The inside scoop on flights to Istanbul
Straddling the Bosphorus, Istanbul is where European culture shakes hands with Asian exoticism. It feels like a whole world away, yet flights to Istanbul’s Ataturk or Sabiha Gokcen airports bring this faraway jewel right to your doorstep. Muezzins calling from the minarets provide the soundtrack, street markets supply the menu, and the historic skyline paints the backdrop for a trip with a different slant. Cosmopolitan and just a little crazy, Istanbul’s heady mix of heritage and hip delivers an exhilarating ride, so scream if you wanna go faster!
When’s the best time for cheap return flights to Istanbul?
Istanbul’s unique location between two seas creates its own particular microclimate, with distinct seasonal variation. It’s been known to snow in winter, while high summer can be uncomfortably humid. Spring sunshine brings out the bulbs in time for the International Tulip Festival, when the city’s parks are ablaze with colour. It’s a perfect time to enjoy the typically Turkish habit of picnicking – a grand feast involving the whole family and a spectacular array of traditional goodies. Whatever the weather, cheap tickets to Istanbul should be easy enough to track down, with budget airlines offering good availability year-round.
Where can I find the best cheap flights to Istanbul?
Istanbul has air links from several UK airports, so take your pick. Turkish Airlines flies non-stop from Birmingham or Manchester to Ataturk Airport, and from London Gatwick to Sabiha Gokcen, all with a flight time of around 4 hours and some very competitive rates. Pegasus also serves the Gatwick-Sabiha Gokcen route, along with direct flights from London Stansted, so you can quit overcast London and be basking under blue skies in less time than it takes to circumnavigate the M25 at rush hour.
How do I get to Istanbul city centre?
The quickest transport option from Ataturk is the metro, which serves all the major destinations. The sea bus is a relaxing alternative, offering an unforgettable first glimpse of the romantic skyline of Istanbul from the water – the airport route is just one part of the network operated by iDO, Istanbul’s fast ferry service. Sabiha Gokcen is around 30 miles away on the Asian side and is popular with low-cost carriers. Some hotels offer free transfers to meet your flight to Istanbul. Otherwise, jump on the airport shuttle bus to Taksim Square to link up with the public transport network and zip around the city like a local.
A box of Turkish delights
From the stunning domes of Topkapi Palace and the atmospheric hush of Süleymaniye Mosque to the chaos and colour of the Grand Bazaar and the buzz of bohemian Karaköy, Istanbul offers many different flavours of Turkish delight. The collection of the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts is renowned the world over, while the legendary Nardis Jazz Club is one of the city’s original hipster hangouts, where you’ll still have to fight for a table on popular nights. Head for the vibrant bazaars to haggle over local pottery or leatherware, then challenge your taste buds to find the best street food in Istanbul’s cheery markets.
Istanbul When to Go
By far the best times to visit Istanbul are spring (April and May) and fall (September and October), when local kids are on a school schedule, the daytime weather is in the 60s, and the nights cool off pleasantly.
In summer, average temperatures are in the low- to mid-80’s, though on rare occasions it hits 100-plus degrees. Warm weather brings most of the art and music fests: The Istanbul Foundation for Culture & Arts organizes dance, film, theatre, and puppet festivals (April/May); jazz and music (June/July); and a biennial in the fall.
In winter, it can get cold and wet enough to snow, though the average high is around 50, and the precipitation is usually rain. Thanks to its maritime location at the nexus of the Sea of Marmara, Bosphorus, and Black Sea, it can get both windy and humid here—and there’s fog more than 200 days a year (though it usually burns off in late morning).
It’s not just weather to consider: Religious holidays create seasons of their own. During the month of Ramadan (usually around July and August), holy sites can be crowded, traffic right before the evening meal can be heavy, and restaurant service can be irregular. During Kurban Bayramı (around October/November), the most important Islamic festival of the year and a five-day public holiday, hotels fill up, banks close, and ATMs can even run out of money. If you really want the city to yourself (along with cheaper hotel rooms), and can handle some chill and precipitation, travel here in March and November.
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Refunds/changes/cancellations: Itinerary changes, if permitted for the fare, will have a £25.00 / 45.00 Euro service fee charged by ebookers, plus any airline fare and tax increase that may be applicable.
Other conditions: Schedules, fares and rules are subject to change without notice. Seats are limited and may not be available on all flights/dates or in all markets. Fares will not be honored retroactively or in exchange for any wholly/partially unused ticket. Tickets are non-transferable and non-refundable. Fare rules are provided for the selected itinerary before booking.