Festivals & Holidays in Turkey

EuropeTurkeyFestivals & Holidays in Turkey

The informed traveler should bear in mind that when traveling to, within, or around Turkey, multiple holidays must be observed as travel delays, traffic congestion, accommodation reservations, and crowded meeting facilities may occur. Banks, offices, and shops are closed on official holidays and traffic increases on all subsequent holidays, so do your research before you go. Don’t be discouraged by these holidays, it’s not that difficult and often very interesting to travel to Turkey on holiday, just plan as much as you can.

  • 1 January: New Year’s Day (Yılbaşı)
  • 23 April: National Sovereignty and Children’s Day (Ulusal Egemenlik ve Çocuk Bayramı) – Anniversary of the founding of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.
  • 1 May: Labour and Solidarity Day (Emek ve Dayanışma Günü, unofficially also İşçi Bayramı, i.e. Labour Day) was banned as a public holiday for almost 40 years and was only reinstated as a bank holiday in 2009, as it usually degenerated into violence in previous years. Travellers are advised to be careful not to walk into the middle of a May Day parade or rally.
  • 19 May: Atatürk Memorial Day and Youth and Sports Holiday (Atatürk‘ü Anma Gençlik ve Spor Bayramı) Atatürk’s arrival in Samsun and the beginning of the War of Independence.
  • 30 August: Victory Day (Zafer Bayramı) – Celebration of the end of the war for Turkish independence over the invading forces. A great day of the armed forces and demonstration of military might through huge military parades.
  • 29 October: Republic Day (Cumhuriyet Bayramı or Ekim Yirmidokuz) is the anniversary of the proclamation of the Turkish Republic. If it falls on a Thursday, for example, you should include Friday and the weekend in your travel plans. 29 October is the official end of the tourist season in many seaside resorts in Mediterranean Turkey and there is usually a big party in the town squares.
  • 10 November, 09:05 – From 09:05, the moment Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, died in 1938 at Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul, traffic normally stops and sirens sound for two minutes. This moment is officially observed throughout the country, but shops and official offices are not closed on this day. However, don’t be surprised if you are on the street, hear a loud bang and suddenly people and traffic on the pavements and streets stop for a moment of silence in honour of this event.

Religious holidays

Ramadan (Ramazan in Turkish) is a month-long period of fasting, prayer and celebration during which devout Muslims do not drink or eat anything, not even water, from sunrise to sunset. Shops, banks and official offices are not closed during this time. In some parts of Turkey, such as. in most parts of the interior and east of the country, as residents are more conservative than in the rest of the country, it is considered in bad taste to eat snacks or drink lemonade in public places or on transport in front of residents – to be on the safe side, Look at yourself, how people behave – but restaurants are usually open and there is no problem eating as usual, although some restaurant owners take the opportunity to take a much-needed holiday (or do some renovation work) and close their establishment completely for 30 days. However, you are unlikely to see a closed pub in the major cities, central districts and tourist resorts in western and southern Turkey. At sunset, after a call to prayer and a cannon shot, fasting observers immediately sit down for iftar, the first meal of the day. Banks, shops and official places are NOT closed during this time.

During Ramadan, many communities set up tent-like structures in the main squares of cities specifically for the needy, poor, elderly or disabled, and also provide passers-by with hot meals during sunset (iftar) for free (a bit like soup kitchens serving full meals instead). Iftar is a form of charity that is very rewarding, especially when it involves feeding a needy person. It was first practised for this purpose by the Prophet Muhammad when Islam was introduced. Travellers are welcome but should not avail themselves of it throughout the fasting period just because it is free.

Immediately after Ramazan is Eid-ul-Fitr, or the three-day bank holidays Ramazan Bayramı, also known as Şeker Bayramı (i.e. “sugar” or more accurately “sweets festival”), during which banks, offices and shops are closed and there is a lot of travelling. However, many restaurants, cafés and bars will be open.

Kurban Bayrami (pronounced koor-BAHN bahy-rah-muh) in Turkish, (Eid el-Adha in Arabic) or Feast of Sacrifice is the most important Islamic religious holiday of the year. It lasts several days and is a public holiday in Turkey. During this time, almost everything will be closed (however, many restaurants, cafés, bars and some small shops will be open). Kurban Bayrami is also the time of the annual pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca, so there is a lot of national and international travel in Turkey at this time. If you are in a small town or village, you can even watch the slaughter of an animal, usually a goat but sometimes a cow, in a public square. In recent years, the Turkish government has taken repressive measures against these unofficial culls, so they are not as common as they used to be.

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The dates of these religious holidays change according to the Muslim lunar calendar and therefore take place 10-11 days (the exact difference between the Gregorian and lunar calendars is 10 days and 21 hours) earlier each year. According to this calendar,

  • Şeker/Ramazan Bayramı
  • Kurban Bayramı continues for four days

During the two religious holidays, many (but not all) cities offer free public transport (note, however, that this does not apply to private minibuses, dolmuşes, taxis or intercity buses). This depends on the place and time. For example, Istanbul Public Transport offered free transport on Eid el-Fitr 2008, but not on Eid el-Adha 2008, where passengers had to pay a reduced fare. In some years everything was free on the two holidays, in others there were no discounts. To be sure, check whether or not other passengers are using a ticket or token.