(Editor’s Note: With Ramadan set to start at the end of the month, we decided to rerun this timely advice column from last year.)
Dear Istanbul Eats,
I booked my trip to Istanbul months ago, looking forward to trying out many of your recommendations, only to realize just before leaving that I will be arriving in the middle of Ramadan! Will everything be closed during the day? Will I be harassed in the street if I’m seen eating? Will I be able to have a beer with my lunch? Thank you for your help,
G. Avur, Las Vegas, NV
Thanks for your question. It’s one that we hear a lot and one that we’ve been wondering about ourselves. There’s really no hard and fast rule about Ramadan. Much of it depends on the area where you want to go to. You can be fairly sure that most of the restaurants you want to visit in Sultanahmet, Beyoğlu or along the Bosphorus will be open during the day. On the other hand, spots in more traditional/conservative areas like Fatih and Eyüp will likely be closed until İftar (the break fast meal) time. Places that serve alcohol, particularly in tourist-heavy areas, are still serving it during the day, so that shouldn’t be a problem. In fact, we were at a wine bar near Taksim one recent night that was not only serving booze at its sidewalk café but also had a chalkboard set out that was prominently advertising “Pork Sausages.” Miniskirts and minarets, as they like to say.
Many restaurants take advantage of the Ramadan period to do renovations, so that’s another thing worth considering. Also, because this year’s holiday has come so early, it’s possible that many restaurateurs are also taking their vacation now and have closed up shop for the month. Our best advice is to call ahead and see if the place you want to eat in is open. Enjoy your trip!
(photo by Cem Topçu, Wikimedia Commons)