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Are you thinking about visiting Istanbul in January?
Although the high season in Turkey for tourism is May through September, there’s plenty to do in the off season as well. In fact, Di and I spent January through March in Istanbul alone and preferred it to many of the cities we’ve been to in the high season.
We basically hit all of the most important tourist sites in and around Istanbul (aside from beaches) and did it without the crowds.
While the weather certainly wasn’t the best, it definitely could’ve be worse. We’re both from Ohio, so January in Istanbul is nothing compared to the winters we get back home.
If you’re thinking of visiting Istanbul in January, this breakdown covers:
- Average temperatures in Istanbul in Juarary
- Average rain (and snow) in January
- The average amount of sun in January
- When you should (and shouldn’t) visit Istanbul in January
- And so much more!
Let’s get started.
A rare sunny day on Istiklal Street, which is crowded no matter the weather.
What to Expect From Istanbul Weather in January
Thinking of braving the Istanbul weather in January? Here’s what you can expect on your trip.
Istanbul January Temperatures
Historically, the average Istanbul weather in January is 43 degrees Fahrenheit / 6 degrees Celsius, making January the coldest month of the year in Istanbul.
In our time in Istanbul in January, we were typically walking around in jeans, boots, sweater, coat, gloves, and a hat. Some days were bitterly cold (we even got some light snow a few times), while other days were fairly nice.
Galata Tower on a rainy day in Istanbul
Istanbul January Rain
I never felt like I was having winter like in the northern United States or Canada, but it was fairly cold at times.
The more annoying part of the weather in January in Istanbul is the rain. Historically, you can expect about 14 days of rain throughout the month, making it the second wettest month of the year after December.
I didn’t keep track of the amount of days we got rained on while in the city, but it did feel like quite a lot.
Although it didn’t snow a ton, rain in the cold weather is even worse, especially when you’re trying to take a tour. We got rained on during our free walking tour in January, which was an unfortunate experience.
On the other hand, though, there are tons of indoor tour options in Istanbul as well, like a Whirling Dervish show (which have been named a UNESCO World Heritage cultural event) or the Hagia Sofia Museum (a must-see in the city), so even if you are stuck indoors every day you’ll still be able to find tons of stuff to do.
Sunset on a ferry ride to Kadikoy – January in Istanbul isn’t all bad
Istanbul January Sun
The other thing about Istanbul weather in January is that we didn’t get very much sun. Most of our days were gray and cloudy. Historically, January only has 3 hours of sun per day!
January and December get the least amount of sunshine per day, and I definitely noticed that during our time. It seemed like most days we went outside it was gray, cloudy, and raining.
Cold and rainy outside? That just makes the Grand Bazaar even cozier.
Should You Visit Istanbul In January?
This one is a bit tougher to answer because we spent over two months in this cozy Airbnb in the city, so it wasn’t the end of the world when we got bad weather.
We could either find something inside to do or we could just put off the tourist stuff for another weekend. So, let me answer this one in two parts..
Skiing in Uludag National Park (and riding the longest cable car in the world) was a highlight of our two-month winter visit to Istanbul
Brave Istanbul’s January Weather for Cheap/Short Trips
If you’re in the region and it’s easy for you to stop by Istanbul, I’d say go for it.
Flights, trains, and busses in the area seem to be pretty reasonable, and some of the weekends we had were decent in terms of weather. There were also significantly less tourists, so visiting the sites was so much better.
A little rain can’t stop Istanbul from partying
Reschedule Long/Once-in-a-lifetime Trips for Another Month
If you’re coming from somewhere far away and are spending a lot of money to get to Istanbul, I’d say you’re better off skipping the trip in January.
The weather was pretty miserable, and part of the fun of Istanbul is walking from place to place since the city is so big and diverse. You’re going to be disappointed if you spend a lot of money to come for five days and get nothing but cold, gray days with rain.
With that said, I definitely do recommend that you get to Istanbul during the off season.
We had much better weather during that time, and the weather, rain, and sun all improve as your move toward March and April.
I’m not sure I would even want to be in the city during the high season because I can only imagine that it’s sweaty, crowded, and annoying to get around.
More gray skies in Istanbul at the Hagia Sofia Museum, but I think it adds to the atmosphere.
Is the Istanbul Weather In January Any Good?
All in all, it’s worth visiting Istanbul in January if you’re working remotely and staying for a longer period of time like we were. While I prefer to be somewhere warm in the winter, there are definitely worse places to spend January than Istanbul.
For those spending a lot of money and using a lot of vacation time, Istanbul isn’t the place I would choose if I were traveling in January.
Get in toward the end of the low season or the very beginning of high season and you’ll likely get nice weather while still enjoying the much smaller crowds.
Ready to go? Use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights to Istanbul in January and explore accommodation like unique stays on Airbnb (like our cozy apartment in Beyoglu) or the top-rated hotels on Booking.com to plan the perfect night, weekend, or long-term stay in the city.
This article is part of the Winter in Istanbul series. Read the rest below:
Then, explore the complete Turkey Series for more insider tips on what to see, do, eat, drink, and discover in the country.
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