Ramadan 2019 in Istanbul​ – is it a good time to visit?

Ramadan 2019 in Istanbul​ – is it a good time to visit?

 

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan, known as Ramazan in Turkish, will run from May 6th to June 4th in 2019. It’s a month of fasting, prayer, empathy and celebration across Turkey. Ramadan time in Istanbul has a different atmosphere to the rest of the year.

 

Is it a good time to visit?

You might be trying to decide whether it’s a good idea to visit Istanbul during Ramadan and if so, wondering what you’ll find. Will restaurants be open during the fasting hours? Will it be antisocial to have an alcoholic drink? Should more conservative clothes be worn?

In fact, Istanbul is even more special than usual during Ramadan

Istanbul-style Ramadan is more liberal than elsewhere. During the day there’s anticipation in the air and after sunset you’ll find a festival atmosphere. Trees are draped with fairy lights and mosques display sparkling celebratory messages between their minarets. Families and friends come out together to promenade and in some areas, temporary stalls sell religious items, traditional snacks or treats for children.

Across the city and in our neighbourhood, spirits are up

Restaurants, bars and clubs are generally open as usual, other than in the very conservative districts. Non-Muslims are welcomed and local people are as kind and generous as ever, or more so. Dress codes aren’t affected, so you can feel free to wear whatever you normally would in your own country.

Restaurants are quieter during the day, but become very busy approaching the time for fast to be broken. This happens at sunset and is called iftar in Turkish. Many restaurants offer a special banquet-like menu with unusual dishes out on display, so it can be a great opportunity to taste something new.

 

 

Istiklal street iftar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Istiklal iftar in 2013 | photograph TRT Haber Foto Galeri

 

Seasonal food

Special foods as well as atmosphere are available at this time of year, so don’t miss the chance to try them if you can. These include:

Ramadan pide – a freshly baked round flatbread, very large for sharing widely

Güllaç – a milky pudding with pomegranate seeds and ground pistachio nuts

 

Ramadan drummers

Some neighbourhoods – though not usually Galata, our apartments’ area – preserve this tradition. An hour or so before dawn a drummer, likely plus entourage, walks the streets while beating rhythm, perhaps below your bedroom window! The purpose is to wake everyone in time for sahur, the morning meal that’s eaten before sunrise. It happens for only a couple of minutes and is an interesting cultural experience as a visitor. Once you’ve got the idea of it, earplugs and a little patience are recommended, unless you’re joining in.

 

So our advice would be to definitely come and enjoy Istanbul during Ramadan: the city and its people will be even more interesting than usual!

 

Ramadan dates for the future

2019: 06 May – 04 June
2020: 24 April – 24 May
2021: 13 April – 12 May
2022: 2 April – 1 May

Bayram dates for the future

2019: 04-06 June
2020: 24-26 May
2021: 12-14 May
2022: 1-3 May

 

Traffic and transport implications

Road traffic will be heavier every day just before iftar, with taxis harder to find. If it’s been a long hot day, light-headed drivers may be even more erratic than usual. On the last day of Ramadan in Istanbul, public transport will be very busy as everyone tries to reach extended family for the 3 day Şeker Bayram holiday beginning at sunset.

 

Museums and cultural attractions

These should be operating but may have special opening hours, particularly on the day just before Şeker Bayram, when they may be closed. It’s certainly best to check before heading out to them.

 

Do you have questions about Ramadan in Istanbul?

Feel free to comment or ask us any questions you may have, below. We’d love to hear from you.

 

Comments

  1. Hi! Are restaurants busy during iftar time? Do I need to reserve early at a restaurant or is it easy to find a place to eat?
    Any recommendations for good iftar in sultanahmet? 🙂

    • Hi Sara,

      Yes, restaurants get extremely busy during iftar time, so we’d recommend you to book if you plan to eat during iftar. However, some of the restaurants such as meyhanes which are typical for raki and meze in Turkey, could be less busy than usual.

      We’d recommend you to try iftar places in Beyoglu rather than Sultanahmet.

      Wish you a great time!

  2. Will the Grand Bazaar be open this week? We want to go on May 28 and 30. Also can I buy salep powder there to take back to the US to make ice cream.

    • Hi Jean,

      Yes Grand Bazaar will be open for your dates. Spice Bazaar which is very close to Grand Bazaar would be the best place to buy salep powder.

      Wish you a fantastic time!

  3. Omar says:

    Hello ! Im planning to visit istanbul on 3rd of June till 5th of June , so i want to ask if all the dresses shops will be open on that dates .
    Best regards

  4. Mahdieh says:

    Hello ,I want to go to Istanbul from 2-6 of june and i want to know whether malls are open in eid al fitr or not?And which mall is suitable for kitchen and home accessories?

    • Hello Mahdieh,

      All of the malls are open and they’re all suitable for kitchen and home accessories. Wish you a lovely time.

  5. sheena says:

    Hello, i will be arriving on the 6th June until 9th June in Istanbul and want to know if the Grand and Spice bazaar will be open on the Thursday 6th or Friday 7th?

    • Hello Sheena,

      Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar close down only on the first day of the religious holidays, so they’ll be open on the 6th of June 2019 and 7th of June 2019. Wish you a great time!

  6. Wafa Sharif says:

    Hello

    I would like to visit next week for 5 days in Ramadan to shop for wedding dress? Where is best place to stay close to shopping. And any recommendations where I can find wedding dress

    • Hello Wafa,

      Nişantaşı would be the best area for wedding dress shopping. Actually, Nişantaşı is only 2 metro stops away from our apartments.

      Wish you a great time.

  7. Issam BouHamdan says:

    Hi Julia,
    One thing I enjoy in Istanbul is shopping. Do you know if retail shops at Istinye Park Mall offer discounts during Ramadan?
    Thanks,
    Issam

    • Hi Issam,

      Retails shops at malls offer discounts from time to time but we’re not aware of anything specific for Ramadan.

      Wish you a lovely time.

  8. Anwen Edwards says:

    Hello!
    I am in planning trip to Istanbul with friends. We will want to eat out and drink wine in the evenings. Is it only the hotels which serve alcohol during this time?
    Thank you for confirming
    Anwen

    • Hi Anwen,

      All of the bars and restaurants who serve alcohol will continue as usual in Ramadan. So you’ll be fine 🙂

      Have a great time!

  9. Very interesting chat.. I would need to know, would be any public Iftar as the one you had published a picture for (Istiklal iftar in 2013) and how you join? I shoudl be in Istanbul on Tues. May 7th only

    please advise

    • Hello Moe,

      We’re not aware of an Istiklal picnic iftar this year, unfortunately. There should be tents and public iftars provided by the local authorities in other parts of the city though. Hope you find something!

  10. Vaseem Nawaz says:

    Is there any whole night open market or flee market during Ramadan in Istanbul? Have flights thru Turkey and want to have some time out during transit. Thanks for help.

    • Dear Vaseem,

      As far as we know there is not a market that is open for the whole night. Stay for longer! We wish you a lovely time.

  11. Shahad R says:

    Hi Julia,

    Thank you for this page, it’s really helpful.

    We’re planing to visit istanbul at the first week of Ramadan, is the working hours for shopping malls and streets shops & restaurants are affected or changed? Or will be as other months usually from 10 am – 10 pm?

    Thank you

    • Dear Shahad,

      Working hours for shopping malls and streets shops & restaurants are not effected. They’re usually open from 8 AM to 10 PM depending on the location.

      Wish you a great time in Istanbul.

  12. Hiiii
    I have a plan to visit during Ramadan time this year.
    At what time shopping mall closed during this time ??
    I Thank you

  13. Preeti says:

    Hi Julia!! My husband and me are planning Istanbul and Antalya from May 30-June 8 2019. Have a fair idea on what to do in Istanbul but not very sure about Antalya. Any suggestion would be of great help.
    Thanks

    • Hello Preeti and thank you for your question. Unfortunately we don’t know much about Antalya – our neighbourhood is Galata in Istanbul. Sorry not to be able to help you.

  14. Deborah Frati says:

    We will be in Istanbul May 16-20. Will major sites and Grand Bazaar be open?

  15. Annabella says:

    Hi. This will be our third trip to Istanbul arriving may 5 th for a week. We wanted to go and visit Erdine and also hang out in Kadikoy asian side. How will ramadan affect those places also we were thinking about the islands. We would be super grateful for your advice

  16. vishal says:

    hiii julia
    i am from india and coimg to turkey on 26 may to 6 june. in istambul i an for 3 days 4,5,6 june.
    is all market place like spice bazar, grand bazar and other shopping place are closed?

  17. hii Julia
    i have a plan to visit istanbul during MAY 7 TO MAY 12 Ramadan time, I am non muslim .
    its a good time for me to visit istanbul ?
    shopes open during after ifter ?
    thank u

    • Hello Tommy,

      You won’t experience Ramadan in a negative way in Istanbul. At iftar time (breaking the fast) restaurants will be very busy. Many of the shops will be open after iftar time.

      Enjoy your trip.

  18. Kitty says:

    I am planning to visit Turkey for the first time during 6 – 13 May 2019 as a tourist of which I have not known before that Ramadan is waiting me , Hope everything will be fine and impressive during my visit.

    • Hi Kitty,

      There’ll be no negative influence of Ramadan on your stay. Just the opposite, you’ll have a great cultural experience!

      Have a great time.

  19. Hadeel says:

    Hi Julia, thank you for this page as it was a relief for me as I’m planning to traveling for the first time to Istanbul and Cappadocia with my family from 31 May till 7June. I know it will be the last 10 days of Ramadan and Eid Al Fitr. I plan to visit majority of the attractions from museums to bazaars, palaces to mosques, cruises and trips. Will Ramadan have an effect? Please let me know if there are special events also happening near by during my stay. I appreciate all the info and help I can get and thank you in advance.

    • Hello Hadeel and thanks for your appreciative comment,

      I can really only advise about Istanbul (Cappadocia is stunning though! You’ll have a fascinating time there) and as mentioned in the blog, you should be fine for a choice of cultural attractions in Istanbul during your stay. Bayram/Eid is slightly different though and the last day of Ramadan and first day of the 3 day holiday is a bit of an unknown each year for museums and bazaars – do check your specific location online before heading out during those days. You don’t mention which neighbourhood you’ll be staying in – is it Galata in one of our apartments? If so you’ll get plenty of help about local events from our Manager Taskin, during your stay. Enjoy your trip!

  20. Zu Hal says:

    Hello Julia,

    My parents and I will be in Istanbul during Ramadan this year (18-22nd May). Would there be any ramadan bazaar or cultural activities? Is it worth to take day trip to Bursa?

    • Hello Zu Hal,

      How lovely that you’ll be in Istanbul soon! Yes there will be cultural activities for Ramadan at the district level, such as iftar tents and evening markets – exactly what/where will depend on which neighbourhood you’re staying in. I once did a day-trip to Bursa and really enjoyed it (the mosque and special kebab restaurant), but you won’t have a lot of time so I suggest it really depends on your priorities. We wish you a lovely time.

  21. Hello Julia,

    I am traveling this year to Istanbul for the 2nd time as I love this city so much. However, I booked from May 8 till May 12 which is during Ramadan Fasting. Will this affect my stay? Will the shops in Istiklal and taksim open normally during the day? Will hotels serve breakfast or food? Can we visit the mosque, Hagia Sophia and the grand bazar? etc.? Appreciate your help.

    • Hello Jean,

      Ramadan will have no negative impact on your stay at all. Shops in Istiklal and Taksim will be open as usual and hotels and restaurants will serve breakfast, food and alcohol too. You can visit all of the tourist attractions in the normal way. Actually, you’re lucky to come to Istanbul during Ramadan, so that you’ll experience additional cultural aspects! Have a great time…

  22. We are planning on stopping in Istanbul for 4 days on our way to Switzerland I may around 22 to 25th. Would that be a good time to visit the blue mosque and grand bazaar? Should I be advised on any tourist attractions being closed during those days?

    • Hello Niv,

      Visiting Istanbul during Ramadan is always interesting and good. The normal life goes on but on top of that, you’ve got the possibility to experience some additional cultural aspects of Istanbul during Ramadan. All of the tourist attractions will be open as usual. Wish you a lovely time!

  23. Agnes says:

    Hi Julia. I will be at Istanbul from 14 June-18June . With 18th leaving the city. May i know if places like grand bazaar is closed ? And tourist places ?? Thank you very much

    • Hello Agnes, most shops will be closed for the first day of Bayram, June 15th. On the second and third days, many are usually open but it depends on their family situations as the owners will balance the importance of family time with work time and income. Many in touristic areas should be open after the first day. I hope this helps.

  24. ilahi says:

    Hi,

    We are visiting Istanbul this weekend and we want to know if it is possible to have iftar at sultanahmet cami square and do you need to make reservations if you want to sit at one of the long tables?

    • Hello Ilahi, you don’t need to make a reservation for iftar at Sultanahmet Square, but you should arrive at least 30 minutes before iftar time to find a place to sit as it gets very busy. Have a lovely weekend!

  25. Ramadan is the month of blessing, togetherness, and celebrations, I would love to spend time in Turkey in the holy month of Ramadan.

    Ramadan Mubarak!

  26. Fátima Martínez Valencia says:

    Hi! I am going to Istanbul for the sixth time on June. We are going from the 10th to the 17th. I would like to visit street markets, and I want to know if Fatih Wednesday market will be working normally on the 13th of June. Also If you could tell me any street market similar to Fatih on Mondays, to go on the 11th of June.
    This information is really important for me because has been impossible to find it on internet. We want to buy clothes and things of the like and those markets are amazing, I know them from the other times I’ve visited Istanbul and I love it. But this time, because of Ramadan, I have these doubts that I am asking for.
    Many thanks in advance!!

  27. Vanessa says:

    Hello we are spending fitr holiday in istanbul but we are planning to do shopping and visit touristics places. Are the shops closed ? And where do you advise us to go in istanbul

    • Hello Vanessa, most shops will be closed for the first day of Fitr (Bayram in Turkish). On the second and third days, most are usually open but it depends on their family situations as the owners will balance the importance of family time with work time and income. Many in touristic areas should be open after the first day. As for where to go, it will really depend on your interests: Istanbul is huge! Perhaps you should start in Sultanahmet (though not for the first day of Bayram when museums will be closed) to see something of the famous tourist sights and take it from there. We would advise you to buy a good guidebook before you go and research according to your interests.

  28. Safeyah says:

    What about shops! When does it usually open /close in ramadan!

  29. Hiya Julia,
    Can you advise what museums/ attraction are closed during Şeker Bayram? I know the Grand Bazaar will be closed, but is everything else open as normal, or shut on the first day (Thursday)?
    Thanks!!!

    • I wish we could give you good advice on this, but to find reliable information isn’t easy! The official website of Hagia Sophia only says “Hagia Sophia Museum is not available for visiting in the first days of Ramadan and Sacrifice Festivals for half time.” *Sigh*.

      Pera Museum website is clearer and says it’ll only be closed on the first day of Şeker Bayram. Last year Topkapi Palace was closed for the first half day of Bayram, then fully open for the rest.

      So our advice for the least disappointment would be to not plan a visit to the big attractions that first day, Friday 15th June, but to enjoy local neighbourhood life, where cafes etc. should be open and the atmosphere celebratory. Hopefully you’ll be OK for most museums the next day, the Saturday, and then Sunday afternoon.

      If anyone else has better information, please do chip in. Hope you enjoy whatever you find!

  30. Khizra says:

    Julia can you please mention any specific sufi night show during ramadan we are here near sultan ahmet till eid. I really want to see such things

  31. This is such an eye-opener. I had no idea that Ramadan is such a special time in Istanbul. I love the sound of the iftar picnic!

    • Thanks so much Fay, I’m so glad that the specialness comes across in the post. We’d love to see you in Istanbul any time you like.

  32. Mariam says:

    Hello.

    My husband and I would like to enjoy iftar at one of iftar tent. We are Muslim from other country and would like to find any iftar tent in Istanbul. Could you give us more detail ? Adress ? Is it free ? Thanks

    • Hello Miriam, it would be a great experience for you and your husband to have iftar in an Istanbul iftar tent! They’re usually set up close to a mosque and there are so many of these in Istanbul, you wouldn’t have to look very far. Büyük Camii in Kasımpaşa would be a good one to try if you’re staying in Galata where our apartments are. The tents are usually big and noticeable so you’d see them elsewhere too. As sunset approaches people queue up. No reservation is needed and the food is given for free.

  33. shirin Mayet says:

    We want to spend last 5 days of Ramadan in Istanbul. And the next ten days touring .
    Can u advise how is eid morning celebrated in Istanbul. Do woman go to a mosque and how long is the eid celebrations Holiday. Is there a eid festival shopping spree.
    Thank u

    • Hello again Shirin, that sounds like a really good travel plan. Eid is called Şeker Bayram in Turkish and lasts for 3 days. It’s a time for visiting family and particularly, if you’re a child, for receiving gifts of sweets. The visits can lead to congested traffic in busy Istanbul, so be prepared for that. People may also visit family graveyards. Women can certainly go to mosque, you’d just have to ask at the door which part of it. We’re not aware of a particular shopping spree event but the shopping opportunities in Istanbul are great anyway. Enjoy your trip!

  34. shirin Mayet says:

    Please advise. We are a muslim couple who want to spent the last days of Ramadan in Istanbul. We are from S Africa. We want to celebrate Ramadan and Eid in a area of Istanbul which is local and original. I have stayed in Sultanahmed area which was too touristy, no locals around. Can u suggest other suburbs where we can experience Ottoman Ramadan.
    Do u think I should book into a local holiday house so I can be with the locals?

    • Hello Shirin. We agree with you that much of Sultanahmet is over-touristy and commercialised these days, not only for Eid/Bayram but all year round. Our own neighbourhood of Galata is much less touristy than Sultanahmet, but it’s also less conservative than other areas, so it doesn’t have traditional iftar tents and may not be what you want either. The very authentic neighbourhood to our north west (25 mins walk) is called Kasımpaşa and the main mosque there is Büyük Camii – this would be a good place for you to go. Although in Galata we offer holiday apartments, they’re for your private use so you wouldn’t be sharing the interior space with locals. You could however stay in one of our apartments and explore a different neighbourhood, perhaps starting with Kasımpaşa, every evening!

  35. That sounds really amazing! What an experience it must be to have everyone together. I would love to experience that.

  36. Ramadan sounds magical! Thanks for the dates ahead of time. That will make it easier to plan for a future trip.

    • Julia says:

      Hello Donna. Magical is a good word for it, inspiring too. There are parallels with Lent on the Christian calendar, but the community comes together for iftar in a way that’s unique and very accessible to visitors. I really hope you can book that future trip!

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