Get the Party Started in Istanbul
Istanbul has a rocking nightlife that spans both continents and all hours of the evening—and early morning. While options for wild nights are limited in the tourism precinct of Sultanahmet, the beats pick up across the Golden Horn in the Beyoğlu District with rock, alternative, and world music venues along the side streets off Istiklal Caddesi. For supper clubs and VIP style, head to Ortaköy or Kuruçeşme to party by the Bosporus.
High above the side streets of Taksim, on the rooftop of an old building, Araf Bar streams out world music and Balkan beats with live performances and DJs every night of the week. If you’re used to dancing to 4/4 beats of western music, then you might have to sit out a few dances, take in the views of Istanbul, and absorb the Turkish 9/8 rhythm often played here. It’s a little tricky to dance to at first—but made easier with an Efes beer or two under your belt!
Asmalı Mescit Mahallesi, Şehbender Sok. No:3, Ivy Masjid Quarter, 34430 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
In the neighborhood of Asmalımescit near Tünel, you’ll find Babylon, a popular club with a capacity for 450 people and pumping sounds. The club’s state-of-the-art lighting and sound system, mixed with its rustic Byzantine-style backdrop, makes it the crème de la crème of intimate performance venues in Istanbul. Gigs here run the whole gamut of genres including rock, pop, alternative grooves, world music, and music from the ‘80s. Pictured above is celebrated Australian singer-songwriter Sarah Blasko at her Istanbul debut in 2013.
Akbıyık Cd., 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
The cobblestone Akbıyık Caddesi (Road) is one of the few places to head to for a nightcap in Sultanahmet. The street is lined with cafes and bars sporting comfy Turkish divans (cushion lounges) and chilled-out tunes. Enthusiastic staff will welcome travelers wishing to relax with a beer or wine until late, but most venues will start to close around 1am to lessen the noise for nearby hotels. Don’t expect wild nights—it’s a laid-back vibe. If you don’t want to venture far from your hotel in Sultanahmet, then this street offers a good variety of late-night drinking options. Dancing until dawn or listening to live music is best in Beyoğlu and Şişli across the Golden Horn in the entertainment precincts of Taksim, Asmalımescit, Galatasaray, Ortaköy, or Kuruçeşme.
Hüseyinağa Mahallesi, Nevizade Sk., 34435 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
For a Saturday night out, many locals will head to Beyoğlu’s liveliest street, Nevizade, lined with meyhanes (taverns) and bars where mezes (starters) and seafood are peddled openly and the rakı (aniseed liquor) and Efes beer flow freely. Highlights of a night here are the musicians who roam playing fasıl tunes (classical Turkish music) accompanied with darbuka (drums), violin, clarinet, and the kanun (a triangular-shaped string instrument that sits on the lap or a table). If they come to your table and play a song or two, it’s customary to tip them 10-15T lira. It’s also customary that if you do not wish to part with your money, you politely gesture them to move on before a note is played. Judging by the number of explanatory brackets in this article, a night on Nevizade is a cultural experience and a great way to immerse yourself in local nightlife. Be wary, though—like any crowded place in any part of the world, Nevizade does get very busy, so keep an eye on your valuables. To find Nevizade, walk along Istiklal Caddesi and turn onto Balik Sokak near Çiçek Passage. Nevizade runs off Balik Sokak on the right.
44 Muallim Naci Caddesi
Reina, with its sublime ambience, elegant style, and idyllic setting, is the place to go to kick up some classy heels right on the Bosporus. Dress to impress, and come dine on a selection of international dishes at one of the four restaurants—before retreating to the bar for wine, beer, cocktails, or top-quality spirits. When the clock strikes midnight, the venue becomes a vivacious nightclub. Reina’s prestigious reputation has lured its fair share of A-list celebrities including supermodel Gisele Bündchen, actors Daniel Craig, Salma Hayek, Uma Thurman, Jennifer Lopez, and musicians Bon Jovi, Sting and Lionel Richie. Bookings are essential and gentlemen, if you’re single and planning a night at Reina, do ring ahead. Most of the elite clubs in Istanbul are apprehensive about allowing entrance to groups of men without ladies by their side. Photo provided by Su Entertainment Group.
Ortakoy is the premier entertainment precinct to head to if you’re looking for the uber chic that oozes from the well-stocked bars and pumping dance floors. Anjelique, right on the Bosporus by the first bridge, is one such swanky club that gets jam-packed on the weekends with crowds of glamorous people. From the open-air terrace upstairs you can hang over the balcony, watch the lightshow of the Bosporus Bridge, and count the VIPs from luxury yachts entering the club below. A fine-dining menu is available, but most locals prefer Anjelique for its bar and club scene which, come midnight, takes over the venue. Photo provided by Istanbul Doors Group.