The Islamic holy month of Ramadan, known as Ramazan in Turkish, will run from April 13th to May 12th in 2021. 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 iftar in 2013 | photograph TRT Haber Foto Galeri
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
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
2021: 13 April – 12 May
2022: 2 April – 1 May
Bayram dates for the future
2021: 13-15 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.