With its tulip-filled parks and
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 worldwide, is not widely celebrated in Turkey. Still, opportunities
can be found to enjoy the day with Easter foods and activities.
Where to Celebrate Easter in Istanbul
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. 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 church service, one of the largest Catholic Churches, St Anthony, is on Taksim’s Istiklal Street.
Easter Bread in Istanbul
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.
Easter season can be further observed with the Greek and local Armenian traditions. Look out for Paskalya Corgi, 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 red dye to make your eggs. Moving further afield, the Islands are an excellent option for observing Orthodox Easter. Traditionally there is a beautiful Easter procession put on by local Greeks.
The tradition of visiting wishing trees is popular among the Turk. Known as Dilek Agaci in Turkish, these specific trees are known to have spiritual and religious values. People visit these places to make offerings for their dreams to come true. They write their wishes on a piece of paper or fabric and hang them on the tree branch. 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 an exceptional destination with its own unique Easter experiences.
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