Most Europeans and Americans think that Istanbul is an Arabic city in the desert. Simply, it’s not. It’s cold, humid, rainy, and even snowy in winter. Rain is also common in late spring and June.

Snow in Istanbul: Istiklal Avenue under snow
Snow in Istanbul: Istiklal Avenue under snow
Belgrade Forest under snow, January 2012
Snow in Istanbul: Belgrade Forest under snow, January 2012

Snowfall in Istanbul occurs almost annually. It is common between December and March (exceptions occur, I remember a snowfall on April 17, 1997; and another one on November 2, 2006). Annual total snow cover is almost three weeks, and snow cover usually remains only for a few days after each snowfall, even under intense snow conditions.

Istanbul also has a high annual average rainfall of 844 mm (which is more than that of London – 601 mm or Dublin – 714 mm, whose negative reputation Istanbul does not suffer).

For visitors, an umbrella is recommended during spring, autumn and winter, and during the summer to avoid the sun and occasionally the rain. However, it’s not such a big problem, since the streets of Istanbul are suddenly filled with umbrella sellers as soon as it starts raining. I always wondered how they appear that sudden. It’s like a miracle, as soon as the first few drops fell, they are coming out from nowhere.

Although the umbrellas they provide are a little shoddy, the going rate is only TL5 -about $2.5- per umbrella (though you can find much better umbrellas for that price at shops if you look around a bit).

An umbrella seller in Istanbul
The streets of Istanbul are suddenly filled with umbrella sellers as soon as it starts raining

Due to the city’s hilly topography and inadequate sewage systems, flash floods are a common occurrence after heavy rainfalls (especially during summer).

Flood in Üsküdar, Istanbul
Flood in Üsküdar, Istanbul in Early June 2014
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I am a software developer, a former road racing cyclist, and a science enthusiast. Also an animal lover! I write about the city of Istanbul on this website.