Istanbul in May

Is May a good month to visit Istanbul?

Istanbul in May 2024 – is it worth going? Weather, air and sea temperature, what to wear, prices in hotels and on city tours. What to do in Istanbul in early May and close to June, where to visit nearby – figured out good Time for Trip.

Istanbul, the largest, though not the main city of Turkey, rarely becomes the only target in the (summer) holidays plans of European or American travelers. It usually comes as a kind of supplement – citizens vacationing in Turkish resorts can’t resist the temptation to see the former Constantinople. The capital of imperial Byzantium and once the richest city in the world.

However, at the beginning of May, Istanbul can be considered as an independent tourist destination. After all, when the weather allows swimming without restrictions only in Antalya and Alanya (if else), travelers tend to see the famous attractions first of all.

So, on the threshold of summer, it’s more than reasonable to visit the Hagia Sophia, and take a stroll around the Topkapi Palace, take a cruise along the Bosphorus.

Moreover, with a high probability in May (at least in the beginning of it) you will walk everywhere not crowded from all sides by other tourists!

How warm is it in Istanbul in May? Will there be an opportunity to swim in the Marmara or Black Sea? Are the prices high?

We tried to answer all these questions in our material!

Weather in Istanbul in May

will almost certainly please you. After all, according to long-term statistics, it is characterized by a very enjoyable, mostly cloudless character. The average day, and with it tourists, observe up to 11-12 hours of sunshine.

Trees are turning green, flowerbeds are blooming, people are walking relaxed, inattentively listening to the words of the guide – they must understand exactly where to start exploring Istanbul. On the summer terraces of cafes and restaurants, there is a revival – fresh air stimulates the desire to try traditional Turkish foods.

In short, there is an atmosphere of peace, relaxation, contentment with life everywhere… happiness

At the end of May, warm weather sets in Istanbul -breakfast in nature

In some years, surprises also happen – the climate of Istanbul is not too hot in May.

In particular, at the beginning of the month in 2023, the air temperature hardly reached +17-19 °C during the day. And at the end of the first decade of May, it generally turned cold in Istanbul to +13-15 °C.

In the middle of the month, though, as if on command, the temperature began to rise to +21-23 °C. So the end of May and the beginning of June in Istanbul turned out to be warm and passed under the sign of temperatures around +24-26 °C.

At night, until about the middle of the month (at least), it’s often frankly cheerful – from +8 to +14 °C. So don’t forget packing pullovers and hoodies if you’re going to travel to Istanbul in May!

Rain and Sun

Infrequent rains aren’t able to spoil the mood – the probability of a clear day reaches 80%. As a result, the humidity of the air is kept in a moderate and perfectly suitable for long walking excursions range: 65-75%.

The legendary Bosphorus casts a rich blue color. And the boats scurrying along it seem to embody a turbulent time full of latent energy. To refrain from a cruise at this time is beyond human strength.

The firmament is serenely blue, forcing eternally concerned people to think about their short-sightedness. And the sunsets over the ancient city literally immerse you in silent admiration – they are so beautiful!

Sea Temperature

The Marmara Sea off the coast of Istanbul in the beginning of May warmed up to a modest +16-17 degrees Celsius. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that the ships going on cruises to the Prince’s Islands are crowded but in the water you won’t notice the swimmers’ heads.

n the second half of the month, the water temperature rose in an ascending direction. As a result, the sea area near Istanbul warmed up to +20°C in mid-May, and to +22-23 °C at the end of it.

No wonder that the thoughts about swimming inevitably appeared in the mind of travelers. And if not everyone would take a chance to plunge into the Bosporus, full of tankers, then a May trip from Istanbul to the resorts of the Marmara Sea looked reasonable and justified.

Why not – Mudanya is only 175 km away by highway? And to the Erdek, so beloved by family vacationers, – 270 km?!

By the way, many independent travelers in the spring willingly succumb to this temptation. To begin with, they visit the sights in Istanbul and nearby, and then go to the resorts!

And that’s right – in May, you can swim almost everywhere in Turkey. Will you go on vacation to Bodrum or Kas, Antalya or Side

Things to Do in Istanbul in May

Obviously, the list of places to visit in Istanbul at the end of spring differs little from the same at any other time of the year. Looking for little-known and well-hidden from tourist eyes “pearls” is worth it only for those who have already been to the city before. And are eager for new experiences!

Most tourists will therefore definitely visit the Hagia Sophia, now converted from a museum into a mosque. And – for sure – Sultanahmet, who was a mosque from birth.

Dolmabahce Palace is a must-visit attraction of Istanbul

About a day is usually spent to get acquainted with the palaces and gardens of Topkapi. And the same amount time you will waste for other Sultan’s residences: Dolmabahce in the European part of Istanbul or cozy Beylerbeyi on the other side of the Bosphorus.

During the walks, there may also be a desire to deep into the history of the city on an excursion. Moreover, in comparison with European cities, they are not too expensive here!

The weather frankly favors long walking maneuvers on the streets. And strictly tells you not to get stuck in the museum halls.

We recommend making the only exception for the Rahmi M. Koch Museum.
Where so many interesting exhibits are collected that only a cursory examination will take several hours.

There are many reviews of the collection on the Internet. And most are enthusiastic!

In May, it is simply criminal not to take part in a boat trip in Istanbul! And not only along the Bosphorus, but also longer ones, for example, to the Princes’ Islands.

The most environmentally friendly place in the whole city – vehicles with internal combustion engines were banned on the archipelago. Only horse-drawn carts or bicycles are allowed!

Where to Visit Nearby

Another interesting place near Istanbul is the thermal resort of Yalova. Trips to it are possible as part of organized tours. But, of course, you can easily get to the baths of Yalova on your own.

For those who aren’t afraid to rent a car, we recommend getting to the remnants of Troy and partly feel like Heinrich Schliemann. The ruins of the ancient ancient city, around which passions once boiled, are located near the town of Canakkale.

You have to drive along the highway for about 400 km, but you will see a truly legendary place!

The idea of a road trip to Ephesus, once the largest Greek colony in Asia Minor, looks a bit adventurous. Since the journey to the town of Selcuk will take at least 6-7 hours.

If you aren’t afraid of distances, you can go in May to Cappadocia. If the available time allows you to spend 2-3 days exploring this beautiful region of Turkey. Even organizers of tours from Istanbul don’t advise spending!

Prices 2024

You can choose a hotel from an extremely wide range. For example, at one time we deliberately stayed at the 4-star Erboy Istanbul Sirkeci Hotel, which is located near Istanbul’s Gulhane Park, blooming splendidly in May. That is, not just next to a large green area, but also within walking distance from Sultanahmet Square, Topkapi complex.

In general, it’s not cheap – a room for two even with a discount cost about 90 € per night (now from 110 €). But it was worth it – the beautiful location of the hotel turned the rest into a real pleasure.

It is possible that at the present time this is already an excess. After all, in the center of Istanbul you can find much more inexpensive, but still very decent hotels and guest houses.

For example, here are a couple of more budget options (for 70-80 € without discount), where you can stay in Istanbul in mid-May:

Relatively inexpensive is Artika Hotel, located in the same central quarter of Sultanahmet. That is, within walking distance from the main Istanbul attractions.

Basileus Hotel enjoys a habitually high demand at any time of the year. Featuring a good location and service.

There are shops and inexpensive cafes nearby, as well as the Yenikapı ferry terminal. From where you can go, for example, to Yalova or Izmir (but not to the Princes’ Islands)!

Public transport

in Istanbul is represented by trams, metro, ferries, buses, and funiculars. Payment in cash is not possible. So, during the hot season – and May in Istanbul can partly be considered as such – you should keep in mind purchasing a travel pass.

The most common and widely used one is the universal IstanbulKart. It is a plastic card designed for paying fares on any local public transport

The IstanbulKart in 2024 cost 70 lira, and these sum cannot be refunded. However, one card can be used to pay for couple passengers.

The fare for IstanbulKart is 17.7 lira, which is much cheaper than a single electronic ticket (25 lira). You can check the tariffs here – link.

You can buy IstanbulKart:

At machines located at docks, transport stops, metro stations, airports, kiosks selling newspapers or souvenirs. If the point is authorized to sell transport cards, you will see the inscription IstanbulKart above the window.

You may encounter a situation where there are simply no transport cards for sale either at machines or kiosks nearby. This is partly because of high demand during the season. But also due to the actions of local “entrepreneurs” who buy up all the cards and stand nearby, offering to purchase them at a much higher price.

What can we say here – we strongly do not recommend doing this!

There is also a tourist pass in Istanbul called the Istanbul City Card, that can be used for an unlimited number of trips. It is available for 1, 3, 5, 7 or 15 days, and cannot be refilled. The minimum price is 345 Turkish Lira.


To get full satisfaction from visiting Istanbul, we advise you to take part in one or two city tours. Fortunately, they are not too expensive!

Foreigners should take into account that buying tickets to museums and attractions in 2024 has become too ruinous in Turkey

However, in Istanbul, there is the Museum Pass Istanbul program – a card that provides access to museums and other places for 5 days. It costs 2,500 lira.

And it’s quite profitable if you intend to see the maximum number of Istanbul’s attractions during your trip. You can buy the card online or at ticket offices.


About STen 184 Articles
Traveling is like a life: the further you go, the more understand. I am not a writer or a journalist, but believe that my real & reach experience gained on trips can be useful. The whole Europe and Turkey are enough for me so far... Spent a lot of time in Turkey, lived in Italy and Spain, visited France and the Czech Republic, Greece and Hungary, now I am exploring Montenegro)

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