Christmas celebrations in Turkey

Celebrating Christmas in Istanbul — Pros and Cons

The roots of Santa Claus lay in Turkey, to be precise in Patara near Myra. Already in the 4th century A.D.E. St Nicholas dropped bags of money down the chimneys to help people. But today, in a country with a 98% Muslim population, Christmas is a day like any other day. Yet, spending Christmas in Istanbul is not that odd an idea — here’s why.

Picture of Christmas decorations in Beyoğlu - Istanbul, Turkey.
Christmas decorations in Beyoğlu, Istanbul. © Photo by Reddit

5 Reasons Why Istanbul Is a Nice Christmas Destination

  • Christmas Decoration — Starting mid-December, streets and stores are decorated in a similar fashion Western countries do for Christmas. You’ll find plenty of Christmas trees, (street) lights and even an occasional Santa Claus. Not that Turks celebrate the birth of Christ; they’re just gearing up for New Year celebrations. But the atmosphere leading up to that day is similar to what we’re used to for Christmas in the West.
  • No Christmas Hype — You can enjoy the Christmas atmosphere without all the commercial elements. I personally don’t miss 30 repetitions a day of Jingle Bells or White Christmas, just to name a few. There simply aren’t any special celebrations, except for masses held at some churches (see below).
  • Lesser Sightseeing Queues — In Istanbul, December 25th is business as usual. In other words, Istanbul spends the festive season in much the same way as it always does: bustling and at your service. Not only are all the historic sights open, on top of it they are fairly quiet with pretty short queues — a blessing.
Picture of Anthony of Padua Church in Istanbul, Turkey.
Anthony of Padua Church. © Marco Zanderrari
  • Christmas Masses — If you wish to attend a special Christmas mass, that’s no problem. Just go to Anthony of Padua, the largest Catholic church in Istanbul. It’s located on Istiklal Caddesi, on your left as you walk from Taksim towards Tünel. On foot it will take about 20-25 minutes. To be on the safe side, please check out mass hours at least a day beforehand.
  • It’s Only a Week from New Year — Istanbul’s New Year celebrations are famous. On New Year’s Eve Istanbul is at full swing with restaurants, cafes, bars and night clubs fully booked. And if you prefer to celebrate outdoors, head for Nişantası‘s giant street party. So why not combine both year-end festivities while you’re here?

Why an Istanbul Christmas May Not Be Your Cup of Tea

  • Not Really Low Season — Istanbul’s winter is not the most attractive travel weather for the average tourist. Yet, the last week of the year hotel prices tend to rise a bit. Be on the lookout for early booking discounts.
  • It’s Winter Time — If you don’t like the summer heat, the festive season is a great alternative. But Istanbul winters can be wet and cold. To make sure you’ll have a fantastic time, pack something waterproof and wear lots of layers.

Christmas in Argentina Christmas in Japan
Christmas in Australia Christmas in Kenya
Christmas in Austria Christmas in Latvia
Christmas in Belgium Christmas in Lithuania
Christmas in Bolivia Christmas in Malta
Christmas in Bulgaria Christmas in Mexico
Christmas in China Christmas in Montenegro
Christmas in Canada Christmas in Nigeria
Christmas in Colombia Christmas in Norway
Christmas in Croatia Christmas in Netherlands
Christmas in Denmark Christmas in New Zealand
Christmas in Estonia Christmas in Palestinian Territories
Christmas in Georgia Christmas in Philippines
Christmas in Germany Christmas in Portugal
Christmas in Ghana Christmas in Poland
Christmas in Greece Christmas in Puerto Rico
Christmas in Greenland Christmas in Romania
Christmas in Guatemala Christmas in Russia
Christmas in Hong Kong Christmas in Sri Lanka
Christmas in Iceland Christmas in Spain
Christmas in Indonesia Christmas in South Africa
Christmas in Italy Christmas in South Korea
Christmas in India Christmas in Trinidad and Tobago
Christmas in Ireland Christmas in USA (America)
Christmas in Brazil Christmas in Zambia
Christmas in Congo, Democratic Republic of the Christmas in Zimbabwe
Christmas in EthiopiaChristmas in France
Christmas in UkraineChristmas in United Kingdom
Christmas in Costa RicaChristmas in Belarus
Christmas in FinlandChristmas in Hungary
Christmas in ChileChristmas in Fiji
Christmas in IsraelChristmas in Cyprus
Christmas in Korea, NorthChristmas in Czech Republic
Christmas in KuwaitChristmas in Vietnam
Christmas in EcuadorChristmas in Cyprus
Christmas in HaitiChristmas in SWITZERLAND
Christmas in AngolaChristmas in Thailand
Christmas in Vatican CityChristmas in Paraguay
Christmas in VenezuelaChristmas in Malaysia
Christmas in TurkeyChristmas in Peru
Christmas in UgandaChristmas in Taiwan
Christmas in QatarChristmas in singapore
Christmas in Saudi ArabiaChristmas in Sweden

Christmas in Samoa

Christmas inbosnia
Christmas in MalawiChristmas in Luxembourg