Easter in Istanbul, Turkey

Created : 15 Apr 2022
Easter egg

By Justin Mays:

With its tulip-filled parks and the return of dolphins to the Bosphorus, Istanbul is a city that knows how to usher in the spring season. But Easter, while one of the most observed spring holidays around the world, is not widely celebrated in Turkey. Still, opportunities can be found to enjoy the day with Easter foods and activities.

On Easter Sunday, many international hotel chains like Swissotel and Hilton have set price Easter brunches, usually buffet style with international and local cuisine. A visit from the Easter bunny and entertainment for the kids often accompanies the meal. You can join local expat groups to learn if anyone is organizing an egg hunt in nearby parks or housing compounds. Different colored dyes can be found outside the Spice Bazaar in Eminonu for coloring eggs for home celebrations. Chocolate bunnies, chicks, and eggs are not difficult to find. Just go to Macro Center, Olimpia and Savoy in Cihangir, Vakko Chocolate in malls, or Kahve Dunyasis dotted throughout the city. If you want to attend a service, one of the largest is at the Catholic Church of St Anthony on Taksim’s Istiklal Street.

If you celebrate Orthodox Easter, there are Armenian and Greek churches that hold services.  Because the pandemic disrupted services over the past couple of years it is advisable to check which Orthodox churches have services. Traditionally people head to the islands, Yenikoy or churches in the Besiktas District or Kurtulus area. The season can be further observed with the Greek and Armenian local traditions. Look out for Paskalya Corgei, Easter bread similar to challah or brioche made with mahleb, and ground cherry seed kernels. You will find Savoy Bakery in Cihangir, Baylan and Beyaz Firin in Kadikoy and Ustun Palmie, Arma and Nazar Bakeries in Ferikoy. You can also find the red dye to make your eggs.

Moving further afield, the islands are a great option for observing Orthodox Easter. Traditionally there is a beautiful Easter procession put on by local Greeks. On Buyukada Island, there is an annual custom of tying a string on a tree while making a wish on the climb up to the St George monastery. While Istanbul may not be the first place that comes to mind to celebrate Easter, it is a special destination with its own unique Easter experiences.

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