Places to Spend Christmas Holidays in Turkey

Places to Spend Christmas Holidays in Turkey

Great food, pretty sights and coming together with family is what Christmas is all about. And although Turkey is not the first Christmas destination that comes to mind, it’s a great choice for those who want to escape the crowds and make unforgettable memories with their loved ones.

If you are looking into booking a trip to Turkey for the Christmas Holiday in 2020, read below for our recommendations on where to go, where to stay, where to do your Christmas shopping and where to have your Christmas dinner.

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Does Turkey Celebrate Christmas?

Turkey is predominantly a Muslim country, but there is a growing non-Muslim population amongst young people, and with expats living in the country. It is also home to a small Christian (mainly Orthodox) and the Jewish community.

The short answer is; Turkey doesn’t celebrate Christmas, however, New Year’s Eve is widely celebrated. Big cities usually decorate the streets with lights and shopping malls offer sale and discounts throughout the festive season.

Reasons Why Turkey is a Good Christmas Destination

- You can still enjoy taking pictures of beautiful Christmas decorations in big cities such as Istanbul, İzmir and Ankara. You’ll be able to see plenty of Christmas lights, trees and even Santa Claus giving gifts to kids at the shopping malls.

- Turkey isn’t widely recognised as a winter or Christmas destination, therefore you will be able to enjoy sightseeing and visiting landmarks without having to queue for hours.

- Shopping and buying gifts are popular activities for people in Turkey; you will be able to get great deals and buy loads of gifts for family and friends back home.

- If you are a grinch, you will be happy to know that you can easily avoid anything Christmas-related, such as annoying Christmas songs (i.e All I Want For Christmas) playing at every radio station or shop.

- You won’t miss out on the Christmas spirit, as churches in Turkey are also holding Christmas masses.

- New Year celebrations are big in Turkey and you can book your place in advance at a restaurant or nightclub to enjoy a night of delicious food or partying.

Celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Eve in the City: Istanbul

Istanbul is truly one of the most majestic destinations in the world, as it’s the original cosmopolitan city. It’s the liveliest of all Turkish cities, especially during New Year’s preparations.

Which Churches Can I Visit in Istanbul?

When in Istanbul during Christmas season, you can join a mass in the oldest churches of the city such as St. Anthony of Padua Church or Church of St. George.

Where Can I Do Christmas Shopping in Istanbul?

You can visit Nişantaşı to see the light decorations, and to do your Christmas shopping. There are other streets especially great for shopping such as Bağdat Street or Karaköy. If you are looking for more traditional gifts, visit the Grand Bazaar.

Where Can I Have Christmas Dinner in Istanbul?

On Christmas Day, you might not be able to book a traditional Christmas dinner but we recommend immersing yourself to the culture and exploring the authentic Turkish cuisine. Try Neolokal or Mikla Restaurant.

Where Can I Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Istanbul?

You can celebrate New Year’s Eve at a restaurant with views of the beautiful Bosphorus. You should book your table in advance.

Hotels in Istanbul

Best Place in Turkey to Spend Christmas Holidays with Family: Ephesus

Istanbul’s sister city İzmir possesses all the good qualities İstanbul has. A view of the sea, sunny weather, lively neighbourhoods and great food. Plus, it’s only an hour drive away from one of the most incredible ancient cities in the world.

None other than Virgin Mary herself spent her last days in Ephesus. Her house is a pilgrimage site for Christians and Ephesus presents you the opportunity to actually travel in time and step into the shoes of ancient Romans. This 220 hectares magical UNESCO Heritage Site near İzmir is a must-see sight in Turkey.

Which Churches Can I Visit in İzmir?

There are many old Greek Orthodox churches in İzmir, but also Catholic churches such as St. John's Cathedral, and Aziz Polikarp's Church. You can also see two of the Seven Churches of Revelation: one in Ephesus, the other in Smyrna (İzmir).

Where Can I Do Christmas Shopping in İzmir?

Kemeraltı is the historical market in İzmir, Alsancak and Bornova are the main shopping streets. There are many ‘outlet centers’ in the city as well, but you might need to rent a car in order to get to some of them.

Where Can I Have Christmas Dinner in İzmir?

Some hotels host Christmas dinner, but if you are looking for well-known restaurants and cafés to try, go to Sevinç Pastanesi for a delicious dessert and Deniz Restaurant for a very Aegean dinner at the port.

Where Can I Celebrate New Year’s Eve in İzmir?

Most locals in İzmir visit the nightclubs and restaurants at the seaside town of Çeşme. You can organise a day-trip to Çeşme and make a reservation at one of the restaurants in Port Alaçatı Marina.

Hotels in İzmir

Perfect Romantic Winter Getaway in Turkey: Cappadocia

A famous destination for its unique open-air museum views and hot air balloon tours, Cappadocia is also an ancient site with underground cities and caves churches. Christianity took roots in Cappadocia as early as the 4th and 5th-century, and the underground cities were used by early Christians to escape persecution from Romans.

You can enjoy the romantic snow-covered views of the open-air museum, and stay at a cozy cave hotel. You can also visit the cave churches of Goreme Open-air Museum in Cappadocia, and explore the underground cities where once people built wells, pits for cooking, bathrooms and tombs.

Which Churches Can I Visit in Cappadocia?

Cave churches in Cappadocia are unbelievable places of worship to see, however they are only open to visitors for sightseeing purposes.

Where Can I Do Christmas Shopping in Cappadocia?

Cappadocia is quite big and you can find shopping streets and local markets in Nevşehir, Ürgüp or Üçhisar. You can try museum shops as well, for unique gift ideas.

Where Can I Have Christmas Dinner in Cappadocia?

We recommend staying at a picturesque cave hotel in Cappadocia where you can have a romantic Christmas dinner at the terrace. Or you can book a restaurant at the Ürgüp, Nevşehir or Üçhisar city centres. You can try Millocal Restaurant or Elai in Üçhisar.

Where Can I Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Cappadocia?

Nevşehir and Göreme are big, but they are not exactly cities so nightlife here is non-existent. Most New Year’s Celebrations take place in hotels, and you can enquire your hotel about their New Year’s Eve programme before you make your booking.

Hotels in Cappadocia

Weather in Turkey in Christmas

Turkey experiences the 4 seasons and as it’s a transcontinental country, the weather varies according to region.

The temperature in Istanbul during winter ranges between 5 to 11 degrees celsius, in İzmir, it’s higher - between 7 and 15 degrees celsius and Cappadocia is cold during winter, as it snows and the temperatures go as low as -7 degrees celsius.

If you need some advice planning your Christmas holiday in Turkey, give us a call on (0208) 661 1805 or email us at


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