What to wear in Istanbul: A guide for women

Istanbul is a wonderful city and millions of people visit Istanbul every year. Even though it is a modern city, there are too many misperceptions in people’s minds. If you are a woman and want to visit this wonderful city, you probably have questions in your mind about what to wear in Istanbul. In this article, you will find the answers.

We can easily say that there is no dress code for women in Istanbul that you need to follow in the streets. You can wear almost anything you want. However, there are exceptions for religious places like mosques and churches.

Moreover, we also need to say that you should consider the weather. Especially in the autumn and winter, the weather could be really cold. Moreover, the weather in Istanbul is generally windy. Thus we advise you to have a cardigan while walking in the streets of this magical city. 

See also: Does it Snow in Istanbul?

See also: Can Unmarried Couples Stay in Hotels in Turkey?

See also: Women in Turkey: The Role of Women in Turkish Society

Is hijab compulsory for women in Istanbul? 

The answer for this question is basically no. Hijab is not compulsory for women in Istanbul in any neighborhood of the city. Turkey is a secular country and all people have the freedom of wearing what they want.  It is possible to see women in hijab in some parts of Istanbul, but it is not compulsory. It’s totally their preference. 

You can see women with different dressing styles in Istanbul

The majority of women in Istanbul choose a ‘’casual’’ dressing style for daily life.  Jeans, jackets, shirts, t-shirts, skirts all could be seen on women on the streets of Istanbul.  Hijab is also a popular choice in more conservative neighborhoods of the city. However, you do not need to wear a hijab or a headscarf in these places. In addition, you could easily see other women who do not wear hijab even in the most conservative districts of the city. The only places you need to follow a dress code are mosques, churches, and other religious centers. 

Dress code for mosques, churches and other religious places

Although there are no dress codes for streets. You need to follow a specific dress code if you want to visit mosques in Istanbul. Because they are religious places, you need to dress according to religious rules. These rules are not only for women but also for men. All men and women should dress modestly while in the mosque.  Below, you can see a list of rules about the dress code for mosques.

  • Legs and arms that should be covered. 
  • No shorts or short skirts.
  • No sleeveless shirts
  • Headscarf for women
  • Kids can wear whatever they want
  • No shoes. You must leave your shoes when you enter the mosque. 

As you know, Istanbul is a cosmopolitan city and there are several Orthodox and Catholic churches in different areas of the city.  Like mosques, you need to follow a certain dress code to visit Orthodox churches of Istanbul because they are also religious sites. Here is the dress code that you should follow in the Orthodox churches of Istanbul.

  • Dresses should be modest
  • Low cut dresses are not allowed
  • Tank tops or sleeveless tops are also not allowed
  • Skirts should not be shorter than knee-length 
  • Dresses should be clean

What to wear at nightclubs 

Istanbul is also famous for its nightlife and several night clubs located in the city.  For most of the nightclubs, there is no dress code. You can wear anything you want as long as they are clean and comfortable. There is no difference between the nightclubs of Istanbul and the nightclubs in other European cities. However, there are some high-end nightclubs in Istanbul, mainly located in the Ortaköy area and you need to follow a dress code to enter there. Your clothes and shoes should look classy and stylish. We advise you not to visit these places when you wear sweatpants and sneakers.  However, the numbers of nightclubs that have that kind of dress code are very limited. If you want to visit a standard nightclub in Istanbul to have fun, to drink and dance, you can wear anything as long as you feel comfortable in them.

What to wear for a comfortable sightseeing 

As we said at the beginning of the article, the weather condition of Istanbul should be the first thing to consider when choosing clothes for sightseeing.  Characteristics of all four seasons could be experienced in Istanbul throughout the year. Therefore, things you can wear for comfortable sightseeing vary according to season.  Below, you can see the average temperature of Istanbul in different months of the year. By looking at the table you can have an idea about what to wear in different months. 

MonthJan FebMarApr MayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°F)393741465564686863554643
Max (°F)484854637279848477685952
MonthJanFebMarApr MayJunJulAugSeptOctNovDec
Min (°c)435813182020171386
Max (°c)9912172226292925201511

As you can understand from the table, Summers are hot but not very hot like cities in the Mediterranean coast of Turkey like Antalya.

Recommendations for Spring 

Spring would be the best time to visit Istanbul in terms of weather. The weather would not be too cold or too hot. You can walk in the streets without sweating or feeling cold. In April and early May, there is a high possibility of rain but it would be a nice experience to walk in Istanbul streets in the rain if you are prepared. You can wear pants, dresses, skirts, shirts, and t-shirts as you wish. However, we suggest you have a cardigan or a light coat with you because of the possibility of instant rain. 

Recommendations for Summer

Summers are hot in Istanbul. However, it would not be very hot like cities in the Aegean or Mediterranean coast of Turkey such as Antalya or İzmir.  Therefore, summers would also be an ideal time for sightseeing. If we need to talk about our clothing recommendations, we can say that you can wear almost anything you want in most districts of the city. You can wear shorts, skirts, sleeveless shirts to feel comfortable on hot, sunny days. You can see many Turkish women or tourists in these kinds of dresses in the summer. As we said before, Turkey is a secular country and people have the right to wear anything they want. Especially in some districts of Istanbul is almost the same as any Western European city in terms of clothing. So, you can wear anything you want in Summer. However, if you are planning to visit some religious sites likes mosques, Orthodox Churches, or Catholic churches we recommend you to wear pants instead of skirts or shorts and long sleeve t-shirts because of the special dress codes of these places.

Recommendations for Autumn 

Istanbul is a very beautiful city in Autumn. The yellow leaves falling from the trees would look beautiful in the historic streets of the city. However, you should be prepared against windy days. The sea breezes of Istanbul are really powerful. You can feel like you are going to fall because of the blowing wind. The weather would not be cold in the Autumn. If you are prepared against the winds and rains, sightseeing in Autumn will be an enjoyable activity for you. Coats are a must in Autumn in Istanbul because of the wind, and you can boat instead of flat shoes. Pants would be a good choice instead of shorts or skirts. 

Recommendations for Winter 

Winters could be very cold in Istanbul.  Although negative temperatures are rare, because of the powerful winds of Istanbul, you can feel very cold. Therefore, our suggestion for you would be the layered clothing method. In this way, you can reduce the effect of wind and cold weather.  If you want to wear a t-shirt in winter, we suggest you wear a cardigan over the t-shirt and wear a coat over the cardigan. Your shoes should also be waterproof in winters against rainy and snowy weather. 

What not to wear in Istanbul 

As we said before, what to wear in Istanbul is mostly up to your decision. Because Turkey is a secular country, you do not have to wear hijab or extremely conservative dresses in Istanbul as a woman.  However, there should be some exceptions as we told you before. Let’s talk about them now.

You can wear shorts or short skirts in Istanbul. However, beachwear in the streets is not a common thing in Istanbul as usual. Although Istanbul is a cosmopolitan city, it is not a small coastal town where people always go swimming and sunbathing. Thus, it would be weird to walk in a bikini top in the streets of Istanbul.

As we stated on the topic of mosques and churches, you should respect religious sites. Thus, avoid wearing short skirts or shorts, sleeveless t-shirts, tank tops, low-cut or backless dresses in mosques or churches. 

You should also avoid wearing gold accessories or jewelry in crowded sites like Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar, or Blue Mosque area not to be an open target for petty thefts.

For the days you are planning to walk, high heels would not be a good choice for you. Especially some historical areas like Old Town have cobblestone pavements and it would be very difficult to walk on these streets while wearing heels. 

There are no other things you should avoid wearing on your Istanbul visit. We hope our guide about what to wear in Istanbul would be helpful for your Istanbul trip. 

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

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