Christmas and New Year’s in Istanbul

I wish I had blogged more about this over my Christmas vacation because I feel one blog post won’t do Istanbul justice, but I was just having way too much fun over there.

Everyone asked me why I didn’t go home for Christmas break. Well, people forget just how large the United States is. They tell me, “it’s just 5 or 6 hours to the States.” Yes, but it’s double that time to get to the west coast non-stop (with transfers it took me 24 hours to get to London), which means it’s more expensive as well. Plus I would like to capitalize on my time in Europe because who knows when I can come back. So I decided to go to Istanbul alone.

Why Istanbul? Well, first I thought it’d be a cool place to visit. (I was right!) I also wanted to avoid Christmas celebrations because I would not be with my family, and I wanted to be sure I would not be stuck inside bored somewhere because everything shuts down in places like London. It was the right decision for me, and definitely one of the cooler things I’ve done in life!

It was my first time being a tourist alone, so I was a bit scared, but I arrived at Taksim without incident.


Taksim Square

Istiklal Street

Istiklal Street

Although I am omitting plenty, you will find here some of the highlights. In fact, since Turkey is a majority Muslim country, I highly recommend this trip at Christmas, if you are one of those people who wants to escape the commercialization of it and all the holiday hullabaloo.

I spent Christmas day sightseeing and eating lunch near the Ayasofya at the Sultanahmet tram stop.

ayasofya at xmasxmas lunch






  I snacked on roasted chestnuts and  drank sahlep at Topkapı palace.

roasted chestnuts



As an introvert, I was pretty delighted to sit peacefully by myself. In fact, I liked this so much, that I went back a few times to the Ayasofya in the day and night.

ayasofya at night

Ayasofya at night

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque






A great deal of my time was spent eating and drinking…kebabs, kumpir, baklava,


pomegranate juice,

pomegranate juice

Turkish delights,

turkish delightsaşure,

Noah's Ark pudding

Noah’s Ark pudding

ayva, and tea.

ayva and teaThere were so many things to eat, I didn’t get to try everything that I wanted. Here’s rakı, an alcohol that was a bit too strong for my tastes.

rakiAnd I went to see the whirling dervishes, since this seemed like the good tourist thing to do.

whirling dervishesThere was a protest on Dec. 27 on Istiklal Street, near where my hostel is located. Here’s an article on the reason behind it and some video. On that day, I came back from sightseeing and noticed the protest happening, but it looked pretty peaceful, so I took a few pictures and kept walking towards my hostel. But it just goes to show how quickly things can change because in five minutes everyone behind me was running to avoid being teargassed by the police. I went to a side street to wait out the protest, but the protestors came there too. Shopkeepers also locked their doors. At that point, I decided it was better for me to get lost somewhere. Being teargassed was not so bad, but at some point during the protest, I lost my wallet and my debit cards! It was definitely a learning experience; when traveling, I need to be more prepared for emergencies.

New Year’s Eve was fun! Along with other hostel travelers, I watched the fireworks at Örtakoy and I don’t know what these little lanterns are called, but they float up into the sky quite beautifully, occasionally threatening to set someone’s hair on fire.

nyeAll in all, Istanbul is one of the coolest cities I have visited so far!


2 thoughts on “Christmas and New Year’s in Istanbul

  1. hi vanessa,
    what a great choice!
    I was in istanbul last week. For me it was also really impressive and exciting. Completely different to other cities i have visited so far.
    Did you go to a hamam as well?

    take care!

    greets from vienna,

    • Oh really?! Too bad we weren’t there at the same time! I did not go to a hamam, actually. I would like to return, since I didn’t get to do or eat everything I wanted!

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