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Very Special With Christmas Markets Guide / 30 Of The Best Christmas Markets in Europe For 2023 / By Kerry Walker / Karagoz / Istanbul,New York Travel,Tourism News Office / Jennifer Bar / Tony Bar / Janbolat Khanat Almaty Travel,Tourism News Office

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Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, copious amounts of mulled wine and some of the best hot chocolate you’ve ever had.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas across Europe, with hundreds of festive markets glittering brilliantly as soon as the first Advent door is opened. While Germany is the real fairy-tale deal, Christmas markets sparkle across the continent, come snow or shine, with crafts, choirs, light displays, and local grub.

From Alpine summits to tiny island towns, we bring you 30 European favorites that shine with their own Christmas culture, from unmissable classics to off-the-beaten-track faves.

Christmas lights at the street market at night in Dresden, Germany with a young boy in a hat looking on

The Christmas market in Dresden, Germany is a whopper © Photo by Rafa Elias / Getty Images

1. Dresden, Germany

Dates: November 29–December 24, 2023

The granddaddy of Germany’s Christmas markets, Dresden’s Striezelmarkt has enraptured folk since 1434. It’s big, with 240 chalets welcoming nearly three million visitors each year.

But it’s not just for tourists. The backdrop is spellbinding, with thousands of lights and, on the Altmarkt, the world’s biggest Christmas pyramid adorned with life-sized figures.

The city on the Elbe fizzes festively with carousels and carollers, ice skating and stalls doing a brisk trade in everything from beautifully handmade nutcrackers, Räuchermännchen (smoking men) and Erzgebirge crib figures to Germany’s tastiest Christstollen, dense, buttery fruitcake sprinkled with icing sugar.

A man and a woman eat a pretzal at Innsbruck Christmas market in Austria

A couple share a pretzel at Innsbruck Christmas market © Westend61 / Getty Images

2. Innsbruck, Austria

Dates: November 15–December 23, 2023

In the snowy Austrian Alps, Innsbruck hosts several enchanting Christmas markets. In the medieval old town, a huge tree glitters in front of the Golden Roof, folk bands play and chalets sell decorations, candles, gingerbread, and mulled wine.

Kids love the traditional fairground rides and puppet shows on riverside Marktplatz or take them to fairy-tale-themed Kiebachgasse. Market stalls and trees packed with twinkling lights light up Maria-Theresien-Strasse.

A huge crowd of people moving over Nuremberg's world-famous Christmas market (Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt) at night, passing colorful illuminated Christmas decorations and food stalls.

Nuremberg’s Christmas market is overlooked by its Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady) © Juergen Sack / Getty Images

3. Nuremberg, Germany

Dates: December 1–24, 2023

You can’t whisper Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) without Nuremberg being uttered in the same breath. Does it live up to the hype? You bet.

You’ll have to jostle with crowds, as two million visitors flock here each year, but it’s still fantasy stuff, with a blonde-locked, gold-robed Christkind launching the festivities.

The hub is the Hauptmarkt, with its candy-striped chalets dishing out everything from Zwetschgenmännle (figures made from prunes, figs and nuts) to Lebkuchen (gingerbread) and brass-foil Rauschgold angels. But you’ll feel the festive vibes everywhere, with carols, concerts, fairground rides and a magnificent nativity scene in front of the Gothic church.

A display of wooden Tió de Nadal (Christmas logs), which is a character in Catalan mythology relating to a Christmas tradition.

Pick up your own Caga Tió at Barcelona’s Fira de Santa Llúcia © Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock

4. Barcelona, Spain

Dates: November 24–December 23, 2023

Who needs Santa when you can have a grinning, present-pooping log called Caga Tió? You will find this Catalan Christmas oddity in miniature form alongside mistletoe, turrón nougat and a biblical wonderland of nativity figurines at Barcelona‘s Fira de Santa Llúcia, sprawling in front of the Gothic cathedral on Plaça de la Seu.

And if you think Caga Tió is bizarre, wait until you see the irreverent Caganer, a defecating figurine hidden in the nativity scene for good fortune and fertile harvests.

Traditional Christmas market in the Ravenna Gorge, Germany, held under the huge aqueduct with a train passing over it while it's snowing.

The stunning Christmas market held in Ravenna Gorge, Germany © Olga Niekrasova / Getty Images

5. Ravenna Gorge, Germany

Dates: November 24–December 17, 2023

Sheltering under a strikingly illuminated 40m-high viaduct in the thickly wooded, steep-sided Höllental (‘Hell Valley’) in Germany’s Black Forest, this festive beauty in the Ravenna Gorge looks as though it has been plucked straight from the pages of a Grimm fairy tale.

If there’s a dusting of snow, the winter wonderland picture is complete. Tourists? Not really – this one is largely for locals and is all the lovelier for it. Look out for Black Forest paper-cut designs, lambswool rugs and local smoked ham and venison sausage.

Take a train to Hinterzarten or Himmelreich, then hop on the free shuttle or walk.

People gather on a platform on the side of a rugged, snow-covered Mt Pilatus, Switzerland. There are fires and stalls selling food and drink as part of Christkindlimärt

The views at Mt Pilatus’ Christkindlimärt are spectacular © Marco Thali

6. Mt Pilatus‏, Switzerland

Dates: November 17–19, 2023

For novelty value and sensational Alpine views, ride to Europe’s highest Christmas market on the world’s steepest cogwheel railway, which has been trundling up to 6995ft (2132m) Mt Pilatus since 1889.

Perched above Lake Lucerne, the mountaintop Christkindlimärt has festive music and over 40 decorated market stalls selling beeswax candles, nativity figurines, gingerbread and other stocking fillers.

Young African American man showing mobile phone to his mother on street at night in front of a lit up Christmas tree at Zagreb Christmas market

It might not be the first city to spring to mind but the Christmas market in Zagreb, Croatia is excellent © SimonSkafar / Getty Images

7. Zagreb, Croatia

Dates: December 2, 2023–January 7, 2024

The capital of Croatia might not immediately spring to mind when you fix your sights on Christmas markets, but Zagreb’s is right up there with Europe’s finest.

Wintry temperatures, twinkling trees and thousands of fairy lights bring a pinch of festive magic to its parks, squares and historic heart, where the twin-spired Gothic cathedral looms large. Head to Fuliranje (“Fooling Around”) market for carols, concerts, crafts and DJs, or swing across to Ban Jelačić Sq to snack on hot chestnuts, licitars (intricately decorated gingerbread hearts) and Hrvatsko Zagorje–region wooden toys.

Young boy and girl, siblings, are walking hand in hand towards the Christmas market at Schloss Hellbrunn, Austria

The Christmas market at Schloss Hellbrunn in Austria is great for kids © susan.k. / Getty Images

8. Schloss Hellbrunn‏, Austria

Dates: November 23–December 24, 2023

Christmas markets glitter all over Austria come Advent, but few are as magical as Hellbrunn Advent Magic held at Salzburg‘s Schloss Hellbrunn, with carollers, handicraft stalls, a Christmas train ride and petting zoo for kids, and the baroque palace’s 24 windows transformed into a giant Advent calendar.

A Christmas parade, brass bands, Alphorn blowers, nativity scenes and a veritable forest of 400 twinkling trees make Yuletide here special.

The Christmas market in the Central Station in Zurich hosts the largest indoor Christmas market in Europe with a large Christmas tree sparkling with over 7000 Swarovski crystals

Over 7000 Swarovski crystals make up the Christmas tree at Zürich Christmas market © Flavio Vallenari / Getty Images

9. Zürich, Switzerland

Dates: 23 November–23 December 2023

Think you’ve seen one Christmas market, you’ve seen them all? Not like the ones in Zürich you haven’t. Sitting astride its namesake lake and the Limmat River, Switzerland’s swankiest city pulls out all the stops with a flurry of markets.

Hit the alleys of the historic Niederdorf quarter for mulled wine, raclette and fondue, pedal an e-bike to make the lights glimmer on the ginormous tree on the main station concourse, or head over to the Christmas village on Sechseläutenplatz to hunt for gifts in 100 chalets set up in front of the opera house.

The icing on the festive cake is the Singing Christmas Tree on Werdmühleplatz, formed by choir singers wearing red beanies, who belt out carols and gospel classics at 5:30pm daily.

An old town square lined with medieval buildings all lit up with Christmas lights. People are a blur of bodies moving through the Christmas market

Get with the fairy-tale Christmas spirit in Colmar’s Old Town © Sami Sert / Getty Images

10. Colmar, France

Dates: November 24–December 30, 2023

For the true spirit of Christmas, you can’t beat Colmar in Alsace, where the gingerbready, half-timbered old town hosts five different Christmas markets.

Canal-woven Petite Venise hosts the children’s market, keeping the kids entertained with its carousel, animated nativity scene and Santa’s letterbox, while antique, art and craft shoppers roam the Ancienne Douane. Alsatian gingerbread, spicy Bredele cookies, anise-flavored Springerle biscuits and kirsch-laced Berawecka fruit cake make great foodie stocking fillers.

Christmas tree and decorations in Lisbon, Portugal lit up at night. It's almost black, with bright green lights

Lisbon, Portugal goes all out at Christmas © Gabriel Mello / Getty Images

11. Lisbon, Portugal

Dates: November 18–December 21, 2023

Lisbon gets its Christmas groove on during Advent with sparkling lights illuminating its praças, parks and azulejo-clad façades. Right in the heart of Baixa, fountain-splashed Rossio Sq is where the action is, with a giant tree, Santa train, choirs, workshops, bands, and chalets selling crafts, mulled wine, hot chestnuts and porco preto (black pork) sandwiches. While you’re in the festive mood, take the kids to Wonderland Lisboa (November 30, 2023, to January 1, 2024) in Parque Eduardo VII for a spin on the Ferris wheel and ice rink.

The Christmas market in Gengenbach, Germany

The Christmas market in Gengenbach, Germany © footageclips / Shutterstock

12. Gengenbach, Germany

Dates: November 30–December 23, 2023

Few towns look as Christmassy as Gengenbach in Germany‘s Black Forest. Its half-timbered old town is real snow globe stuff when the fairy lights are flicked on, timber chalets glow and carollers sing in front of the 18th-century, pink-and-cream Rathaus (Town Hall). Grab a spot here at 6pm to see one of 24 windows open to reveal an Advent calendar scene by famous artists and illustrators.

At night, a traditional lit-up carousel at a Christmas market in Helsinki whirls around in front of the church

Helsinki Christmas market stands on the grounds of its huge cathedral © ollikainen / Getty Images

13. Helsinki, Finland

Dates: December 1–22, 2023

With frosty winds whipping across the Baltic and often the promise of snow, the Finnish capital, Helsinki, is the real Christmas deal – and one of the few cities where you can combine a festive shop with a sauna and swim in an avanto (ice hole). Market-wise, the biggie is on elegant 19th-century Senaatintori (Senate Sq), topped off by the pearly-white dome of the neoclassical Tuomiokirkko cathedral.

Here a vintage carousel turns and rustic timber chalets sell traditional crafts, decorations and glögi (mulled wine). Festivities kick off with the switching on of the lights on Aleksanterinkatu, with a glittering parade, dance troupes, elves and a visit from Santa all the way from Lapland.

A snow covered Christmas market in Tallinn's Town Hall Sq

Tallinn’s Christmas market is a frosty affair, but there are plenty of places to warm up afterward © dimbar76 / Shutterstock

14. Tallinn, Estonia

Dates: December 1, 2023–January 7, 2024

You’re more or less guaranteed snow in Tallinn at Christmas. Festivities are spread throughout the Unesco-listed Old Town, with an enormous tree towering above quaint wooden chalets on Raekoja plats (Town Hall Sq), its medieval centerpiece.

Estonian crafts like hand-knitted hats, sea-grass animals, wickerwork and wood carvings are top buys.

Santa Claus often stages an appearance in the evening. Find respite from sub-zero temperatures in candlelit cafes and warm up with hearty Estonian grub like sauerkraut and blood sausage.

A happy child and mother choose some sweets at a Christmas market in Nice, France

It’s coats de rigueur on the Côte d’Azur when it comes to Nice’s Christmas market © Gorfer / Getty Images

15. Nice, France

Dates: December 7, 2023–January 7, 2024

It’s usually more blue skies, palms and double figures than snow, but Nice is a cracking choice if you want to combine a Christmas shop with a shot of southern French flair.

The stately Promenade des Anglais dazzles with lights and Jardin Albert 1er gets properly into the festive swing with chalets selling gifts, crafts, mulled wine and (this being the ritzy Côte d’Azur) champagne and oysters.

DJ sets, light festivals, fairground rides and visits from Santa are all part and parcel. And don’t miss the opportunity to grab gourmet stocking fillers like Provençal olive oil and honey.

16. Tromsø, Norway

Dates: 1–22 December, 2023

Oslo’s festivities are bigger, but for snowglobe looks and the true heart-warming spirit of Christmas, stray further north to Tromsø, 400km (248 miles) north of the Arctic Circle.

Even bah-humbugs can’t help but be touched by the magic here, with snowy streets beautifully illuminated and stalls selling woolly hats, hand-carved gifts, gløgg (mulled wine) and the local riff on a kebab (wild mutton in pitta).

Stomp down to the harbor for the Ferris wheel and ice rink, or float above the city on Fjellheisen cable car to see the lights from above. Here you can combine a festive shop with Northern Lights shows, reindeer sleigh rides and dog sledding. Cool, huh?

Vendor at his kiosk selling roasted chestnuts at the Christmas market set up at Winchester Cathedral.

A vendor sells roasted chestnuts at the Christmas market in Winchester, England © Flavio Vallenari / Getty Images

17. Winchester, UK

Dates: November 17–December 21, 2023

Gazes are lifted in wonder to the soaring spires of one of Britain’s most magnificent medieval cathedrals at Winchester’s Christmas market. After a romp around the city’s decorous Elizabethan and Regency streets, the market in the cathedral’s historic grounds beckons.

Taking a leaf out of the traditional German book, it’s all incredibly tasteful, with baubled trees, family craft workshops and timber chalets selling everything from hand-carved music boxes to artisan cheese, bean-to-bar chocolate and hand-blown glass. For more festive spirit still, time your visit to catch one of the cathedral’s Christmas concerts.

18. St Helier, Jersey

Dates: November 23–December 10, 2023

Supporting local artisans is central to the Genuine Jersey Simply Christmas Market held in St Helier, Jersey.

Chestnut trees strung with lights illuminate Royal Sq, and market stalls get shoppers into the festive spirit with mistletoe, real ales, minced pies and locally-made crafts.

There’ll be live music and entertainment too, bringing visitors all the Christmas spirit they need in one enticing package.

The Christmas market in Ulm, Germany, in front of the massive Gothic cathedral at nighttime

Ulm’s massive Gothic cathedral is crowned by the world’s tallest steeple and Christmas is a great time to see it © Westend61 / Getty Images

19. Ulm, Germany

Dates: November 27–December 23, 2023

Never heard of Ulm? You’re not alone but you are missing a trick.

Midway between Munich and Stuttgart, this southern German city on the Danube is a stunner – it’s the birthplace of Albert Einstein, home to a whopping Gothic cathedral crowned by the world’s tallest steeple (161m or 528ft high) and enchants visitors with its canal-woven, half-timbered old quarter.

Oh, and its Christmas market is a cracker, with a live nativity scene to coo over, a carousel to ride, a tree glimmering with 18,000 lights, a storytelling yurt, and 120 stalls trading in everything from Steiff toys to beeswax candles and edible snowballs.

The tree of love filled with red hearts stands at Gusav Adolf's Sq in Malmöat christmas time

The tree of love filled with red hearts stands at Gustav Adolfstorg Sq in Malmö © Shaggyphoto / Shutterstock

20. Malmö, Sweden

Dates: November 24–December 18, 2023

Malmö dishes up a Swedish smorgasbord of Christmas markets, concerts and twinkling trees. Browse for handmade decorations, pausing to warm up over glögg (mulled wine) with pepparkakor (ginger biscuits) or lussekatter (saffron-flavored buns). Katrinetorp manor (December 8–10) is the go-to-market for antiques, poinsettias and festive food, while the market in Gustav Adolf Sq sells fairtrade, recycled and vintage gifts. Slip on skates to twirl around the open-air ice rinks at Raoul Wallenberg’s and Folkets Park.

Christmas market in Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin, Germany.

Berlin Christmas market is always popular with locals and visitors © RomanBabakin / Getty Images

21. Berlin, Germany

Dates: November 27–December 31, 2023

Berlin turns the Christmas fun up to the max, with more than 80 Weihnachtsmärkte switching their lights on for Advent and shimmering brightly until New Year. If you have kids in tow, don’t miss WeihnachtsZauber on Bebelplatz, overlooked by the grand State Opera.

Street entertainers deliver a full-on fairy tale, with acrobats, dance troupes, ice queens, golden angels, choirs and performers on stilts, and white, star-topped tents selling everything from quality ceramics to wood carvings, marzipan, fondue and schnitzel with champagne. If you fancy a shot of snow fun, head over to Potsdamer Platz for ice skating, sledding and mulled wine.

Chestnuts street roasting in Seville, Spain, during Christmastime

Foodies love the Seville Christmas market © Sabor de España / Getty Images

22. Seville, Spain

Dates: November 5–December 23, 2023

You might associate Seville more with flamenco and sunburn than Father Christmas and snow. But the high-spirited capital of Andalucía has tons of festive sparkle, as well as pleasingly mild temperatures and the first oranges ripening on trees in December. Most enchanting of all the Christmas markets is the Feria del Belén on Avenida de la Constitución in the shadow of the Gothic, gold-stone Catedral, which specializes in the belén (nativity scene), with exquisite and incredibly ornate hand-carved scenes, figures and decorations.

The streets are also filled with lights, campanilleros (musical choirs) and sweet treats like convent-made polvorones (almond shortbread biscuits).

Elevated view over the historic city center of Erfurt and its famous Christmas market on a snowy late December afternoon

Erfurt Christmas market has a reputation as one of Germany’s best © Juergen Sack / Getty Images

23. Erfurt, Germany

Dates: 28 November–22 December 2023

Medieval Erfurt, right in the heart of Germany, is a proper feast at Christmas. The city’s big market is on Domplatz, backdropped by the stately Gothic cathedral (where Martin Luther was ordained) and the three-towered, five-naved Severikirche.

For kids, it’s like the Nutcracker come to life, with a 20m-high (65ft) tree, Ferris wheel, carousel, towering Christmas pyramid and nativity scene, enchanted forest, fairy-tale scenes and bakery. Brass bands and choirs enliven crowds as they browse 200 stalls selling pottery, Erzgebirge wood carvings and traditional blue-dyed fabrics.

Pause to snack on Thuringian bratwurst and Erfurt Schittchen (the local take on Stollen).

Santa and reindeer race at the Padstow Christmas Festival, raising money for Cornwall Hospice Care.

Padstow’s Christmas Festival has everything from cooking demos to a Santa Fun Run © James Ram

24. Padstow, England

Dates: December 7–10, 2023

On the blustery Cornish coast, Padstow’s Christmas Festival is a cracker. Rick Stein, Paul Ainsworth and Nathan Outlaw are among a star-studded line-up of chefs giving cookery demos to spice up Christmas dinner.

Jazz bands and carollers entertain crowds milling around quayside stalls selling Cornish chutneys, pies and mulled cider, wooden toys and decorations. For kids, there’s the reindeer enclosure and Santa Fun Run, where some 200 Father Christmas wannabes race for charity. Fireworks sparkle in the harbor at 8:30pm on Friday.

Mixed millennial couple enjoying Christmastime at a Christmas market in Germany

Freiburg Christmas market is a real delight © Drazen_ / Getty Images

25. Freiburg, Germany

Dates: November 23–December 23, 2023

In Germany’s Black Forest, snug against the border with Switzerland and France, the vivacious university city of Freiburg hosts one of the country’s loveliest Christmas markets in its alley-woven medieval heart. Lights illuminate the gabled houses on Rathausplatz, where 120 wooden chalets keep things traditional with regional food and crafts.

Nose around the stalls for folk carvings and nativity figures, Moravian stars, beeswax candles, sheepskin rugs and Black Forest ham. Snacks like roasted almonds and local Langer Rote sausages pair well with glühwein. Kids will have a blast baking cookies, making candles and riding the Ferris wheel.

Budapest Christmas market in all its lit-up glory with the Basilica of St Stephen in the background

The Basilica of St Stephen is a focal point of the Budapest Christmas market © Jon Hicks / Getty Images

26. Budapest, Hungary

Dates: November 18–December 31, 2023

The Hungarian capital dazzles at Christmas, especially at the market on stately Vörösmarty tér, which is transformed into a sea of gold lights and red-baubled trees.

There’s no tourist tat at this nostalgic number, just choirs and concerts, glass-blowing, wood-carving and candle-making workshops, and a parade of prettily lit timber chalets where you can pick up mézeskalács (honey gingerbread), Hungarian pottery, embroidery and wood carvings. Warm up over gulyásleves (goulash soup in a bread bowl). If you can, tie in your visit with the candle-lighting ceremony of the enormous wreath at the Basilica of St Stephen at 4pm on Sundays during Advent.

27. Milan, Italy

Dates: December 1, 2023–January 6, 2024

As the fashion powerhouse of northern Italy, Milan styles Christmas in its own glam way. The headline market is Oh Bej! Oh Bej! (How Beautiful! How Beautiful!), which kicks off on December 7, 2023 (the Feast of St Ambrogio) at Renaissance Castello Sforzesco – a fortified vision in red brick. Going strong since 1510, the Christmas fair hums with stalls selling handcrafted toys, flowers, books, artisan-made iron, copper and brass creations, panettone and firunatt (necklace-like strings of chestnuts). More? Head over to the Christmas market twinkling below the Duomo, or go skating and snow tubing at the central station.

Christmas market in the old town of Basel, one of the largest and most-populated cities in Switzerland.

Basel Christmas market takes place in the old town © Flavio Vallenari / Getty Images

28. Basel, Switzerland

Dates: November 23–December 23, 2023

A progressive, art-loving city on the Rhine, Basel in northern Switzerland is never more bewitching than during Advent, when a heart-warmingly traditional Christmas market springs up on historic Barfüsserplatz and cathedral-crowned Münsterplatz.

Snowglobe-strung trees, a fairy-tale forest, a revolving Weihnachtpyramide (Christmas pyramid) with nativity scenes, a fantasy carousel and stalls brimming with handcrafted toys, decorations and crafts await. Snack-wise, try local potato pancakes, grilled sausages and Baumstriezel (chimney cake) with hot chocolate or mulled wine.

Girl friends having fun and enjoying a Christmas market in Vienna, in front of Schloss Schönbrunn

The Vienna Christmas market backs onto Schloss Schönbrunn © M_a_y_a / Getty Images

29. Vienna, Austria

Dates: November 18, 2023–January 4, 2024

With its palaces and horse-drawn carriages, Vienna is fantasy stuff – and never more than during Advent, when you’re only ever a step away from the next Christmas market. Go for fairground rides, ice skating and mulled wine at the buzzy market in front of the neo-Gothic Rathaus or high-quality crafts at the romantic number in the narrow Biedermeier lanes of Spittelberg. Fairest of the lot, though, is the market on the grounds of Schloss Schönbrunn, with its magnificent tree, choirs, brass bands, carousel, and 80 huts selling everything from nostalgic wooden toys to beeswax candles, felt figurines, Alpine cheese and candied nuts.

The iconic "Grand Place" (literally "Big Square") in the centre of Brussels, at Christmas

The Grand Place is the focal point in Brussels at Christmas © Carlos Alkmin / Getty Images

30. Brussels, Belgium

Dates: November 24–December 31, 2023

With its step-gabled townhouses, cobbles and strikingly lit Grand Place, Brussels is like a scene behind the door of an old-fashioned Advent calendar. And at Christmas, it’s a knockout. Winter Wonders sprinkles the city with fairy dust, with sound and laser shows and a fabulous tree lighting up the Grand Place, ice and curling rinks and a merry-go-round on Place de Brouckère, and a 200-stall market spreading out from Place Sainte-Catherine, where you can shop for stocking fillers, scoff waffles and pick up Belgian beer and chocolate.

Very Special With Christmas Markets Guide / 30 Of The Best Christmas Markets in Europe For 2023 / By Kerry Walker / Karagoz / Istanbul,New York Travel,Tourism News Office / Jennifer Bar / Tony Bar / Janbolat Khanat Almaty Travel,Tourism News Office

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Very Special With İstanbul Guide / The 25 Best Things To Do İn İstanbul That Don't Cost A Thing / Turkey / By Jennifer Hattam


With its lively streets layered with history, just walking around Istanbul is an attraction in itself. You can feast on street food for pocket change or visit the city’s marvelous mosques, markets and parks for no cost at all.

Here are the best free things to see and do in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest metropolis.

Explore the world in comfort with the latest travel insight from our weekly newsletter delivered to your inbox.

Aya Sofya at morning twilight in Istanbul, Turkey

Reconsecrated as a mosque in 2023, Aya Sofya is now free to visit © DANNY HU / Getty Images

1. Step inside the Byzantine basilica of Aya Sofya

One of the grandest buildings of the ancient world, the Byzantine basilica of Aya Sofya has been free for visitors to enter since its reconsecration as a mosque in summer of 2023.

Its towering dome was the second-largest in the world when it was built in the 6th century and still inspires awe, with light filtering through its 40 windows to cast an ethereal glow on the building’s rich frescos, mosaics and multicolored marble. 

After experiencing these extraordinary beauties, how about eating a wonderful meal and then drinking a great coffee?

A wide view of people walking past the Suleymaniye Mosque on the Third Hill of Istanbul

Istanbul’s many Ottoman-era mosques, including Süleymaniye Mosque, are all free to visit © Darkdiamond67 / Getty Images

2. Head up to the elegant Süleymaniye Mosque

Splendid Ottoman-era mosques, all free to visit, top the historic seven hills of Istanbul’s Old City and adorn many streets. The elegant Süleymaniye Mosque is the finest of them all, with a grand complex of buildings around it and an impressive perch overlooking the Golden Horn. 

3. Visit the intimate Rüstem Paşa Mosque

Tucked away in the bustling market streets of Eminönü, the intimate Rüstem Paşa Mosque boasts wonderfully rich tile work. As with all mosques, non-worshippers should avoid going inside at prayer times, which are displayed near the entrance. All visitors must dress modestly, and women must cover their heads.

4. Take a picnic to Gülhane Park

Two favorite local pastimes are picnicking and promenading, and there are some lovely parks and gardens in Istanbul open to the public. With its stately old trees and winding paths, Gülhane Park – once part of the Topkapı Palace gardens – is particularly beautiful.

5. See the 4th-century Aqueduct of Valens

The 4th-century Aqueduct of Valens once carried water into Istanbul and is still an impressive sight, towering over a multi-lane roadway.

The Women’s Bazaar that sits in its shadow is a colorful neighborhood square lined with popular kebab restaurants.

6. Meander around the Grand Bazaar

Often referred to as the world’s oldest mall, the Grand Bazaar sprawls over 61 covered and maze-like streets. The best exploring is in the crumbling hans (caravanserais) along its fringes, where a few artisans still ply their long-practiced trades.

After experiencing these extraordinary beauties, how about eating a wonderful meal and then drinking a great coffee?

People shopping in the Spice Bazaar in the Eminonu quarter of the Fatih district in Istanbul.

You’ll find more souvenirs than spices today in the Mısır Çarşısı © Izzet Keribar / Getty Images

7. Shop for souvenirs and snacks around the Spice Bazaar

You’ll find more souvenirs than spices today in the Mısır Çarşısı, better known in English as the Spice Bazaar, but the streets around this Ottoman-era marketplace in Eminönü are a great place to get a taste of the vibrant local shopping life.

Along the bazaar, outdoor stalls are piled high with dried fruits, nuts and other edible goodies in case you need fuel before plunging into the maze of streets and hans behind it, full of shoppers buying everything from clothes to kitchenware.

8. Check out traditional and organic street markets

Traditional weekly street markets retain a loyal following, despite the proliferation of modern malls and grocery stores. The Wednesday Market in Fatih, which tumbles through the streets surrounding the Fatih Mosque, is among the biggest and best. On Saturdays, head to Feriköy for Turkey’s first organic bazaar.

9. Snap a few photos at the Kadıköy Produce Market

A stroll through the Kadıköy Produce Market, a lively strip of mostly open-air shops near the ferry port, makes for great photographic opportunities, with its colorful, carefully arranged displays of olives, produce, dried fruit and nuts, fish, cheese, pickles and more.

Very Special With İstanbul / The 25 Best Things To Do İn İstanbul That Don’t Cost A Thing / Turkey / By Jennifer Hattam / Karagoz / Istanbul,New York Travel,Tourism News Office / Jennifer Bar / Tony Bar / Janbolat Khanat Almaty Travel,Tourism News Office

    Exterior view of the white Church of St. Stephen of the Bulgars. There is a golden dome with smaller golden domes dotted along the roof
    Church of St Stephen of the Bulgars is one of the most architecturally unique sites in Istanbul © Caner CIFTCI / Getty Images

    After experiencing these extraordinary beauties, how about eating a wonderful meal and then drinking a great coffee?

    10. See the Church of St Stephen of the Bulgars

    Istanbul has a number of still-functioning Christian churches, many with great historical significance.

    Perhaps the most distinctive is the Church of St Stephen of the Bulgars, assembled from 500 tons of cast-iron pieces shipped in from Vienna along the Danube on dozens of barges.

    A restoration completed in 2018 has this cross-shaped basilica and its ornate interior gleaming.

    11. Marvel at the Hünkâr Kasrı, a pavilion fit for a sultan

    This private pavilion used by the sultan during his visits to the Yeni Cami (New Mosque) is resplendent with tiles, carpets, inlaid wood and stained glass.

    Access to the Hünkâr Kasrı is through a long enclosed ramp behind the mosque.

    12. Take in an exhibit at the Pera Museum

    Well-curated temporary exhibitions of contemporary art and a fine collection of Orientalist paintings by European and Ottoman artists are the draws at the Pera Museum, which offers free admission every Friday between 6pm and 10pm.

    A large ornate chandelier hangs in the middle of the Eyüp Sultan Mosque. There's a large red and blue carpet spreading from one end of the mosque to the other.

    Eyüp Sultan Mosque is one of the most sacred sites in Istanbul © Sanatkar / Getty Images

    After experiencing these extraordinary beauties, how about eating a wonderful meal and then drinking a great coffee?

    13. Make a pilgrimage to Eyüp Sultan Mosque

    One of the most sacred sites in the city, Eyüp Sultan Mosque is surrounded by grand tomb complexes and a leafy cemetery stretching up the hillside, affording fine views of the Golden Horn from the top.

    The mosque complex is said to be the burial place of Ebu Eyüp El Ensari, a close companion of the Prophet, making it an important pilgrimage spot for Muslims.

    14. Attend an event at a SALT cultural center

    Housed in the beautifully restored former headquarters of the Imperial Ottoman Bank, SALT Galata is a cultural center and library that hosts exhibitions and special events, including free talks and film screenings that are sometimes held in English.

    Its sister institution up the hill, SALT Beyoğlu, has similar programming and is worth a visit too.

    15. Soak up the scene at Beyoğlu’s art galleries

    Istanbul’s vibrant contemporary art scene is on display throughout the Beyoğlu district, particularly around İstiklal Caddesi and in the Karaköy, Tophane and Tomtom neighborhoods.

    You could easily spend half a day perusing a range of intriguing galleries and other exhibition spaces – including MeşherYapı Kredi Kültür SanatAkbank ArtDepoGalerist and Mixer – whose rotating shows can be visited for free.

    A large lake surrounded by trees and grass

    Enjoy a picnic or a leisurely stroll through Yıldız Park © Runoman / Getty Images

    After experiencing these extraordinary beauties, how about eating a wonderful meal and then drinking a great coffee?

    16. Stroll along the well-kept paths of Yıldız Park

    Well-kept paths, plenty of trees and some charming Ottoman-era mansions make hilly Yıldız Park in Beşiktaş a lovely place for a picnic or a stroll. There’s a stellar view of the city by the path leading down from the historic Çadır Köşkü, now serving as a restaurant. 

    17. See another side of the city’s history at the İstanbul Arastırmaları Enstitüsü

    From urban planning to street animals, the Istanbul Research Institute presents different, often lesser-known aspects of the city’s history through exhibitions that draw on its rich archival collection of photographs and documents.

    18. Learn something new at the Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations

    One of the country’s top higher-education institutes, Koç University supports research into the history, art, architecture and archaeology of the centuries of civilizations that have called today’s Turkey home.

    Some of the fruits of this research are regularly displayed in exhibitions at the Koç University Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations on İstiklal Caddesi.

    19. Get a peek at early 20th-century upper-class life at the Aşiyan Museum

    The sweeping panorama of the Bosporus may be its most eye-popping feature, but the Aşiyan Museum also offers a glimpse into early 20th-century upper-class life in Istanbul.

    Full of vintage furniture and photographs, this sweet little house-museum was once home to noted poet Tevfik Fikret.

    20. See the tulips in bloom at Emirgan Park

    Above the shores of the Bosphorus, pretty Emirgan Park (Emirgan Korusu) is especially lovely during the Istanbul Tulip Festival each April, when millions of bulbs planted around the city bloom in a riot of colors.

    The park has play and picnic areas, a jogging track and three Ottoman mansions-turned-cafes. It’s a popular spot for wedding photos.

    21. Head downstairs to see the Nakilbent Sarnıcı 

    Underground cisterns for water storage that date back to Byzantine times are dotted around Sultanahmet. The Nakilbent Sarnıcı (Nakilbent Cistern) was rediscovered during the building process for the Nakkaş carpet store and preserved underneath the shop for any visitors to see.

    The Binbirdirek Sarnıcı (Cistern of Philoxenos) on the opposite side of the Hippodrome is occasionally open for exhibitions and other events.

    People walking near famous landmarks Obelisk of Theodosius and Serpent Column at the Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey

    Historic landmarks dot the Byzantines’ ancient Hippodrome in Istanbul © IgorZh / Shutterstock

    After experiencing these extraordinary beauties, how about eating a wonderful meal and then drinking a great coffee?

    22. Wander through Sultanahmet’s historic Hippodrome

    Not much remains of the Byzantines’ old chariot-racing venue, but the historic Hippodrome in Sultanahmet is still an evocative place to take a stroll. From the southeastern corner of the Hippodrome, follow Nakilbent Sokak as it winds down to see the towering remains of the Sphendone.

    This semicircular end of the ancient stadium gives a real sense of how massive this structure once was.

    23. Go for a run or just chill out in Maçka Park

    Though less historic than some of the central city’s other green spaces, Maçka Park in Şişli is a favorite place for locals to while away a sunny weekend afternoon, with children’s play areas, a dog park and a small jogging track. 

    24. Gain insight into the Turkish bath tradition at the Turkish Hamam Culture Museum

    You won’t get a scrub, but you will get an insight into the hammam (Turkish bath) tradition at the Turkish Hamam Culture Museum, where bathing accessories and depictions of the ritual are displayed in the restored chambers of an early-16th-century bath.

    25. Spend some quiet time at the Beyazıt State Library

    The oldest and largest library in Istanbul, the architecturally impressive Beyazıt State Library is worth a peek for its multi-domed reading room and artful restoration blending old and new.

    After experiencing these extraordinary beauties, how about eating a wonderful meal and then drinking a great coffee?

    Very Special With İstanbul Guide / The 25 Best Things To Do İn İstanbul That Don’t Cost A Thing / Turkey / By Jennifer Hattam / Karagoz / Istanbul,New York Travel,Tourism News Office / Jennifer Bar / Tony Bar / Janbolat Khanat Almaty Travel,Tourism News Office

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      JANBOLAT KHANAT SEDAT KARAGOZ FOUNDER / GENERAL DIRECTOR/ REGIONAL MANAGER JANBOLAT KHANAT + 7 702 230 42 17 (whatsapp) NEWYORK 797 / 7th Ave, New York City, New York 10019, USA / TONY BAR / JENNIFER BAR Thank you very much for everything.Very nice to know you.If there is anything I can do please write for me... GSM+ 90 541 732 90 64 ( TURKEY ) ISTANBUL +7 702 230 42 17 KAZAKİSTAN
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