Istanbul's nightlife still revolves, in many ways, around its meyhanes, the tavern-like restaurants where long nights are spent nibbling on meze and sipping the anise-flavored spirit rakı. The atmosphere at these places—mostly found in the lively Beyoğlu area—is jovial, friendly, and worth experiencing. But there are lots of other options, too, again mostly in Beyoğlu, which has everything from grungy American-style dive bars to sophisticated lounges, performance spaces that host world-class live acts, and dance clubs. In recent years, the trend in the neighborhood has been literally upward, with the opening of rooftop bars that offer stunning views and fresh breezes.

As Istanbul's reputation as a hip city continues to grow, the quality of the live acts that come to town has risen, too. Established and up-and-coming performers now frequently include Istanbul on their European tours, and the city has become a good place to catch a show for far less than what you might pay in Paris, London, or New York. Note that many live-performance venues close for part or all of the summer, when school is out and the city’s elite departs for vacation.

To experience Istanbul’s most high-end nightlife, head to the neighborhoods along the Bosphorus, where chic (and pricey) nightclubs play host to Istanbul's rich and famous and those who want to rub shoulders with them. The vibrant dance club scene here, as well as at a few places in Beyoğlu, is not for the faint of heart. Things typically get rolling at around midnight and go until 4 or 5 in the morning. The city’s most upscale clubs tend to be expensive—admission fees can be steep on summer weekends—and there are no guarantees you'll get past the doorman, whose job it is to make sure only Istanbul's best dressed get in.

Sultanahmet isn’t known for its nightlife, but in summer, the strip of tourist-oriented restaurants and dive bars at the end of Akbıyık Sokak close to the Aya Sofya can be quite lively, with a young crowd that fills the sidewalk tables.

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  • 1. Babylon Bomonti

    Nisantasi | Live Music

    Istanbul's top live-music space occupies an entertainment complex in Bomonti, on the other side of the Osmanbey metro stop from Nişantaşı. It...Read More

  • 2. Leb-i Derya

    Beyoglu | Bars/Pubs

    The reward for finding this sixth-floor rooftop restaurant and bar—in an apartment building with only a small sign out front—is a magnificent...Read More

  • 3. NuTeras

    Beyoglu | Dance Clubs

    The rooftop of a historic building (known as NuPera) with wonderful views of the Golden Horn is home to one of Istanbul's trendiest nightclubs...Read More

  • 4. Salon İKSV

    Beyoglu | Live Music

    This top-notch performance space is housed in the headquarters and cultural center of the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV), one...Read More

  • 5. 5. Kat

    Beyoglu | Bars/Pubs

    A rather pricey restaurant that turns into a trendy lounge/bar later in the evening, 5. Kat is on the fifth floor of an unassuming building...Read More

  • 6. A'ya Lounge

    Sultanahmet | Bars/Pubs

    Sultanahmet doesn't have many noteworthy nightlife spots, but the open-air rooftop lounge at the Four Seasons Sultanahmet is an inviting place...Read More

  • 7. Anjelique

    Bosphorus | Dance Clubs

    Overlooking the Ortaköy waterfront, Anjelique's classy atmosphere offers partiers a more intimate feel than the larger nightclubs farther up...Read More

  • 8. Araf

    Beyoglu | Bars/Pubs

    Located on one of Istanbul's busiest nightlife strips, Araf is usually packed to the gills with a young, energetic, and unpretentious crowd...Read More

  • 9. Balkon

    Beyoglu | Bars/Pubs

    A sixth-floor bar and lounge, Balkon has excellent views of the Golden Horn and a laid-back outdoor deck, now located atop the new By Murat...Read More

  • 10. Bebek Bar

    Bosphorus | Bars/Pubs

    With its masculine interior decor that brings to mind a private club, and a breezy terrace directly overlooking the Bosphorus, Bebek Bar attracts...Read More

  • 11. Colonie

    Karaköy | Bars/Pubs

    This industrial-chic bar-restaurant near the Tophane end of Karaköy serves up unique cocktails to a hip young crowd. If you’re hungry, there...Read More

  • 12. Fosil

    Karaköy | Dance Clubs

    Formerly housed in what looked like a derelict waterfront warehouse, this popular nightclub has recently moved to swankier digs nearby, but...Read More

  • 13. Hayal Kahvesi

    Beyoglu | Live Music

    One of Beyoğlu's longest-running live music venues, Hayal Kahvesi has been in operation for more than 20 years and now has branches all over...Read More

  • 14. Karga Bar

    Asian Side | Bars/Pubs

    The longest-established and most popular venue on Kadıköy's so-called "Barlar Sokağı" ("bars street"), Karga takes up several levels of an old...Read More

  • 15. Kiki Ortaköy

    Ortaköy | Dance Clubs

    The crowd is always lively and ready to dance at this multilevel Ortaköy bar/nightclub, where popular DJs take the booth regularly. In summer...Read More

  • 16. KV

    Beyoglu | Bars/Pubs

    Tucked into a late 19th-century open-air arcade, KV has a brasserie kind of feel that's perfect for a leisurely drink; a piano or local musicians...Read More

  • 17. Lâl

    Asian Side | Bars/Pubs

    The best thing about this low-key café/bar on Kadıköy's main nightlife street is the large courtyard in the back, where patrons can gather around...Read More

  • 18. Mama Shelter

    Beyoglu | Bars/Pubs

    The enormous rooftop terrace on the top of Mama Shelter Hotel houses a trendy restaurant/bar offering 360-degree views of the city, specialty...Read More

  • 19. Nardis Jazz Club

    Beyoglu | Live Music

    One of Istanbul's few dedicated jazz venues, the well-regarded Nardis Jazz Club hosts mainly Turkish musicians and the occasional big name from...Read More

  • 20. Şahika

    Beyoglu | Bars/Pubs

    On a narrow street lined with basic beer joints and meyhanes serving mostly identical food menus, Şahika offers something more unusual. The...Read More

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