The transcontinental city of Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey (and sixth largest in the world) with a population of more than 14 million. This eastern Mediterranean city enjoys weather that’s typical for that particular region, meaning that it’s generally quite warm and not all too wet, although it does rain every now and again.
Straddling the Bosporus Strait between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, the historic and economic hub of this massive city lies within the European part of Eurasia, while more than a third of its population lives on the Asian or Anatolian side of the strait. It is the only major city in the world that is spread out over two continents. It is this location at the crossroads between Europe, and Asia and the Middle East that makes it such an enormously fascinating city.
Istanbul is home to some of the world’s most impressive manmade structures—famous examples are the monumental Hagia Sophia and the equally as impressive Blue Mosque. Both buildings lie across from one another in the heart of the city’s Old Town, which, incidentally, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Besides those two major attractions, Istanbul also has numerous Turkish bazaars, spice markets and a number of marvellous museums. Long story short, it is a city that everyone must visit at least once in their life.
Istanbul’s climate is a mixture of Mediterranean, humid subtropical, and oceanic. And, due to its vast size and diverse topography, Istanbul also exhibits microclimates. At different times of the year, some parts of the city will benefit from more rainfall, have higher levels of humidity, or be warmer than others. For an up-to-date weather forecast for Istanbul, you should visit the weather forecast page. While Istanbul itself isn’t a beach destination—it’s more a cultural and historical city—there are several seaside resorts nearby, such as Atabey and Ahmediye.
Summer in Istanbul falls between June and September. This can also be considered to be the dry season, with each individual month receiving less than 50mm of rainfall over 8 days or less. August is the driest month of the year—it gets no more than 20mm of precipitation and has 4 days on which it rains. July is the second-driest month, while June and September are third and fourth.
The days are long and hot, with up to 10 sunshine hours per day, clear skies, low wind speeds, and temperatures averaging around 24°C. With average highs of 28°C in July and August, visitors should expect temperatures to exceed 30°C for several days at the peak of the season. In those high-summer months, the mercury also doesn’t drop below the average low of 19°C at night. June and September are slightly cooler, but are still very warm by all accounts. The humidity is relatively low in Istanbul during the summer months, which does help to make the heat more bearable.
The temperature of the water in the Bosporus Strait averages between 19°C and 22°C in summer. This is ideal to seek refuge from the sometimes scorching heat in July and especially August.
Summer is arguably the best time of year to visit Istanbul, which is exactly what most tourists do. It can get very crowded then, but if you’re looking to go swimming, walk around and maybe even do some outdoor activities in the surrounding area, this is when you should visit. Keep in mind, though, that prices and rates are at their highest this time of year.
Istanbul in the autumn is still quite pleasant. Temperatures gradually begin to fall in late-September and precipitation levels increase slowly, but it should remain relatively warm. The average temperature in October is 16°C, with highs of 19°C in the afternoons and no lower than 12°C during the nights. November gets a bit chillier, featuring highs of 14°C and lows of 9°C.
Higher rainfall averages, with 100mm of rainfall spread out over 13 days expected in November, however, mean that visitors are likely to see some prolonged showers. November, incidentally, is one of the three wettest months of the year, together with the two following months of December and January. October is relatively dry, receiving about 60mm of rainfall in the course of the month and having 10 days with rainfall. This, of course, means that October has 21 days without any precipitation whatsoever.
With increased precipitation, compared with the summer season, expect cloudy skies for at least part of the day and foggy, overcast mornings. These clouds and fog seriously limit the amount of sunrays that hit the city in autumn. While September still has 9 hours of sunshine per day, October has 7 hours and November only has 5 sunshine hours, which makes it one of the least sunny months of the entire year.
It’s chilly and wet in Istanbul during the winter months, between December and March. Temperatures fall to below 8°C, and it isn’t uncommon for it to freeze lightly overnight. January and February are the coldest months, with average temperatures of merely 6°C.
There’s the possibility of a few inches of snow by February, and rainfall averages are at their highest this season. 100mm of rainfall is expected over 17 days in December, which is the wettest month of the year. Wind speeds also really pick up at this time, which make low temperatures feel even cooler. Because of this cloudy weather, Istanbul in winter is relatively dark—this is relative because other more northerly destinations in Europe are much less sunny than here. December and January both have 5 sunshine hours per day on average; February has 7, indicating the arrival of spring.
Spring falls between the end of March and May. As summer approaches, it begins to warm up, with highs of 20°C in May. But at the start of the season, temperatures are still quite low—just 12°C on average in April—and rainfall averages are high, although not as high as winter. In April, for example, around 60mm is expected over 11 days, so you may expect showers and even the occasional thunderstorm.
Days tend to start off cloudy and overcast, though by the end of May wind speeds are at their lowest and skies start to clear, so visitors can begin to appreciate the warmer temperatures and the noticeable increase in sunshine hours. Spring starts off with 7 daily sunshine hours in March, but in May that number has increased to 9 beautifully sunny hours.