If you’re looking for a city that never sleeps, look no further than Istanbul. Due to its international reputation, you may not realize that Istanbul nightlife is always thriving. There is certainly no shortage of places to visit and things to do in this vibrant and bustling metropolis, even after the sun goes down. From buzzing nightlife districts to atmospheric cafes and restaurants, there’s something for everyone in Istanbul at night.
If you’re visiting Istanbul and want to create a memorable night, we have 15 ideas for you.
List of things to do in Istanbul at night:
1. Book a Bosphorus cruise with dinner
A Bosphorus cruise can be romantic or just a relaxing way to enjoy a meal. The Bosphorus dinner cruise is the perfect gift as you can choose the type of dinner cruise you wish to go on.
Suppose you’re interested in culture and history. In that case, the private yacht you embark upon may take you to see the summer houses of the sultans: i.e., all the Ottoman Palaces that are on the Bosphorus strait.
You’ll get to see all the sights on the Asian and European sides, such as the Ortaköy Mosque or even the Maiden’s Tower in the center. If you’re lucky, you may even travel up to the Golden Horn to see the sights on the seraglio, such as the Blue Mosque, Topkapı Palace, the Hagia Sophia, or even the Galata Tower. All of those sites may take your breath away as Istanbul at night is something to be marveled at.
Alternatively, you can book a dinner cruise with a Turkish night show. This may include music with Turkish instruments, belly dancers, a whirling dervish show, and enough alcohol to rival the Istanbul nightlife on the shores.
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2. Dance at a rooftop bar
There are some fantastic rooftop bars in Istanbul and they offer stunning views of the city – perfect for a romantic night or an evening with friends. Many of these bars have DJs and live music, so they’re perfect for dancing the night away.
Be sure to dress up a bit, as most rooftop bars have a dress code. If you want a quick Istanbul nightlife guide and want to enjoy the view and sip on some delicious cocktails, we have a list of the best rooftop bars that you should visit in Istanbul:
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3. Visit a Turkish bath
There’s something mystical about the famous Turkish bath. It might be the relaxing oil massage followed by an invigorating body wash that’ll make you feel like a completely new person. Moreover, watching the steam dancing around the domes above you is a transcendent experience that has captured the hearts and imagination of visitors and locals alike. Some hammams in Istanbul remain open late at night and may help you unwind after a busy day of sightseeing.
If you’re curious as to which Turkish baths you should visit in Istanbul, we do have a blog post you may enjoy:
Related content: 10 Best Turkish Bath & Hamam in Istanbul | First-Timers Guide
4. Watch whirling dervishes
The whirling dervishes originated in the 1300s. They follow the teachings of Rumi (also known as Mevlana). They were recognized by UNESCO in 2008 as a cultural heritage. You can watch the whirling dervish show as an event in several places, such as a dinner cruise. However, the actual whirling dervish ceremony is usually available at the Mevlevi Lodges.
A wonderful location to watch whirling dervishes is at the Galata Mevlevihanesi. Every Sunday at 5 p.m., there is a whirling dervishes performance. Tickets quickly sold out, so get them before they go on sale Saturday afternoon via the museum directly. If you can’t make it on a Sunday, Hodjapasha in Sirkeci has daily whirling dervishes performance.
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5. Watch the dancing fountain in front of the Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque, also known as Sultanahmet Mosque, is always a delight to visit. Sultanahmet Park, in the day, usually has street vendors selling exotic treats. During special events or Ramadan, the Blue Mosque and Sultanahmet Park are always spectacularly decorated. During the evenings, the illuminated fountain is magical. The dancing fountain is within walking distance of the usual tourist sites such as Topkapı Palace, Hagia Sophia, and so forth.
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6. Join a night food tour
Is there anything that’s quite like good food? Perhaps you’re in Istanbul with your family, or you’re one of the many solo travelers that visit this beautiful country. In that case, a food tour is perfect for discovering the many restaurants in the city and making new friends. A tour is also superior to a three-course dinner because you get a sampling of a variety of scrumptious food and the walking helps digest what you’ve just eaten. Plus, you have copious amounts of Turkish tea.
If you pick a suitable tour, you’ll visit highlights of tourist sites as well as enjoy scrumptious food. If you’re interested, we host a night tour, and we also have several day trips around different neighborhoods. Our Taksim tour will have you exploring Istanbul at night.
Our meeting point is in Taksim square and will take you around the historic Beyoğlu district. We provide traditional Turkish drinks, and the food is human-sized – not sample-sized. One food tour and you’re done eating for the day. If this sounds like your ideal way to explore Istanbul, the link is below. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes. During the winter season, don’t forget to bring a jacket as Istanbul can get really cold.
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7. Watch the sunset and Maiden’s Tower from Salacak, Üsküdar
Watching the sunset in almost every spot in Istanbul is an ethereal experience. If you want the ultimate place to be captivated, you may wish to visit the Salacak district in Üsküdar. You’ll get to see the Maiden’s Tower light up when the sun goes down. If you can’t afford a Bosphorus cruise, this is the next best thing. The sun may only take a few minutes to set but that’s enough time to feel enveloped in the spell of Istanbul. Click here to learn the Istanbul sunset time for today.
Related content: 8 Best Restaurants & Places to Eat in Üsküdar
8. Join pub crawls
There’s something spellbinding about drinking in a magical city like Istanbul. Istanbul’s nightlife is no less exciting than any other European city’s nightlife.
If you travel with friends, you can just hit the Beyoğlu district and go crazy. However, if you want to avoid tourist traps, you may wish to join an Istanbul pub crawl. Women solo travelers may find comfort in joining the tours, as they’re usually reserved for mixed groups.
If you just hop on to a search engine and type in Istanbul pub crawl, you’ll find many reputable companies. Try a traditional Turkish coffee after to sober you up.
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9. Visit a shopping mall
If you missed out on the gorgeous carpets in the Grand Bazaar or want one of the multi-colored scarves that the locals are wearing, head on down to a shopping mall. Most malls are open until 10 pm, so if you’re up for it, you can experience Istanbul at night like a local. Now you know why Istanbulites are so fashion conscious – because they have the time after work to pick up a cute dress or an awesome shirt. Even if you’re only interested in window shopping, this might be one of the most underrated things to do in Istanbul at night.
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Taste of Two Continents Tour
-Secret local restaurants & one-of-a-kind boutique markets
-Visit locals favourite Kadikoy market
-Taste the world famous Turkish ice-cream & baklava
-It is not just food, it's Turkish culture with an expert's insider view
10. Visit Ortaköy
Get there a little early to pick up a baked potato as you’ve never seen it before. Turkish baked potatoes (kumpir), especially the ones from Ortaköy, are a thing of legend. They’re made from the daddy of potatoes before being stuffed with so many fillings that you may struggle to carry them. If you get there even earlier, you can give yourself a moment to explore the Ortaköy mosque.
Then, with a full stomach and a warm soul, you may wish to head on over to watch the lights of the Bosphorus bridge. Seeing the gorgeous colors reflected on the ocean is always a memorable night. If you’re looking to do a bit of soul searching or looking for a cheap romantic date, seeing the lights of Istanbul at night might be what you need.
11. Smoke shisha (hookah)
Called Nargile in Turkish, hookah bars are places where people gather around, tell stories, and just relax like a bar without alcohol. It may be why it’s a favorite in fiction to portray mysticism. For example, the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland smokes a hookah on a mushroom and speaks in riddles. If this is your jam, there are plenty of places open till late.
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12. Stroll Istiklal street
Any reputable Istanbul nightlife guide will include Istiklal Street on the list. Aside from the Istanbul nightlife being located here, there are plenty of historical sites, churches, and museums to explore. Istiklal Street is a time capsule with its nostalgic trams that shouldn’t be missed.
Just when you feel thirsty, make your way to the bustling Nevizade street and join the locals for a glass of Turkish beer in one of the many pubs.
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13. Watch a soccer game
You can easily find a place, during a pub crawl, that has the game on. It may be harder to visit the stadiums to see the footballers live – especially last minute. That’s because Istanbul is a city crazy over soccer. Even if you’re not a fan of sports, watching the game may end up being a memorable night as everyone becomes one big family when the game is on.
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14. Visit the Pera museum
One of the most extraordinary things to do in Istanbul at night is to view orientalist paintings, learn more about Anatolian weights and measures, and see the ceramics from Kütahya. If you see exciting artworks in the Grand Bazaar, it’s likely to have been created by Osman Hamdi Bey. His work is on display in the Pera Museum which is open until 10 pm.
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15. Visit a meyhane and drink rakı
The classic entertainment of Istanbul at night is the meyhane. You will find yourself enjoying the delicious meze with rakı. Most Meyhane’s in Istanbul serves Turkish cuisine, and some even have belly dancers. If you’re fortunate, perhaps one of those belly dancers may invite guests to the floor to teach them belly dancing.
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Istanbul is a fantastic city to explore after the sun has set. Whether you’re looking for some of the best street food in Turkey, or want to enjoy an evening out with your friends and family at one of the many bars, this vibrant metropolis offers plenty of options when it comes time to have fun.
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