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.

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.

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.

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.

Istiklal Street in Istanbul

Should You Visit Istanbul In January?

This one is a bit tougher to answer because we spent over two months 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..

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.

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.

view of mosques from the Hagia Sophia Museum

Final Thoughts On Istanbul Weather In January

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.

Think you might brave the cold? Browse the Turkey Series to learn five reasons why you should visit Istanbul in the winter, how to take a ski trip to Uludag National Park, and so much more! 

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