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. 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

  • 2. 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

  • 3. 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

  • 4. 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

  • 5. 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

  • 6. 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

  • 7. 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

  • 8. 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

  • 9. 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

  • 10. 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

  • 11. 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

  • 12. 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

  • 13. The W Lounge

    Besiktas | Bars/Pubs

    The stylish yet comfortable lounge/bar in the W Hotel has plush divans, low tables, and signature cocktails, drawing a sophisticated, trendy...Read More

  • 14. L'Eclipse

    Beyoglu | Bars/Pubs

    L'Eclipse, on so-called "French Street," is a café and bar with a rooftop terrace and a nice view of Sultanahmet and the Bosphorus. ...Read More

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