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Christmas  | © Johnny Lai
Christmas | © Johnny Lai
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How To Celebrate Christmas In Istanbul

Picture of Feride Yalav-Heckeroth
Updated: 19 November 2016
Christmas is not really a big deal in Turkey. Well, not as much as in the Western world anyway. However, it’s still very possible to have a lovely Christmas with services at Istanbul’s churches and a special feast at home with the best ingredients. We’ve put together a useful list for celebrating Christmas in Istanbul.

Church services in Istanbul

One of the city’s largest Roman Catholic churches, St. Antoine Church, is definitely one of the most beautiful places to celebrate Christmas. On December 24th, the service begins at 8PM with hymns followed by a celebration of Jesus’ birth at 9PM. The following day, additional services are held in four different languages: 10AM English; 10:30AM Polish; 11:30AM Italian; and 7PM Turkish. The other option is the Crimean Memorial Church, a lovely Anglican church hidden behind a veil of thick trees. One of the few Anglican churches in the city, Crimean holds a Christmas service on December 24th at 7:30PM and a Christmas Day service at the St. Helena’s chapel in the Pera neighborhood. Last but not least, orthodox Christmas services are held at the Church of St. George in Balat.

St. Antoine Church, Istiklal Caddesi No. 171, Istanbul, Turkey, +90 212 244 0935

Crimean Memorial Church, Şahkulu Mahallesi, Serdar-ı Ekrem Sokak No.83, Istanbul, Turkey

St. Helena Chapel, Meşrutiyet Caddedesi No 44, Istanbul, Turkey

Church of St. George, Sadrazam Ali Paşa Caddesi, Istanbul, Turkey, +90 536 506 85 94

Church of St. George/Wikimedia Commons
Church of St. George/Wikimedia Commons

Christmas food shopping

A juicy whole Turkey is a traditional essential on Christmas Eve, and it’s a good thing that Istanbul has lots of options in this regards. If you’d rather skip the very tedious preparation process, you can order a whole cooked turkey (filled with rice, pine nuts and currants) in advance from two of the city’s best modern tradesman restaurants: Hünkar and Hacı Abdullah. Another great place to order your cooked Turkey in advance is Delicatessen, which will prepare the bird in its most excellent form. If you’re not much of a turkey person, Delicatessen can also gladly prepare roasted lamb one day in advance for a more Turkish version of Christmas.

Hünkar, Mim Kemal Öke Caddesi No.21/1, Istanbul, Turkey, +90 212 225 4665

Hacı Abullah, Ağa Camii, Atıf Yılmaz Caddesi, No.9/A, Istanbul, Turkey, +90 212 293 8561

Delicatessen, Mim Kemal Öke Caddesi No.19/1, Istanbul, Turkey, +90 212 225 0604

Turkey | © Andrea Goh/Flickr
Turkey | © Andrea Goh/Flickr

With a largely Muslim population, pork is not as readily available as other meat varieties in Istanbul. You’ll definitely come across prosciutto or bacon at certain restaurants, but if you’re looking for someone who will provide you with several pork products for your Christmas dinner definitely drop by Istanbul’s only pork butcher, Lazari Kozmanoğlu. Open since 1977, this historic butcher – spread over three floors with its own cutting room – has everything from ribs to mortadella, bacon to sausages and all cut and prepared in-house. If you’re looking for something sweet after all those savory items, make sure to drop by Baylan bakery to pick up a Yule Log, AKA bûche de Noël, that delicious traditional Christmas cake made with chocolate filling and raspberry jam.

Lazari Kozmanoğlu (Yeni Ideal Salam), Katmerli Sokak No.6/8, Istanbul, Turkey +90 212 250 1142

Baylan, Cevdet Paşa Caddesi No.52-54, Istanbul, Turkey, +90 212 358 0760

Bûche de Noël | © Caitlin Childs/Flickr
Bûche de Noël | © Caitlin Childs/Flickr