Turkey may not strike you like a traditional place to celebrate Christmas. But the salubrious weather and unique celebration styles will give you all the more reasons to celebrate Christmas in Turkey this year!
As the winter sets in, we know that the most awaited festival is approaching. And, this season of the festival is going to last long from welcoming Santa Claus to celebrating the beginning of a new joyous year. And, if you wish to escape the snow and chilly weather, there is no better way than celebrating Christmas in Turkey.
Turkey sounds a bit different from the regular ones, right? Yes, it is! You will find a lot of differences in the style of celebration like Christmas food in turkey as it is not a Turkish festival. However, Christmas is celebrated with full fervour. Istanbul Christmas market is something you should watch out for.
About Christmas In Turkey
Friday is the day on 25th December 2020, the day of Christmas, when the whole world will celebrate the most awaited festival of the year. A normal business day for the Turks while an awesome stress buster and festivity locator for tourists. Considering the Turkish Christmas traditions, the celebration of this festival almost seems impossible right? Because we tend to think that Turkey is a Muslim country and why would it celebrate Christmas! It is a Muslim country but it is not impossible or something weird to celebrate Christmas. Turks have a fine art of making money and started becoming popular amongst expats since 2004. And Christmas is a season to give an opportunity to the restaurant owners and bars a chance to make some currency.
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Why Celebrate Christmas In Turkey
Turkey is a popular destination during the winters with milder temperatures when compared to the remaining parts of Europe. And the best part is Turkey in winter is much calmer compared to the summers. Summers are mostly preferred by tourists to visit Turkey, thus giving you a very little place to survive while strolling around the city.
6 Places To Visit During Christmas In Turkey
Christmas celebrations in Turkey is more of like a ‘Do it yourself Christmas’. You might not find a crowd catering particularly to the Christmas celebrations but you will find people catering to you as an owner. Turkey is one of the best places to visit for those wish to have a much lighter and a merry Christmas in Turkish style this year. Here are 6 places to visit during the Christmas holidays in Turkey:
Pamukkale is believed to be the ‘Cotton Castle’. An amazing and stunning sight of mineral rich thermal pools and remains of ancient city Hierapolis is what you get during the winters. It is considered to be one of the most treasured sights in the world. The thermal pools are naturally structures in the form of terraces. Make sure you carry some extra clothes with you if you are willing to take a bath in the pool.
Location: Denizli, Turkey
How to reach: The nearest airport to Pamukkale is Denizli-Cardak Airport. It takes 4 hours ride. There is a train station in Denizli, you can reach there from Izmir, Selcuk and Camlik train station. Kusadasi to Pamukkale train: From Kusadasi, take a minibus to Camlik Village ( 14 km) and then train to Pamukkale.
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The ancient city of Ephesus is preserved well and visiting this place during the winters means you can visit the remains without a hustle. This city was once the epicentre of trade and religion and till date has a distinct sense of grandeur with abundant temples, houses, and basilicas. Interestingly, Ephesus was one of the seven churches of Asia that have been mentioned in the Book of Revelations.
Location: Atatürk, Uğur Mumcu Sevgi Yolu, 35920 Selçuk/İzmir, Turkey
Timings: 8 am – 6:30 pm
How to reach: There are no trains between Istanbul and Selcuk but there are intercity buses which are quite comfortable and frequent but it takes almost 10 hours.
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You might have already seen a gist of this wonderful city of Istanbul in multiple Hollywood and Bollywood movies. And trust me, the city holds the same amount of beauty as it has been portrayed. A visit to Turkey is incomplete without visiting Istanbul. You must visit the Old City if you are looking forward to a culture trip this Christmas. The city gives you an awe-inspiring view of the beautiful cityscape, mosques, hippodrome, Topkapi Palace and the Grand Bazaar. Istanbul should definitely be on your bucket list of countries to visit.
How to reach: Istanbul is fairly well connected to cities in the country via the rail network. A high speed train line also connects Istanbul to the capital city of Ankara. Trains to Istanbul are also available from European destinations.
Famous for: rich history, culture, stunning scenery, magnificent structures
Cappadocia is one of the most remarkable places to visit for Christmas day activities in Turkey. The strange stacked rock formations, surrounded by multicolored fairy chimneys, gives an eerie landscape to a visitor. The place also has many secret caves which were inhabited by the ancient humans thus giving you an insight of the life in this hostile terrain. Take a hot-air balloon ride in Cappadocia, for the most picturesque aerial views in Turkey.
How to reach: The fastest and most comfortable way of reaching Cappadocia is using the airway. There are two main airports that you can use to reach Cappadocia. One of them is Kayseri Erkilet Airport (ASR) located in Kayseri and nearly one hour driving to the center of Cappadocia region.
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It is the 104th anniversary of Anzac Day in the year. For the best Christmas day activities in Turkey, Gallipoli is a place with a large piece of heroic history between the Aussies and Kiwis. This place reminds of the bravery of soldiers and the massive loss of lives. Christmas can be a great time to visit this memorial and pay homage to the lost souls with a very little crowd and enough place to concentrate. You would love the serene sight of clear blue waters and white settlements lining the shore.
How to reach: The drive (or bus ride) is 4-1/2 hours each way (map). If you simply must do it in a day, here’s how: As soon as the Istanbul Metro starts running (about 06:00 am), go out to the Büyük Istanbul Otogar (bus terminal) and find a bus to Gelibolu (for the Gallipoli battlefields) or Çanakkale (for Troy).
Christmas is majorly about the night celebrations so its a smart idea to head to a place which has a great nightlife in Turkey. The Mediterranean resort town of Marmaris is popular for its Bar Street that has multiple open-air clubs and music venues and one of the best things to do for Christmas in Turkey. The city rests in a valley surrounded by pine-forests, clear water and pebbly beaches, thus making it a preferred diving and sailing destinations too. The place also has some interesting water parks and castles that you can visit.
How to reach: Dalaman airport (Tel: +90 252 792 52 91) is the nearest airport to Marmaris. Dalaman Airport is located about 96 km. to Marmaris. Holidaymakers should travel to Dalaman Airport to get to Marmaris easily. It takes about 1,5 hrs to get to Marmaris from Dalaman Airport.
Facts About Christmas In Turkey
Here are some of the important facts about celebrating Christmas in Turkey you should know before you plan your trip to this beautiful country.
- Christmas Decorations
- No hype
- Lesser Queues
Turkish Christmas decorations are subtle and there are ample of Christmas activities for kids in Turkey. Starting mid-December, the streets of Turkey are decorated just the way how Western countries are. One can find plenty of Christmas trees, lights and Santa Claus. Not that Turks celebrate the birth of Christ, but they are only preparing themselves for the new year celebrations in Turkey. And to attract customers or give the visitors a true feel of Christmas, they make up things just the way an actual Christmas is celebrated.
Best Christmas Decorations at: Hagia Sofia, The Grand Bazaar
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2. No Hype
You can enjoy the beauty and the festivity around but you would not find much of a noise for the festival. Instead, more preparations are done for the coming new year celebrations. So, a Christmas day in Turkey is a blessing for those who are seek for a place with lesser Christmas bustle. Christmas celebrations are usually low toned and only a few parts of Turkey witness celebrations on the day making it one of the best things to do for Christmas in Turkey.
Best places to visit: Mount Ararat, Marmaris
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3. Lesser Queues
Istanbul may be not for Christmas hype, but it is always a place to view the great historical evidence. Istanbul round the year favors lot many visitors, and the visitors are so much in number that you end up viewing one place for more than a couple of hours- because of the queues. However, during the winters, Istanbul is less crowded and you can touch around the city just the way you like. You wish to celebrate Christmas, you can do that calmly or if you wish to roam around the city, then you can also do that without any queue.
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Best Experiences Of Christmas In Turkey
Plan your Christmas vacations in Turkey in advance and keep this important things in mind to avoid.
- Christmas weather
- Christmas shopping
- Christmas dinner in Istanbul
- Church service
1. Christmas Weather
The Turkish Christmas weather in December can be a good time to plan a vacation in Turkey, if not great. You can do a lot during your European vacation in Turkey. While the climate in Istanbul and Ankara may not truly be in your favor, the south coast is warmer and more pleasant. You can also avoid the tourist crowds which flood here usually in May-September. Enjoy hamams, the cultural baths, and sipping on fresh pomegranate juice for an amazing Christmas eve in Turkey.
Weather in December in Turkey: 8°C – 12°C
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2. Christmas Shopping
Turkey is unlike the West during this time of the year. So you may not find the streets flooded with Christmas trees and Santa Claus’s. But definitely yes, you need to know the exact places, especially about Christmas activities for families in Turkey. There are some places which cater to this time of the year and make you feel at home. Just depends on the amount of money that you wish to spend. Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is a great place for shopping during Christmas at Turkey.
Famous Istanbul Christmas markets: The Grand Bazaar, Badgat Street, Oscar Bazaar
3. Christmas Dinner in Istanbul
This is something where the Turks are ready to cater to you. There are multiple streets and restaurants that serve your purpose and provide you delcious Christmas food in Turkey follwoing the Turkish Christmas traditions. Feasting on fesitve meals is one of the best Christmas activities for families in Turkey. Dishes vary and the prices vary. So choose what you want to eat at your best. You must try Tamales, which is a popular dish that is eaten during Christmas in Turkey. Ask for a Tamales meal, which is served along with roast pork leg, Torrejas (french toast) for dessert and eggnog. Christmas dinner in Istanbul is one of the reasons to celebrate your holidays here.
Must visit restaurants: Nicole Restaurant, Borsa Restaurant, Orfoz, Yeni Lokanta
Must try dishes: Tamales, Torrejas
4. Church Services In Istanbul
Istanbul is home to one of the largest Roman Catholic churches like St. Antoine Church to celebrate Christmas eve in Turkey. On December 24th, the services begin at 8 pm onwards with hymns and the following day is marked by additional services in four different langauges- English, Polish, Italian and Turkish. Istanbul on christmas day is lit up with decorations and church services during this time of the season are something not be missed for it is one of the best things to do on Christmas day in Turkey.
Must Visit Churches: St. Antoine Church, Crimean Memorial Church, Anglican Church.
Service Timings: 7: 30 pm & 8 pm
Further Read: 20 Best Places To Spend Christmas In Europe
Hope this list convinced you to experience a wonderful Christmas in Turkey with your loved ones. Make sure you add these experiences to your list to enhance your festive season and don’t forget to tell us about your experience later on your trip to Turkey.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Christmas In Turkey
How is Christmas celebrated in Turkey?
Turkey being a Muslim dominated country does not see much hype around Christmas. Christmas celebrations in Turkey are low toned.
What is Christmas called in Turkey?
Being a Muslim country, Christmas is not celebrated in Turkey. But Santa Clause is called Noel Baba in Turkish, who is believed to bring gifts on New Year’s eve in Turkey.
What do people eat in Turkey for Christmas?
Tamale is a popular dish that is eaten during Christmas in Turkey. It is consumed in the form of a meal along with roast pork leg, Torrejas (french toast) for dessert and eggnog.
What’s the weather like in Turkey in December?
Turkey, being a transcontinental country, experiences weather conditions that vary from region to region. The temperatures are recorded lowest during December in a majority of the places with average temperatures ranging from 7 degree Celsius to 16 degree Celsius.
Is Christmas a public holiday in Turkey?
As Christmas days (24-26 December) is not specified in “Law on National and General Holidays, No. 2429” which regulates the holidays in Turkey employers are not obliged to grand their Christian employees any paid leave.
Does Istanbul celebrate Christmas?
There are festive decorations all over town to celebrate Christmas day.
What is there to do in Istanbul at Christmas?
Here are a couple of things you can do to celebrate Christmas in Istanbul:
-Spend an afternoon in Beyoğlu
-Explore the Basilica Cistern
-Shop Til You Drop at the Grand Bazaar
-Climb Galata Tower
-Relax at a Turkish Bath