Even though Taksim has lost its former notoriety as Istanbul’s heart of the nightlife scene, other areas in the city continue to thrive on the late-night crowds. From rowdy meyhane nights to more relaxed evenings with a glass of wine, here are some great places to experience Istanbul at night.
Located on the coast of the Marmara Sea, the Kumkapı neighborhood is known for its many meyhane (taverns) where rakı and meze are served alongside live fasıl music played by wandering musicians. A night in Kumkapı will let you delve right into Istanbul’s historic meyhane culture that is intimately connected to the city’s essence. One of the best restaurants here is Kör Agop, which has been around since 1938. Be forewarned, though, as Kumkapı is quite the lively place with loud music, tables set up out on the streets, and lots of people.
After the demise of Taksim, the neighborhood of Arnavutköy has become one of the most popular destinations for nightlife in Istanbul. The upscale Bosphorus neighborhood, known for its Ottoman-era mansions and its many fish restaurants by the sea, saw a boom of bar openings which brought in the young crowds who fill up every venue (and even the streets) on the weekends. Some of the best places to hang out in Arnavutköy include Alexandra, Luzia, and ANY, which feature DJs, delicious cocktails, and lots of fun crowds.
Formerly the factory for Bomonti beers, the huge renovated space has become one of the coolest places to hang out in the Şişli neighborhood. Bomontiada features everything in one area including restaurants, bars, and a live concert venue. We suggest you start the evening with dinner at Kilimanjaro followed by a few drinks at the bar, maybe a few beers at The Populist accompanied by live DJ music, and then an excellent live performance at the famous Babylon concert hall.
Not a lot of visitors venture to the Asian side, but the Kadıköy neighborhood does have one of Istanbul’s most infamous bar streets. Kadife Sokak (Velvet Street) is always crowded on the weekends with people walking to and fro from bars and getting a late-night snack at one of the many büfe (Turkish fast food joints). The most popular bars on this street include Arkaoda (featuring a small back garden and some of the city’s best live music) and Karga Bar (a more relaxed spot to have a few beers and listen to some music).
Certainly one of Istanbul’s best jazz clubs, a night at Nardis Jazz Club is definitely a unique experience in Istanbul. Always featuring the best of local and international jazz artists, you can buy tickets right at the door and then choose a seat by the stage or on the second floor. With its bar in the back, candlelit atmosphere, and plenty of amazing singers and musicians, Nardis is as romantic as it is original.
Another excellent venue to enjoy some of the city’s best live performances, Salon IKSV features some of the best local and international acts. Run by IKSV (the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts)—which hosts the city’s famous Film, Theater, Music, Jazz, and Design Festivals, as well as the Biennial—Salon is the foundation’s youngest project and sits in the beautiful neoclassical IKSV building in Şişhane.
For those who enjoy a quieter (more romantic) evening or like to start their night with a few glasses of wine and good conversation, Solera Winery is a perfect place to linger for hours. Located in a small and cozy space in the Galatasaray neighborhood, Solera has an excellent selection of local and international wines picked out by its owner who is happy to guide you in the right palatal direction. Solera also offers a few snacks to go with your wine, including a selection of local cheeses or delicious pizza from the restaurant down the street.