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Taksim is the primary hotspot of night-life and artistic activity, eateries, many prestigious schools and embassies in Istanbul. Although much of the activity is centered around Istiklal Caddesi and its side streets, there is a lot going on in the whole area.
A word of caution though, despite all the glamour, parts of Beyoğlu can be dodgy areas and later at night petty crime and even violence can happen especially on side streets. When you are out for a night do be careful.
Around Istiklal Caddesi (Avenue)
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This is the main avenue of attraction in Taksim and is a bustling centre with crowds strolling down a long wide pedestrian road with many eateries, bars, hotels and high-street shops leading to many perhaps more interesting side streets.
Our recommendation would be to find out about your potential destinations before heading up to here, or tag along your local friends as it may be quite hectic to find out venues to your liking once you are already in the crowds. Note that most of the clubs enfource a rigorous door policy?.
It may be possible to divide the avenue into two halves, firstly the more main stream and popular half, stretching from Taksim Square down to Galatasaray Lycee, and the lesser known (but cooler) second halfstretching down to Tünel.
To the left and right of the avenue you will find established clubs amongst other clubs and bars having a rich variety of offerings ranging from live rock/grunge, live jazz, house music, popular disco tunes, to Turkish folk music. Of the established venues you will find:
Beyoğlu Hayal Kahvesi
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What: A well-established live music venue since 1992 hosts various popular pop/rock bands every day of the week. See here for a list of coming performances.
Tip: You can buy tickets in advance from the link above and avoid any hassle.
Tel: +90 (0)212 292 73 68
What: Bearing the same name as the older three-storey mega rock club, Kemancı came back to its original location as a cosy live music venue / rock club.
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What: Popular with uni students and adults alike, Roxy is a sophisticated club, a staple of Istanbul club-life since 1994 with various offerings ranging from live music to clubbing.
Tip: Saturday nights are for clubbing until the morning!
Tel: +90(0) 212 245 6539
Çiçek Pasajı / Flower Passage (Cité de Péra)
What: Flower Passage is a historic part of the town famous for its many meyhanes, bars and restaurants.
Nevizade Sokak and its side streets form a popular area of open pubs where you can enjoy your beer and a large cluster of meyhanes . In these you can try out the traditional way of Turkish drinking rakı and eat Turkish meze’s with it. Often there is live classical Turkish music to go with it.
This one is typically good in company of Turkish friends. You’re recommended to go as a group of at least 4 people, and typically fix a price in advance for a fixed menu. The live musicians would normally expect a tip after playing a few tunes at your table unless you decline them kindly from the beginning.
All the surrounding areas around Asmalı Mescit Avenue (Caddesi) are home to the youthful new venues of Istanbul along with restaurants offering variety of exotic and international cousines.
Despite being somewhat dodgy at nights, this part of the town has lots of energy and fun to offer.
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What: A well-established and prestigious live music venue since 1999, which hosts international as well as local talent. See link for a list of coming performances.
Tip: You can buy tickets beforehand using the two links above and avoid the hassle.
Tel: +90 (0) 212 292 73 68
BOSPHORUS SHORE (ORTAKOY)
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Do you want to rub shoulders with $ the billionaires of Istanbul? Outpacing most of Europe’s cities in the accumulation of wealth at the top of the pyramid (for good or bad), Istanbul’s wealthy elite know how to splash money for a night out (According to the Forbes magazine Istanbul was the city that had the 7th and the 4th highest number of billionaires in the world in 2009 and 2008 respectively). So make no mistake, you don’t go to Ortakoy clubs for a value for money decent night-out. It’s about the glamour, the style and the show off, and you get to be in the company of local and sometimes international celebrities, even the occasional monarch from Europe. If this is not your cup of tea then better stay out, if not you’re in for a long and exciting night out!
Numerous mega-clubs started to appear by the shores of Bosphorus since the 90s. Popular during the summer period with breathtaking views and swanky interiors, different generations of clubs located between Ortakoy and Arnavutkoy replaced one another in past two decades, but the idea of glamour remained the same. See Kozano’s blog (here andhere) to get an idea about what to expect and you’re recommended to get your style right to avoid disappointment!
To get to any of these clubs, simply go to Taksim or Besiktas, and take the short taxi ride from there.
Some of the current generation of these clubs are:
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What: The most famous of the Bosphorous bunch
Tip: For a weekend night out, make a dinner reservation in advance and show up in appropriate attire preferably in one group.
Tel: +90(0) 212 259 59 19 / 21
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What: A unique club on a small artificial island off the coast of Bosphorus with an olympic pool, restaurants and bars for your day as well as night time.
Tip: There is a boat to shuttle you to and from the island at the shore.
Tel: +90 (0) 212 263 73 00
EXTERNAL GUIDES & SITES
Blogs & forums
Also see this for a brilliant English blog which contains very nice entries about the meyhane (Turkish pub) etiquette and about dress-code etc. on Istanbul night-life.