What's the Weather like in Istanbul in December
December in Istanbul sees the start of winter, with cold temperatures and wet weather. The average temperature is just 8C, with highs of 10C and overnight lows of 6C or below. Those parts of the province furthest from the sea experience more considerable continental influences, and the drop in temperature overnight will therefore be much more pronounced. It's not uncommon for temperatures to fall below freezing at this time, and there may even be a few inches of snow (on average, December sees around 2 snow days each year, two less than January).
This is already mid-season in the ski resort of Uludag, a few miles south in Bursa province, where thanks to the mountain's 2543m elevation, visitors can expect perfect cold, snowy ski conditions. Lake-effect snow from the Black Sea is common in Istanbul, although difficult to forecast, and is often quite heavy. It will also almost certainly be foggy and overcast on several days of the month, and most mornings. The coldest temperature ever recorded in December is -7C in Kartal, in the south-west part of the province, and cold temperatures are combined with shorter days (just five hours of sunshine each day on average).
It's a similar story across the country. In the south of Turkey, Alanya is only slightly warmer with average temperatures of 12C and highs of just 17C. However, in the south it's very unlikely there will be any snow.
Whether or not it snows, around 100mm of rainfall is expected over 17 days of the month so it is likely to be quite wet. Showers are usually light, but prolonged, so expect some rainy days and plan for indoor activities. The northern villages of Sarıyer are likely to be the wettest part of Istanbul, as they see significantly more rainfall year round; in December up to 175mm. Across Turkey, rainfall averages are high; winter is the rainy season. And, in the south, they are likely to see significantly more rainfall at this time. Alanya, for example, expects around 224mm of rainfall over 11 days in December. With the wet weather, there are also higher levels of humidity (around 80%, which is really very humid).
Average Sea Temperature
In case the beach still seems like a viable option, or the chilly temperatures haven't provided sufficient dissuasion from water sports, sea temperatures are also correspondingly low (just 14C on average).
Istanbul Hotels in December
Hotel Sapphire is a mid-range but quite charming hotel in the Sirkeci region of Istanbul. It boasts a bar and restaurant, old-fashioned but comfortable décor, and high quality service. While it certainly doesn't have the range of facilities you might expect from some of the more expensive establishments, it's still a lovely hotel and would be the perfect base from which to explore the city.
Grand Hyatt Istanbul
The five star, luxury Grand Hyatt Istanbul is located in Taksim in the heart of the city. When booking their rooms, guests are offered a choice of views: city, Bosphorus, pool or garden. The cosy Library Bar offers a selection of delicious cocktails, and several restaurants a choice of cuisine. The stylish, modern décor is everything you would expect from a hotel of this quality. If it lacks some of the charm and personality of the other hotels in the area, that's more than made up for by slick, professional standards and service.
The Basileus Hotel is a mid-range establishment, quite new, in the Sultanahmet section of Istanbul. With elegant, modern décor and comfortable rooms, international buffet breakfast, and friendly service it's a great choice if you're looking for a hotel in the heart of the city.
Bars and Restaurants
For a sweet treat, check out Altan Sekerleme. Their Turkish delight is made from real fruit and is unlike any other Turkish delight you'll try here. The pistachio and rose is particularly special and comes very highly recommended.
Shadow is a little more expensive, serving fantastic local cuisine and handmade flat breads. Evening service is very lively, so you may want to book ahead of time.
Things to do in Istanbul in December
The Temple of Artemis
While there is more than enough to do in Istanbul to keep even the most active tourist happy, since you're in Turkey it would be a shame not to visit at least some of the country's most historic sites. It is home to two of the seven wonders of the ancient world, after all, not to mention thirteen Unesco World Heritage Sites. The Temple of Artemis, also known as the Temple of Diana, was a Greek temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis. It was completely rebuilt three times before its eventual destruction in 401 AD and today only foundations and sculptural fragments remain. It's located near Ephesus, in the modern town of Selçuk in present-day Turkey.
Ephesus has to be high on the list of any tourist with even mildest sense of historical curiosity. The city played an impressive role in the beginning of Christianity and contains some of the most spectacular examples of religious architecture of the Seljuk Period.