Contrary to many popular preconceptions about Ramadan, the Islamic holy month is a time of great celebration in Istanbul, and is a wonderful time to visit this beautiful city.

Sultanahmet Mosque Mahya Ramadan in Istanbul

With many locals heading indoors to sit out their fast between sunrise and sunset, the daylight hours are, the ideal time to explore Istanbul’s attractions, with almost all staying open. Popular summer destinations such as the city parks, Princes’ Islands and Black Sea beaches of Kilyos, Ağva and Şile are also considerably emptier, and are perfect places to escape the summer heat.

Be sure to be back in time for sunset though, as the city explodes into life with feasts and special festivities taking place across the city. If you’re a lover of good food, you won’t be disappointed during Ramadan in Istanbul. Though most restaurants, cafes and pubs still stay open during the day, the best time to experience Turkish cuisine is in the evenings, when locals break their daylong fast with a feast of epic proportions called ‘İftar’.

Iftar at the Hippodrome SultanahmetThe Istanbul Municipalities and lots of associations offer free dinners around the city, while most restaurants offer dedicated deals for 3 (or more) course meals. Be sure to taste Ramazan Pidesi, a delicious kind of bread available during Ramadan. Another treat is Güllaç, a cornstarch and rosewater dessert served with walnuts.

As well as the Ramadan feasts, special events take place at Beyazıt Square and Feshane each evening, including whirling dervish shows, Karagöz (traditional Ottoman puppetry) and concerts. A book fair selling an extensive range of titles related to religion, history and culture is also held at Beyazıt Square.

Finish your day with a stroll around the city at nighttime, when Istanbul’s most famous mosques such as the Sultanahmet/Blue Mosque are strung with coloured lights – ‘Mahya’ – displaying giant messages of goodwill to passersby. Turkey is the only country in the world to do this, making it extra special!

About the Wizard : Helen Simpson

Helen Simpson is an Istanbul-based writer and editor from New Zealand who stopped by the city on her travels and never looked back!

Learn more about Helen Simpson