Istanbul in the winter months is a vibrant cosmopolitan city bursting with arts, culture, nightlife and stunning scenery that changes dramatically in the winter and is rarely seen by tourists. Here are a few of the things you might enjoy in the frosty months ahead.
Go ice skating
For those of you who like to get into the spirit of winter, ice skating in the upcoming months is a great idea. Grab a cozy hat and gloves and enter the rink for some fun! Ice skating can be an enjoyable activity to pass the time that will get you fit as well. Silivrikapı Ice Rink in Fatih is open seven days a week until 9:00 p.m. and also offers ice skating and gymnastic lessons for ages 5 and up. Icessporto ice skating and hockey rink is also an option. Located in the Metrocity Shopping Center, Icessorto is the perfect place to spend your Friday night with your family.
Go to Vefa and have a cup of boza for old times' sake
Boza is one of the oldest traditional Turkish winter beverages. Made from fermented grains, boza also contains nutritional essentials like protein, calcium and iron. Before the 2000s, boza was mainly sold by men on the street, but now it is mostly found in stores. Boza can be found at just about any market, patisserie or café during the winter months, but the most famous of all boza-selling hotspots is the historic Vefa Bozacısı. Located in Vefa Fatih, Vefa Bozacısı has been a family business since 1876. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk also drank boza in this little shop and his glass remains on display for visitors to see. You can also choose to have a delicious hot, milky drink called sahlep. The two common places to drink this lovely beverage are Emirgan Sütiş in Emirgan, Sarıyer or Öz Süt in İstinye Park Shopping Centre.
Go have a rockin' night at the Hard Rock Café
One of the most popular and most visited international restaurant and pub is the Hard Rock Café. Located in Beyoğlu across from Galatasaray High School, Hard Rock is the perfect place to go after work to relax and have a delicious smokehouse burger with a couple of friends this winter. But the fun does not stop there; there are loads of events planned for this month including live music from groups such as Absence and Sahte Rakı with free admission.
Go skiing in Uludağ or Kartepe
If you're looking for the perfect weekend getaway with your family or that special someone, then head down to Kabataş and board one of the BUDO fast ferries to Bursa. Just a short bus and funicular ride away is Uludağ (The Great Mountain), rising 2,543 meters above the sea. Some great hotels that can accommodate you during your stay include Le Chalet Yazıcı, the Alkoclar Zone Hotel, Kervansaray Uludağ and the Beceren Hotel.
If you would prefer a place closer to Istanbul then Kartepe is the place for you. Located near Kocaeli, Kartepe is much smaller and less extravagant then Uludağ. Kartepe has an added benefit of being close to Lake Sapanca. Needless to say, Lake Sapanca is dazzling in the winter months and definitely worth seeing.
Go fishing off Galata Bridge
Anyone can become a fisherman by fishing in the Golden Horn on Galata Bridge. All you have to do is buy (or rent) a fishing line and take your place on the bridge alongside dozens of other fisherman and a breathtaking backdrop of the new mosque. Having some bad luck fishing? Move to the mouth of the Golden Horn, and have a delicious fish sandwich at the historic Eminönü fish and bread café. Cooking the fish right on the boat itself, Tarihi Eminönü Balık Ekmek feeds thousands of fish-lovers a day. Low prices and high quality, there are hardly any better places to be this winter.
Go to an art exhibition
For those art lovers out there, the winter months are the perfect time to explore an art gallery. Seeing new exhibitions can be a creative and fun way to pass the time, and there are many exhibitions you can attend all over Istanbul such as the 'Anatolian Weight and Measures' exhibition in the Pera Museum (Until Dec. 31) or the "Joan Miro" exhibition in the Sakıp Sabancı Museum (Until Feb. 1, 2015).
Go to a concert
Listening to great music is not limited to any particular season. Whether it is pop, jazz, R&B or classical, there is always something for everyone in a city like Istanbul. Here is a list of upcoming concerts in November and December you might enjoy. Be quick, though, tickets run out fast.
Candan Erçetin – Nov. 8
Sertab Erener – Nov. 14
Demi Lovato – Nov. 16
Lykke Li – Nov. 18
Dee Dee Bridgetwater – Nov. 21
Seksendört – Nov. 28
Mashrou' Leila – Nov. 28
Morrissey – Dec. 7
Pinchas Zuckerman – Dec. 8
Joshua Bell – Dec. 16
Visiting shopping malls, bazaars and especially cozy local shops is another way to pass the time. On a rainy or snowy day, what better to do then go shopping and slowly check off your Christmas or New Year gift list? There are so many malls you can go to according to where you live in Istanbul. Akmerkez in Etiler is a four-story shopping mall with almost 250 stores where you can find just about anything you need. Istinye Park in Sarıyer is a shopping center that offers a variety of outdoor and glass-roofed indoor sections such as a green central park, fashion district, street side shopping and even a kids' entertainment section.
If you are not the indoor type of shopper then head down to Nişantaşı for a bit of shopping and walking. Another option you can consider is Bağdat Avenue, which is a 14-kilometer long street. Perfect for those shopaholics out there.
Grab a hot coffee
We all know how much a hot cup of coffee is needed in the winter months. Whether it be a tasty Turkish coffee, an espresso or a café macchiato, coffee is key to keeping warm. Visit one of the numerous coffee stands and café that dot the city, or try one of Starbucks Coffee's array of winter drinks that will light up your taste buds this season such as the pumpkin spice or gingerbread latte?
Whatever it is you want to do this winter, make sure you are keeping safe and most importantly, have fun.