No trip to Istanbul is complete without exploring the city’s amazing nightlife.
While there will be some days when you explore so much of what there is to do in the city that you come home exhausted, there will be other days when you’re ready to get out and party (or cruise or shop) the night away. Here are our favorite things to do in Istanbul at night, plus our best Istanbul nightlife tips!
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Where to Stay in Istanbul
If you’re planning on spending a lot of time out at night, you’ll want to make sure you pick accommodations that are easy to get to after dark and have twenty-four-hour reception in case you get home closer to dawn than midnight.
Accommodations in Istanbul offer a great value compared to other cities in Europe. Here is a general range of what we mean by each budget category:
- Budget: A room in a hostel, usually $5-12 USD per night for a dorm bed or under $40 for a double.
- Mid-range: Around $40-80
- Luxury: Around $100 per night or more
Budget: For a great budget-friendly hotel, you can stay in the single or double rooms at the Dreamers B&B. Colorful and cozy, the B&B boasts a fabulous location in Beyoglu, less than a kilometer from Taksim Square. You can explore all of Beyoglu from here, and then head to Sultanahmet when you’re ready to see the old city.
Mid-Range: For an affordable, yet trendy boutique hotel, we recommend Peradays. It’s perfect for all Istanbul visitors, from first-timers to Istanbul veterans. The lofted rooms are generously large, so you can spread out and relax after a long day of sightseeing. They also have two cats that live here, Pera and Daisy, which you’ll be happy to greet after counting cats all day when out in the city.
Luxury: Istanbul has no shortage of fabulous hotels, but we love Hammamhane, a boutique apartment-hotel that was originally a hammam, and the sister hotel of Peradays. Built in a historic hammam (Turkish bath), the suites are spacious and luxurious. Located in the heart of Cukurcuma, the antiques district, Hammamhane is within walking distance to art galleries, design stores, antique shops, and chic cafés.
Still can’t decide? Check out our guide to the best Istanbul neighborhoods and hotels.
The Best Things to Do in Istanbul at Night
Here are our favorite Istanbul nightlife activities, in no particular order…
Enjoy a Turkish Bath
If a long day of sightseeing has you exhausted, why not spend your evening relaxing at a Turkish bath? I truly can’t think of a better way to wind down than getting scrubbed and massaged in a five-hundred-year-old hammam!
There are dozens (possibly hundreds) of hammams across Istanbul, so you can choose a historic one, one near your accommodations, or even go for the most Instagrammable one.
If you want to have everything arranged before you go, you can book your Turkish bath ahead of time for the Çemberlitas Bath. I’ve been to this one and I can vouch that it is completely and utterly relaxing. Plus it was built in the sixteenth century, which is so cool to think about.
Pro Tip: Book your Turkish bath here and then grab dinner afterward at the cheap and tasty falafel restaurant next door.
Explore Arnavutköy Nightlife
While I personally love Arnavutkoy for the traditional Ottoman houses and delicious fish restaurants, it’s actually one of Istanbul’s nightlife hubs.
My favorite bar in Arnavutkoy is Alexandra, a cocktail bar which *almost* makes Turkey’s inflated alcohol prices worth it. You can also check out the nearby Luzia, an intimate bar with a craft cocktail menu that makes a great place for a romantic evening in Istanbul.
Cruise the Bosphorus at Sunset on a Private Yacht
A lot of people choose to do their Bosphorus cruise during the daytime. While that’s an excellent activity, you can save it and go at night instead. For a truly spectacular way to enjoy the Bosphorus, choose a private yacht cruise of the Bosphorus at sunset.
You get to see mosques, palaces, and bridges while enjoying Turkish drinks and sea breezes. And of course, your sunset pics will help you remember the evening for the rest of your life.
Cruise with Dinner & a Show
If you want a bit more entertainment on your nighttime cruise, you can opt instead to take a dinner cruise that includes a dancing show. You’ll still get to enjoy the sunset, but you’ll also eat a buffet dinner and enjoy a show with traditional dancing and Turkish music.
Dine on Mezze & Raki
We love Turkish food (don’t tell the rest of the Balkans, but Turkish food and Greek food are our two favorite regional cuisines here). And one thing they have in common? Mezze!
What’s a mezze? Well, according to Wikipedia, mezze (or meze) is a common meal that consists of multiple snack-size plates (think Balkan tapas).
In Turkey, meze often consist of beyaz peynir (literally “white cheese”), kavun (sliced ripe melon), acılı ezme (hot pepper paste often with walnuts), haydari (thick strained yogurt with herbs), patlıcan salatası (cold eggplant salad), beyin salatası (brain salad), kalamar tava (fried calamari or squid), midye dolma and midye tava (stuffed or fried mussels), enginar (artichokes), cacık (yogurt with cucumber and garlic), pilaki (foods cooked in a special sauce), dolma or sarma (rice-stuffed vine leaves or other stuffed vegetables, such as bell peppers), arnavut ciğeri (a liver dish, served cold), octopus salad, and çiğ köfte (raw meatballs with bulgur).
In Turkey, this meal is an especially social affair, with food eaten slowly over a long period and accompanied by generous servings of Turkish raki, a white anise-flavored liquor (not to be confused with Balkan rakia/rakija which is more akin to delicious battery acid).
Go on an Istanbul Pub Crawl
The Istanbul Pub Crawl last seven hours, so you’ll have tons of opportunities to ask your guide for recommendations and to get to hang out with the other people on your tour.
Organized pub crawls are a great way to make some friends, and they’re great for solo travelers and couples looking to enjoy an evening but also get in some good conversation with other people (since traveling for a long time with just one other person or solo can feel a bit isolating at times).
On this pub crawl, you’ll visit three different bars, including some secret local hotspots. The tour also includes a free shuttle to help you make sure you get to the meeting point to start.
Smoke a Bit of Shisha
While you can find great Hookah bars all over the Balkans, there is something special about smoking shisha in Istanbul – though you should call it a nargile instead of a hookah when you’re in Turkey.
You can enjoy flavored shisha, like mint and apple, or go for the traditional stuff that’s straight tobacco. I personally am a bit partial to watermelon shisha.
Looking for the best spots to enjoy this Ottoman tradition? Here’s an overview of the best Hookah bars in Istanbul.
Dine at Mikla
Mikla isn’t exactly a hidden gem (it’s been voted one of the best restaurants in the world multiple times), but it’s worth the hoopla. Make a reservation if you want to dine (or come exactly at six to enjoy a cocktail). You’ll be greeted by this amazing view and a modern take on Turkish cuisine.
Make sure to ask your server for local wine suggestions as their selection of Turkish wines is excellent.
Take in a Whirling Dervish Show
You might have heard some singing Austrian nuns proclaim that Maria von Trapp could “throw a whirling dervish out of whirl,” but do you know what a whirling dervish is? In Istanbul, you can come to see for yourself!
While in Istanbul, take in a Whirling Dervish show. There are many spots you can see this in Istanbul, but the show at the HodjaPasha Culture Center has won awards as one of the best authentic local events in the city.
What happens at one of these shows? According to HodjaPasha:
Watch the mystical ritual of the Mevlevi Order, whose whirling dance has been declared a UNESCO Heritage of Humanity. The Sema ceremony is a journey through man’s spiritual ascent to “perfection” through mind and love.
Chill in a Former Beer Factory
The historic beer factory in Bomonti was recently restored and turned Bomontiada, into a killer nightlife complex that includes trendy restaurants, art galleries, and even a concert hall. Highlights include Delimonti, a grocery store featuring food from cities all over Turkey, and the restaurant Kiva, which features local cuisine and live entertainment.
Leave time to explore the art galleries and brewery. The great think about Bomontiada? It’s still relatively undiscovered by tourists, so you can get a taste of Istanbul nightlife the way some of the city’s trendiest locals enjoy it.
Appreciate Ortakoy Mosque at Night
You can’t miss seeing Ortakoy Mosque at night (it’s one of our favorite Istanbul Instagram spots), but it’s also worth it to drop by the neighborhood at night to see the mosque all a-glow.
You can see it from the ground (obviously), but for a fun twist, head upstairs at Hobo Kitchen to enjoy cocktails and animal fries with your mosque views.
See the Glowing Fountain in Sultanahmet
Most likely you’ll stroll through Sultanahmet during the day, visiting the Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cisterns, and the Blue Mosque during daylight hours. However, if you find yourself in the area at night, enjoy the festive atmosphere and beautiful fountains all alight.
Snack Away on an Evening Food Tour
You’re unlikely to have a bad dining experience in Istanbul (it’s nearly impossible to choose wrong), but if you’re looking to learn about the history and tradition of Turkish cuisine, then join an evening food tour.
Shop at the Grand Bazaar
If you run out of time to see the Grand Bazaar during the day, you can stop by in the early evening since it’s open until 7 pm Monday through Saturday.
Afterward, you can enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants in the area. Just try to steer clear of any restaurants aimed at tourists!
See the Bosphorus Bridge Light Up
I absolutely adore watching the Bosphorus at any time of day, but if you have a thing for modern feats of engineering, check out the Bosphorus Bridge after dark! The lights are stunning. Bonus if you happen to be in town over a holiday (like Republic Day on October 29th) when you can see the bridge and fireworks at the same time!
Go on a Personalized Photo Shoot
If you’ll be in town celebrating a special event like a honeymoon or engagement (or even if you just want to up your Istanbul Instagram to another level) you can book a private photographer to capture special moments from your trip!
While most will choose to book this during the day, you can always arrange to get that beautiful golden hour and sunset glow by scheduling your shoot in the evening!
Take an Istanbul by Night Tour
If you will be short on time during your trip but you still want to see the best of Istanbul, go on an evening tour of the city! While you won’t get to see all of the traditional spots, you’ll still get an amazing feel for the city plus a taste of traditional Turkish dance!
See the Maiden’s Tower at Sunset
If you’re looking for the most beautiful sunset sights in Istanbul, you could do a lot worse than checking out the gorgeous Maidens Tower. If you’re in town over the weekend, you can even tour Maidens Tower from 8:15 pm until midnight, which makes it one of the biggest tourist sites in Istanbul to be open at night!
Stroll Istiklal Caddesi
One of the most famous avenues in Istanbul, it’s a great way to see just how big Istanbul is since it’s visited by over 3 million people Every. Single. Day.
Come here to shop, socialize, eat, drink, be merry, but more than anything else, come here to people watch. A WHOLE LOT OF PEOPLE watch.
Hang out in Galata
The area around Galata Tower is a great place to hang out in the evenings. Cafe Privato has an excellent Turkish Breakfast, but they also have fantastic Georgian cuisine for dinner if you’re looking for a quick break from Turkish cuisines.
There are cafes, shops, and people watching opportunities galore here, though I’m partial to the funky Istanbul souvenirs you can get in the neighborhood’s art galleries.
If you want to see some fabulous Galata views from above, climb the tower at sunset (or right after for fewer crowds)!
Feed a Street Cat Your Leftovers
You’ll no doubt notice the amazing street cats of Istanbul, and you’ll probably see that most of them are pretty well taken care of. It seems as though every shop and cafe in Istanbul is feeding ten or so of these marvelous animals.
However, if you find yourself with a bit of extra food (provided its feline-approved), spend a few minutes sharing your dinner with one or two of these nifty critters.
Want to know why Istanbul has so many cats? Jodi over at Legal Nomads explains why Istanbul and Cats go together better than peanut butter and jelly.
Crash at Your Hotel
One thing that people forget when they travel…it’s okay to have an early night every once in a while! Don’t fill up every single night of your trip – leave at least one night where you can come home early and enjoy your hotel digs – especially if you stay somewhere worth spending some extra time!
Istanbul Nightlife Tips
Istanbul is one of my favorite cities in the world, but here are some tips to stay safe and enjoy your evening out.
First, get familiar with the local Istanbul tourist scams, many of which target tourists at night. You’re also more likely to have an issue with scammers if you’re visibly intoxicated (doubly so if you’re alone).
Many places take credit cards, but always double check just in case! You do not want to end up having issues paying at the end of your meal or time in a bar.
I prefer to use Uber when in Istanbul (though I’ve had plenty of nice taxi rides in the city as well). I do have a friend who had a bad run-in with a taxi driver at night trying to break into his apartment. Just to be safe, stick to Uber after dark so that there’s a record of your ride and who your driver is.
Use common sense safety when in Istanbul, and your trip will go as smoothly as possible.
Organized Tours & Events To Book Ahead
In this post, I’ve mentioned a few tours and things that you would want to reserve ahead of time. Here are all the guided tours and other things that should be booked, in one easy-to-reference list.
- Sultanahmet Traditional Turkish Bath
- Bosphorus Sunset Cruise on a Luxurious Yacht
- Istanbul Dinner Cruise
- Istanbul 7-Hour Pub Crawl: Big Night Out
- Mikla Restaurant – Reservations Suggested
- The Whirling Dervishes Show at the HodjaPasha Culture Center
- Turkish Dining Evening Tour
- Evening Walks and Food Tasting Tour
- Istanbul: 3 Hour Evening Food Tour in Kadıkoy
- Istanbul: Personalized Photo-Shoot With a Professional
- Istanbul Evening Tour
More Istanbul Travel Resources
We have a ton of resources to help you plan your trip to Istanbul! First, start with our top 50 Istanbul travel tips – virtually every question you might have about visiting Istanbul should be covered here. You can also check out our post on Istanbul safety tips.
We’re working on our massive things to do post in Istanbul, plus you can check out our guide to the best Instagram spots around Istanbul,, our favorite Istanbul neighborhoods and where to stay, and tips for shopping in Istanbul. If you visit in winter, we have a special winter in Istanbul guide.
If you want to be in the city for just a few days (four or less), check out our Istanbul city break guide, which breaks down the best of the city so you won’t miss anything!
For more general Turkey information, check out this guide to planning a trip to Turkey (including visa information) and this guide to other beautiful places to visit in Turkey. You can also check out our Balkan currency guide, which explains how the Turkish lira works and guidelines for tipping in Istanbul.
If you will also be traveling to Cappadocia, we have this massive DIY Cappadocia itinerary post that will be helpful to read if you are not going on a guided excursion. If you’re curious about the most Instagrammable places in Cappadocia, we’ve got you covered. We’ve also written extensively about the best cave hotels for all budgets here in Cappadocia.
Don’t Forget about Travel Insurance!
It’s always a good idea to travel to Turkey or anywhere in Europe with a valid travel insurance policy. Istanbul is a very safe place to travel, but accidents or theft can easily ruin your trip if you don’t have the travel insurance coverage to recover the losses. Recently my aunt fell on a train in France and needed surgery, but luckily her travel insurance covered the costs in full. Thank goodness!
For travel insurance, I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.
Pin this Istanbul Nightlife Guide for Your Trip to Turkey
Stephanie has been living in and traveling around the Balkans for the past three years. She’s written for National Geographic Online, appeared on CNN Arabic and in the New York Times, and ridden more Balkan buses than is good for a person.