Istanbulites love sport and with a population north of 15,000,000, there’s no shortage of sports action in Istanbul.

On my latest visit to Istanbul I wanted to experience a variety of matches live, it wasn’t so easy.

football friends at halftime

Even when I went to watch this football international friendly in Antalya, I only learned of the game two days before kickoff.


I found myself clicking all over my Chrome browser from tab to tab to tab trying to figure out what games were on, where and when.

Once I figured out when the games were on, the next mission was making sure I knew where I was going. Istanbul is massive so the transit times to some stadiums needs to be considered. Sometimes that involves buses, subways, and ferries!

The following info will help make your plans to watch Istanbul sports live abit easier. I start off with the big one-off events, before getting into specific sports played throughout the year.

Istanbul Marathon

The Istanbul Marathon is the only road race in the world that crosses between Asia and Europe. Combine that with the chance to legally cross the Bosphorus Bridge by foot and you’ve got an enticing incentive for thousands to sign up.

The event is held in November each year, a great time to visit Istanbul with the summer heat and crowds long gone. Sign up early to guarantee yourself a spot!

If you want to do a marathon in Turkey, but the Istanbul Marathon dates don’t work, there are a bunch more around the country. I ran the Mersin Marathon which is in the Southeast of the country. If you want to base your trip around a marathon, a tool like RoutePerfect can help you ensure you maximise your time in the country.


One Off Big Events

It’s hard to know what all the big sports events are going on in the world at any one time. Some are massive yet get little international media coverage. If you know you’ll be heading to Istanbul, check out sites like and to see if there are any must see events on. You’d hate to find out after the fact about a massive once a year event on down the road!

Note: both those sites sometimes add events only a day or two in advance. So keep an eye on them, you never know!

Watching Football In Istanbul


Really wish I got to see a match live in Istanbul!

Istanbulites are born with football running through their veins.

The three most successful TUrksih football teams, Besiktas, Galatasaray, and Fenerbahce are based here as is plus BBK. They all play in the premier domestic comp, the Turkish Super Liga, so there is no shortage of football played in the city from late July to the end of May.

Note: There are numerous other leagues and cup matches they play in, so checking the schedules for each team regularly is neccessary.

These are the best links to find the schedules for each team:

I’d recommend buying tickets in advance, I tried to go to a Besiktas match that apprarently wasn’t going to be a big crowd ony to find it was sold out.


Basketball In Istanbul

galatasaray basketball ultra fans

The Galatasaray Ultras were quailty.

Basketball is considered to be the next most watched sport in Istanbul. Again, the big three clubs dominate the proceedings with the derbies being massive events for which you’ll want to buy tickets in advance.

The big three club websites are:

Beyond the two major sports you’ve got lots of less visible sports that don’t get massive mainstream coverage. Given they’re played in a city of 15 million, that doesn’t mean they have there fair share of followers. The two lesser played sports I watched in Istanbul were volleyball and waterpolo. The best part about these sports are they are usually free to enter. Always a bonus for the budget traveller.


indoor volleyball istanbul

There was even a small group of Ultras at the volleyball!

The volleyball season runs from September through to February, but there are several competitions so there are occasional matches outside of this time.

You can find the fixtures for the big three clubs here (note, you can access both men and women matches from these links):

Note: the stadiums they play at seem to change, so make sure you know where you’re going in advance!


water polo in istanbul

This was the first time watching water polo live. Somewhat surprisingly fun!

The water polo information is tricky to track down. There’s not much I can tell you as the information was super inconsistent when I was looking at the calendars from this website. You’ll have to use the small calendar on the bottom left of the website to reconcile with your plans to see if there’s a match on when you’re in the city.


Handball is another popular sport in Turkey with the season running from September through to May. The best place to find all the upcoming matches in this website.

The two Istanbul clubs are:

  • Beykoz Bld
  • Besiktas Istanbul

If you watch some handball in Istanbul, tag me in some Instastories @tikitouringkiwi. I didn’t get to watch any matches.

The Rest

It’s crazy how many sports leagues are played across Turkey at a high quality level. Other sports you can watch in Istanbul include: wrestling, boxing, chess, rowing, gymnastics, disability sports, and more.

If you use RoutePerfect, you can plan an epic Turkish sports road trip…but also consider visiting Van (far east of the country) anyway to see the gorgeous cats (Google Turkey Van and you’ll see what I mean!)

Remember at the start when I said Istanbul and sports are a match made in heaven? They’ve put a bid in for the Olympics fives times without success so far. That’s commitment. And goes to show that Istanbul really do believe in the good of sports.

Hopefully this post has helped you plan youfigure out your plan to watch sports in Istanbul a little bit. If you’ve got any questions, never hesitate to ask me.