Head to Istanbul over the winter season and you can make the most of cheaper flights and hotels, and less crowds at the city’s best attractions. Haggle for bargains at the Grand Bazaar, explore the impressive Byzantine buildings and relax with a Turkish Bath.

Here are the top things to do in winter in Istanbul…

Enjoy crowd-free sightseeing

Istanbul lines up so many ancient sights and two of the city’s biggest must-sees are Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque. The great thing about travelling during Istanbul’s low season in winter is the chance to explore these attractions without the huge queues and crowds. Don’t just see these impressive buildings from the outside, take your time to admire the beautiful frescos and mosaic ceilings inside too.

Istanbul City Tour – Red Route, Stop: Sultanahmet Square

Haggle for bargains

Forget January sales at the malls and designer stores, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is the place to find some real treasures. And haggling at the market is an experience in itself. The Grand Bazaar is the oldest and biggest covered market in the world, made up of a maze of stalls and winding lanes filled with an Aladdin’s cave of treasures. You’ve got everything from carpets and exotic spices to Turkish teapots and traditional lamps. When you’re all shopped-out, make a pit stop at one of the cafes for some Turkish tea and baklava.

Istanbul City Tour – Red Route, Stop: Egyptian Spice Bazaar

Experience a Turkish bath

Enjoy a spa treatment at one of Istanbul’s many traditional baths. Designed to cleanse the body and relax the mind, this treatment involves relaxing in a hot room, being scrubbed from head to toe to exfoliate that dead skin away, then being massaged with essential oils and a huge mound of bubbles. Bliss. You’ll come away relaxed and ready to continue your trip (with super soft skin). Pick the gorgeous Suleymaniye Hamam for your spa experience – it’s one of the oldest baths in the city.

Istanbul City Tour – Red Route, Stop: Egyptian Spice Bazaar

Have your fill of fish (and raki)

Winter is fish season is Istanbul. From the end of September, the catch is more plentiful and better quality, so be sure to dine in the city’s best fish restaurants. There’s Mavi Balik which is known for its red mullet and blue fish, and the Fish Suada Club, where you’ll get gorgeous views of the Bosphorus as you dine on seasonal specialties. And, because it might be a bit nippy outside, warm up with some Raki, Turkey’s national drink. This anise-flavored liquor pairs perfectly with fish – sip it slowly for a warming effect.

Ring in the New Year

While Christmas is just another day in Istanbul, New Year’s Eve is a big deal, and the city appropriately pulls out all the stops. You can take your pick from a boat party on the Bosphorus River, New Year’s Eve balls at the city’s best hotels, and special NYE dinners at selected restaurants. Or, you can watch fireworks lighting up the city and join in the many street parties.

Plan your winter escapade to Istanbul today. This eclectic city lines up ancient sights, a huge maze of souks and traditional spa treatments to try. Browse our Istanbul bus tours for more inspiration on things to do in the city.