Istanbul lights One of the first things I noticed about Istanbul in winter was the light: changing through the day, as clouds come and go, and monuments lit to demand an evening promenade. A few minutes from our rented apartment in Sultanahmet, the moon posed above the Blue Mosque and the 4th century Obelisk of Theodosius, welcomed us to town in a picture postcard moment.

Situated as it is on the confluence of the Bosphorus and the Marmara Sea, Istanbul has dramatic sunsets too, although the shifting cloud cover of winter can dim the show somewhat. Darkness comes early at this time of year, and as commuter ferries swirl in and out of their moorings, they travel over waters reflecting the lights onshore.  Indoors, trinkets and lamps twinkle in bazaars and shop windows; even the famed Turkish delight and sweets dripping with sugar syrup glisten.

Join me in a quick saunter through a typical, touristy day around town—and sample the spectacle of Istanbul lights, natural and man-made.

Istanbul lights
Inside the Blue Mosque, natural light, stain-glassed windows and the bulbs of an enormous chandelier light the domed prayer hall.
Istanbul lights
Colors of the stained glass are reflected in each of the chandelier’s many glass lamps.
The fountain in front of Hagia Sophia is a popular gathering place. In the evening, it plays a gaudy game of saffron and rose, then shifts to shades of blue, green and yellow.
The fountain in front of Hagia Sophia is a popular gathering place. In the evening, it plays a gaudy game of saffron and rose, then shifts to shades of blue, green and yellow.
Istanbul lights
By day, the cavernous interior of Hagia Sophia is mostly naturally lit.
Istanbul lights
In the Grand Bazaar, lamps glitter in every color combination imaginable.
Istanbul lights
From the heights of Arnavutköy, a sunset view over Istanbul and the Marmara Sea.
Istanbul lights
Against a backdrop of cranes and the Golden Horn, ferries queue to dock beside the Galata Bridge.
Istanbul lights
The fish market at the Turyol ferry landing does a brisk business as commuters head for home.
Istanbul lights
Simple restaurants around the bridge are packed after office hours. The fish is cooked to order on grills in boats that serve as kitchens for the restaurants on shore, the boats’ fluorescent lights reflecting in the waters of the harbor.
Istanbul lights
A tram filled with commuters heads across the Galata Bridge toward Eminönϋ.
Istanbul lights
Fish restaurants in Kumpaki are filled with local customers on a Friday evening. Small bands of musicians roam between the tables and the restaurants and the atmosphere is lively.

Each day here is washed in vivid colors and experiences. These few photos barely skim the surface of my first impressions the lights of Istanbul!

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10 COMMENTS

    • Thank you, Nicole! We had great weather when we arrived, cool with clear skies. It’s now turned rainy, so I’m glad we were able to get out with our cameras last week!

  1. Greetings Anita, I’m so happy I happened upon your blog – it is a feast for the eyes! I have not been to Istanbul for many years, though my husband and I are contemplating visiting the Balkans and stopping by if we have time. Your vibrant images of the streets by night, and of the glowing trinkets have me wanting to return for sure.

    • You won’t be sorry, Tricia, but then if you’ve been to Istanbul you already know that! I really, really enjoyed my stay there over the past couple of weeks, and am so happy you liked the post.

  2. I loved the photos of Istanbul. They are beautiful. What talent you and Tom have and what an experience of photography, good food, and travel to share. I loved reading about how your high school trip to Mexico changed your life. It did mine, too; although, I must say, my parents also put the travel bug in me (car trips of historical battlegrouds and state and national parks). Madame Smith put the international travel bug in me for life. Sha also ruined me, allowing me to major in French, of all things. We were quite silly as roommates on that trip. Ah, the memories. At least we didn’t get “turista.”

    • Thanks so much for commenting, Diane! How great to revisit some of our shared memories too…and bless Madame Smith, I’ll be grateful to her forever, for planting the bug of lifelong travel.

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