Top 23 Must-Visit Istanbul Festivals In 2024: Ultimate Events Guide

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Post author SJ

Written by our local expert SJ

Sarah-Jane has lived in Croatia for 10+ years. SJ, as she is known, has been traveling the Balkans & beyond since 2000. She now shares her passion for traveling with her husband & kids.

Istanbul, the city of two continents, is a melting pot of cultures and traditions. And what better way to experience this diversity than attending some of the best festivals in Istanbul? If you are wondering what’s happening in Istanbul? All I can say is – a lot, always. I love this city for its various festival options; here I list a few of my favorites.

Turkey Travel Blog_Festivals In Istanbul You Can't Miss

From music and dance to food and art, there are events in Istanbul for everyone in this vibrant city. So please mark your calendars because we’ve got you covered with our complete insider guide to the top festivals you can’t miss in Istanbul!

Popular Festivals In Istanbul

Lesser Known Istanbul Street Foods -

Istanbul is a city that comes alive with festivals throughout the year. There’s something for everyone in Istanbul, from film and music festivals to street fairs and food festivals. 

The International Istanbul Film Festival is one of the most popular festivals in the city. Held annually in April, it showcases the best of Turkish and international cinema. With over 200 films screened during the festival, there’s something for everyone.

The Istanbul International Jazz Festival is another popular festival in June. It features some of the world’s top jazz musicians and up-and-coming talent. With concerts held throughout the city, it’s a great way to experience jazz in Istanbul.

If you want a more traditional festival experience, check out the Ramazan Bayramı (Eid al-Fitr) celebration at Taksim Square. The week-long celebration is one of Islam’s biggest and most important holidays and is a great time to experience Turkish culture and traditions.

No matter your interests, you’ll indeed find a festival in Istanbul that you’ll love. So don’t miss out on this fantastic city’s festive spirit – here’s a guide to some of the best festivals in Istanbul that you won’t want to miss.

Istanbul Food & Drink Festivals

1. Istanbul Gastronomy Festival

Foodies, mark your calendars for February! Here, you’ll dive into Turkey’s rich culinary scene, tasting dishes from top chefs and discovering new flavors. It’s a feast for the senses, with cooking workshops and competitions adding to the fun.

2. Turkish Delight Festival

Shopping in Istanbul - Turkish Delight - Lokum

This unique festival celebrates one of Turkey’s most famous exports – Turkish delight! There are plenty of opportunities to sample this delicious treat at this festival.

3. Cherry Festival

The Cherry Festival is a local favorite and takes place every year in June. The festival celebrates the start of cherry season with a huge street party that includes music, dancing, and of course, plenty of delicious cherry dishes!

4. Istanbul Coffee Festival

A cup of Turkish coffee is sitting on a saucer on a colorful tiled floor.

The Istanbul Coffee Festival is one of the most popular festivals in Istanbul. It is held every year. The festival attracts coffee lovers from all over the world.

There are many different events and activities held during the festival. You can learn about different types of coffee, taste different coffees, and buy coffee from local and international vendors. There are also music performances, workshops, and other events.

The Istanbul Coffee Festival is a great way to experience Turkish culture and meet people from all over the world.

Sports Events In Istanbul

5. TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Cup (Tennis)

The TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Cup is a professional tennis tournament held in Istanbul, Turkey, each April-May. It is part of the WTA Tour and is played on outdoor hard courts.

The tournament was first held in 2001 and has been held annually since then. It is one of the most popular events on the WTA Tour, attracting some of the world’s top players.

Some of the event’s past winners include Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, and Petra Kvitova.

6. Bosphorus Cross Continental Swim Race

Turkey Travel Blog_Best Festivals In Istanbul_Bosphorus Cross Continental Swim Race
Photo Credit: Bosphorus Cross Continental Swim Race

The Bosphorus Cross-Continental Swim Race is one of the most popular festivals in Istanbul. Every year, thousands of people come to swim across the Bosphorus Strait from Asia to Europe. The race is open to anyone who wants to participate, and it attracts swimmers of all levels from all over the world.

If you’re thinking about signing up for the Bosphorus Cross-Continental Swim Race, here’s everything you need to know:

  • When is the race: The Bosphorus Cross-Continental Swim Race takes place every year on the first Sunday in August
  • Where is the race: The race starts at Kanlıca on the Asian side of Istanbul and ends at Kuruçeşme on the European side. The distance between these two points is approximately 6 kilometers
  • How to sign up: You can sign up for the race online or in person at one of the registration points on either side of the Bosphorus Strait
  • What to bring: You will need to bring a swimsuit, goggles, and a towel. You may also want to bring sunblock and a hat if it is sunny outside

7. Istanbul Marathon

Istanbul Marathon is one of the best festivals in Istanbul that you can’t miss. It is held every year on the last Sunday of September and is an excellent opportunity to see the city. The marathon starts at the Bosphorus Bridge and finishes at Taksim Square. There are also 10K and 5K races.

This annual event is a great way to see the city and get some exercise at the same time!

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Music Festivals

8. Istanbul Jazz Festival

A must-see for any music lover!

The Istanbul Jazz Festival is one of the most popular festivals in Istanbul. It is held every year in July and features some of the best jazz musicians from around the world. The festival occurs in various venues around Istanbul, including the famous Blue Mosque. If you love jazz music, then this is the festival for you!

9. Sufi Music Festival Istanbul

Semazen, Dervishes. Whirling Dervishes Ceremony in Istanbul.

The Sufi Music Festival is a can’t-miss event for music lovers in Istanbul. This annual festival features some of the best traditional and contemporary Sufi musicians from around the world.

The festival takes place over three days and features a variety of performances, workshops, and discussions. If you’re looking for an authentic cultural experience, this is the festival for you.

10. Akbank Jazz Festival

Jazz aficionados gather here in October to enjoy a lineup of international and Turkish artists. The festival spans several days and venues, offering a mix of classic jazz, modern twists, and everything in between. It’s a soulful experience in the heart of Istanbul.

11. Istanbul Music Festival

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Photo Credit: Istanbul Music Festival

Istanbul is one of the world’s most vibrant and cosmopolitan cities, and its music scene reflects this. The Istanbul Music Festival is one of the city’s premier cultural events and takes place annually in June. The festival features a wide range of musical genres, orchestras, and performers from all over the world, making it a truly unique and exciting event.

If you’re a music lover, the Istanbul Music Festival is definitely an event you won’t want to miss. Tickets are typically very affordable, and there are usually plenty of free concerts and other events taking place throughout the city during the festival. Whether you’re into classical music or prefer something more contemporary, you’re sure to find something to enjoy at this incredible event.

12. Istanbul International Dance Festival

This is the go-to event for dance enthusiasts, happening annually around October. Expect workshops, dazzling performances, and a chance to mingle with both local and international dancers. It’s a great spot for those who love to move or simply enjoy watching others who can.

13. Chill-Out Istanbul Festival

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Photo Credit: Chill-Out Istanbul Festival

Perfect for the laid-back crowd and music lovers, this festival, usually in the summer, blends relaxing vibes with great tunes. It’s an ideal setting to chill, listen to music, and enjoy the company of friends under the Istanbul sky.

14. Street Music Festival

The Street Music Festival is a relatively new addition to Istanbul’s festival scene, but it’s already become one of the most popular events in the city. Held every summer, the festival features musicians from all over the world performing on stages set up throughout Istanbul. It’s a great way to experience the city’s vibrant music scene.

Cultural & Traditional Festivals In Istanbul

15. Ramazan Festival

Ramadan Festival Istanbul_Turkey

Ramadan is the holiest month of the Islamic calendar and is celebrated with much fanfare in Istanbul. The city comes alive at night during Ramadan (also known as Ramazan), with festive lights and decorations adorning the streets. Families and friends gather to break their fasts together, and there is a feeling of joy and community in the air.

The Ramadan Festival is a major event in Istanbul and takes place over the course of a month. It is a time for prayer, reflection, and celebration and is an important part of Muslim culture. If you are visiting Istanbul during Ramazan, be sure to experience the festival for yourself – it is truly a sight to behold!

16. Kurban Bayramı (Eid al-Adha)

Kurban Bayramı, also known as Eid al-Adha, is one of the most important festivals in the Islamic calendar. It is a time when Muslims from all over the world come together to celebrate the life of Prophet Abraham and his willingness to sacrifice his son for God.

The festival lasts four days and is celebrated with feasts, prayers, and special holiday activities. One of the highlights of Kurban Bayramı is the slaughter of a sheep or goat, which is then divided into three parts. One-third is given to the poor and needy, one-third is distributed among friends and relatives, and the family keeps the final third.

If you’re visiting Istanbul during Kurban Bayramı, be sure to check out some of the special events taking place around the city. From street markets selling traditional holiday foods to live music and dance performances, there’s plenty to enjoy!

17. Baklahorani

Put on by the members of the Greek-Orthodox community in Istanbul, this carnival celebration occurs on the Monday before Lent each year. A masked parade through the Sisli District in Istanbul, along with parties in local taverns, are the highlights of this event.

18. Istanbul Tulip Festival

Turkey Travel Blog_Best Festivals In Istanbul_Tulip Festival
Photo Credit: Tulip Festival

The Tulip Festival in Istanbul is one of the most popular festivals in the city. The festival celebrates the tulip, which is the national flower of Turkey. It is held every year in April and May and attracts tourists from all over the world.

Visitors can enjoy various activities, including watching traditional Turkish dance performances, buying tulips from vendors, and taking part in workshops where they can learn how to make their own bouquets.

19. Hıdrellez Festival

The Hıdrellez Festival is one of the most popular festivals in Istanbul and takes place every spring. The festival celebrates spring’s arrival and commemorates the meeting of two gods, Hızır and İlyas. During the festival, there are stalls selling traditional Turkish food and drink, as well as live music and dancing.

20. Holi Festival In Istanbul

Holi, also known as the “festival of colors,” is a popular Hindu spring festival observed in many parts of India and Nepal. The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, spring’s arrival, and winter’s end. It’s a joyous occasion that’s celebrated by people of all ages with music, dance, and colorful powders.

Istanbul is home to a large population of Hindus, and the city celebrates Holi with great enthusiasm. The festival is usually held in late March or early April at one of Istanbul’s Hindu temples. During the extravaganza, devotees offer prayers to deities and then apply colors to each other’s faces. Afterward, everyone enjoys a feast of traditional Indian dishes.

If you want to experience Holi in all its vibrant glory, Istanbul is the perfect place to be.

Istanbul Entertainment & Arts Events

21. Istanbul International Film Festival

Istanbul Film Festival is one of the most popular festivals in Istanbul. Every year, film lovers from all over the world come to Istanbul to watch the latest and greatest films from around the world. The festival takes place over ten days in April and features screenings of hundreds of movies, as well as workshops, panels, and parties.

22. Istanbul Fringe Festival

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Photo Credit: Istanbul Fringe Festival

Happening in September, this festival is all about unconventional and experimental arts. From theatre to dance and everything in between, it’s where artists push boundaries. A must-visit for those who love the arts off the beaten path.

23. Istanbul Comics & Art Festival

Typically in September, this festival is a paradise for comic book fans and art lovers. Expect exhibitions, workshops, and the chance to meet creators. It’s a vibrant celebration of visual storytelling, perfect for those who love to explore the world through art and comics.

Other Activities In Istanbul During Festivals

If you’re looking for something to do in Istanbul during one of the city’s many festivals, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy. From street performances and traditional Turkish music to delicious food and Turkish drinks, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

During the Istanbul International Film Festival, be sure to check out some of the independent films being screened around the city. If you’re a fan of Turkish cinema, this is the perfect opportunity to catch up on some of the latest films from local directors.

If you’re visiting during Ramadan, make sure to try some of the traditional foods that are served during this time of year. From delicious sweets to hearty stews, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. And if you want to get a taste of traditional Turkish culture, be sure to attend one of the many Sufi music concerts that take place during Ramadan.

No matter what time of year you visit Istanbul, there’s always something going on. So get out there and explore all that this vibrant city has to offer!

Wrap Up Of The Best Festivals In Istanbul

Istanbul is a vibrant and exciting city with plenty of festivals to explore. We hope this insider guide has helped you discover the best festivals in Istanbul that you can’t miss out on! From the world-famous tulip festival to the lively street parades, this beautiful city has something for everyone.

So, which of these Turkish celebrations are for you? Get your tickets to one of these Istanbul events and start exploring some fantastic cultural delights around Istanbul!

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