Turkey’s major cities. Although it is considered European, it straddles both Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus Strait.
The area reflects the cultures of the many empires that ruled the city. Visitors will find the Roman-era Hippodrome, a former site for chariot races, in the Sultanahmet district. The iconic Byzantine Hagia Sophia is a Grand Mosque that features a 6th century dome and houses rare Christian mosaics.
Istanbul is a lovely city to visit throughout the year, but it really lights up during the Christmas season. Near holiday time, the streets are filled with markets that bring a magical spirit and a sense of wonder to the area. Here are some you can check out during your trip.
IWI Winter Festival
The Winter Festival is a well-known Istanbul event hosted by the International Women of Istanbul (IWI). It features over 80 stalls that offer terrific holiday gifts as well as raffles with upscale prizes and a Santa Claus children’s corner. Proceeds benefit the IWI, a member-based organization for foreign women in Turkey.
One of the highlights of the event is a stand devoted to Expat Sofra, a compilation of short stories written by 33 female expats. The book focuses on food and is written in English. It can best be described as a cookbook meets travelogue as each story has a photograph and corresponding recipe. It makes for a wonderful holiday gift.
The book’s writers may be on hand to provide signed copies.
The Winter Festival takes place at the Marriot Sisli Hotel from 10 AM to 5PM. It is a one-day event that occurs on a weekend day in early December.
Zubizu New Year’s Shopping
The Zubizu New Year’s Shopping event is one of the biggest holiday gift markets in the city. It happens over the course of a weekend in early December at the Volkswagen Arena.
Zubizu is a mobile shopping app for clothing, housewares and just about anything else lifestyle related. The app teams up with the indoor arena to host the market which includes hundreds of stalls representing a variety of brands sold through the app.
Handmade Istanbul Holiday Market
Handmade Istanbul is a collective of Istanbul based artisans and crafters. Makers share their homemade items through a Facebook group page and also sell them at live markets with proceeds donated to the U.N. registered refuges housed at St. George Hostel.
The daylong event happens in early December at the St. Helena Chapel in Tepebasi. It’s a terrific opportunity to purchase unique items and it is often frequented by the expat community in the city.
Bomonti Kermes for The Little Sisters of the Poor
This one-day event happens on a weekend day in mid-December. It is hosted by the Little Sisters of the Poor. The market is called Bomonti Kermes and serves to raise funds for an elderly home also known as Fransiz Fakirhanesi. It is an annual market and another favorite among the expat community. It’s a great place to find unique crafts, clothing, accessories and international food items.
Winter Bazaar at Feriye Palace
Feriye Palace is a complex of Ottomon imperial buildings that stretch along the shoreline of the Bosphorus Strait. They make a lovely backdrop for the annual market that takes place over the course of a weekend in mid-December. In addition to hosting several stalls that sell unique crafts and seasonal treats, there are also creative workshops that take place including one for silk bracelet making.
Also known as Kapalicarsi or covered market, the Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world. It encompasses 61 covered streets and includes over 4000 shops and boasts an area of 30,700 meters.
The market attracts between 250,000 and 400,00 visitors daily and was listed as the most visited tourist attraction in 2014. It is considered to be one of the world’s first shopping malls.
You can visit the Grand Bazaar at any time, but it is especially lovely during the holiday season when it is decorated with cheer and offers a variety of holiday items.
In addition to the markets listed above, there are several others that happen year-round and are worth checking out at Christmastime. These include:
The Historic Kadikoy Tuesday market: This market takes place every Tuesday in the Kadikoy district, and it is one of the most popular markets in the city. It offers a variety of fresh foods and produce as well as vintage clothing, fabrics and textiles. It is also open Fridays with a flea market vibe.
Ortakay Thursday Market: This market is held every Thursday in the neighborhood of Ortakoy. It has an upscale vibe and it’s a great place to find name brand clothing, home textiles cosmetics and other goods at affordable prices.
Besiktas Saturday Market: This market takes place in Besiktas district on Saturdays. Shoppers will find a variety of fresh foods, goods and clothing.
Bakirkoy Saturday market: This Saturday market is located in the Bakirkoy district. It offers branded merchandise at affordable prices.
Ferikoy Organic Saturday Market: This market happens in the Sisli district, and it sells a variety of organic food goods and cosmetic products.
Historic Inebolu Sunday Village Market: This market is hosted in the Kasimpasa neighborhood of the Beyoglu district. It is a historic and popular village market that offers fresh, organic products from the Kastamonu’s Inebolu district.
Join us as we explore the best places to stay near the Christmas markets in Istanbul, where you can enjoy the unique blend of cultural traditions, delicious food, and joyful celebrations. Let’s dive in and make your holiday stay in Istanbul truly memorable!
- Hotel Amira Istanbul: Located in the Sultanahmet district, this charming boutique hotel offers easy access to the Christmas markets along with comfortable rooms and a rooftop terrace.
- Sultanahmet Palace Hotel: Just a short walk from the Grand Bazaar and other Christmas market locations, this hotel features cozy rooms, a restaurant, and a helpful staff.
- Sirkeci Mansion: Situated in the historic Sirkeci neighborhood, this elegant hotel is within walking distance of the Christmas markets and offers luxurious rooms and a delightful courtyard.
- Vault Karakoy House Hotel: Nestled in the trendy Karakoy district, this boutique hotel provides stylish accommodations and is conveniently located near the Christmas market attractions.
- Hotel Amira Istanbul Sultanahmet: Offering a prime location in the heart of Sultanahmet, this hotel is close to the main Christmas market areas and provides comfortable rooms and a friendly atmosphere.
- Pera Palace Hotel: A historic landmark in Istanbul, this hotel offers a blend of classic elegance and modern comforts. It is located near popular Christmas market spots and features luxurious rooms and excellent service.
- The Marmara Taksim: Positioned in the vibrant Taksim Square area, this hotel offers panoramic views of the city skyline and easy access to Christmas markets, making it a perfect choice for visitors.
- Hotel Amira Istanbul Old City: Located near the Hagia Sophia and other Christmas market attractions, this hotel provides comfortable accommodations and a rooftop terrace with stunning views.
- Niles Hotel: Situated in the lively Sultanahmet district, this boutique hotel is just steps away from the Christmas markets and offers cozy rooms and a charming courtyard.
- Georges Hotel Galata: With its prime location in the Galata district, this boutique hotel provides stylish rooms and is within walking distance of the Christmas market areas.
If you are looking to visit Istanbul, Christmas is the time to do it. Markets fill the city with a festive atmosphere that can’t be beat. Which of these will you be checking out during your trip?