Istanbul is a vibrant, diverse city that stays alive 24/7, not even joking. Nighttime in high-traffic parts of Istanbul are just like daytime: bright, high-energy, and likely crowded. Alongside the fun though, you’ll want to stay safe because, at the end of the day, Istanbul is home to more than 15 million people from literally ALL over the world. That’s a lot of people to fit in one city!
As a traveler/tourist, there are several safe and fun things to do in Istanbul at night. From enjoying panoramic city views to hopping on a relaxing Bosphorus dinner cruise, here are some of the best night activities in Istanbul that are guaranteed to make your trip a memorable one…
1. Attend a Whirling Dervishes performance
Experience the mesmerizing Sufi ceremony which combines music, dance, and spirituality in a unique cultural experience.
The Whirling Dervishes originate from the Mevlevi Order, which is the name chosen by the original followers of a 13th-century poet named Rumi (maybe you’ve heard of him?). The ceremony lasts about an hour and is intended to celebrate and praise God (i.e. Allah) through meditation, prayer, and movement. Every detail is intentional and symbolic – I’d recommend reading up on the ceremony a bit beforehand to get a clearer picture before watching a performance. Also, it’s an extremely spiritual experience, so spectators are expected to respect both the performance and whirlers.
The Whirling Dervishes are so integral to human culture that in 2008, UNESCO confirmed ‘The Mevlevi Sama Ceremony’ as amongst the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity
Watch out though! Because Whirling Dervish performances are super popular (especially with tourists), there are loads of fake ones. For a guaranteed REAL and AUTHENTIC experience, check out the weekly one that the Galata Mevlevi Museum runs or this one hosted by HodjaPasha Culture Center.
2. Take a Bosphorus dinner cruise
Enjoy a mouth-watering dinner while cruising down the Bosphorus Strait, soaking in the views of both Europe and Asia. Dinner cruises tend to also feature live music and traditional Turkish entertainment, so even if conversation runs dry at dinner, the music and entertainment will keep you and your guests busy!
3. Visit a traditional Turkish bath (hammam)
Even though hammam’s aren’t open too late into the night, visiting a hammam towards the end of the day is a great idea. Unwind and relax with a traditional Turkish bath experience, including steam rooms, massages, and body scrubs.
Public bathhouses gained popularity in Greek and Roman times, and have evolved throughout the history of Islam to become places of cleanliness, laughter, bonding, and meditation.
Rated #1 Hammam in Istanbul on TripAdvisor, Cagaloglu Hamam is a luxurious, historically rich bathhouse. It closes at 10:00pm Monday to Thursday, and at 11:00pm Friday to Sunday.
4. Savor a rooftop dinner with a view
Rooftop dinners with a view don’t come cheap, but can they be worth it! Consider dining at one of Istanbul’s best rooftop restaurants to enjoy panoramic views of the city and a variety of delicious local and international cuisine.
5. Explore bustling Istiklal Street
Stroll through one of Istanbul’s most famous streets, lined with shops, restaurants, and historical buildings. Experience the lively atmosphere, street performers, and local culture.
Heads up! Because Istiklal Street is mega popular, it can get mega crowded. If you visit the street at a busy time (like after work hours and on weekends), you won’t want to forget to secure your valuables – pickpockets know this street attracts tourists and travelers.
Want to travel as safely as possible? You might like this anti-theft backpack from Amazon (I use and love this brand myself – and have never been pickpocketed!).
6. Enjoy a Turkish coffee or tea at a local café
Experience the local leisure scene by sipping on a traditional Turkish coffee or tea, while people-watching and soaking in the city’s ambiance.
There are millions of coffeehouses and cafés in Istanbul, so it’s genuinely take your pick! To get a REAL and AUTHENTIC experience, you’ll want to ask your hotel’s front desk or a local shop what local coffeehouse/café they’d recommend – they’d know the area where you’re staying the best (and if you’re staying in a touristy area, everyone likely knows basic English).
7. Visit the Galata Tower at night
Climb up the historic Galata Tower to take in a breathtaking panoramic view of the city illuminated at night. You’ll see tons of colorful, beautiful lights, including on the Bosphorus Strait’s mesmerizing bridges.
Built in the mid-14th century, the tower is best visited with your partner, friends, or family members so you can all make the best memories together. It’s open until 11:00pm (entrance to new visitors closes at 10:00pm though), 7 days a week.
8. Attend a live music performance
Turkey’s music scene is just like any other huge city’s scene! There’s undoubtedly a music performance every single night in many genres. It feels like every musician in the world makes a stop in Istanbul.
From jazz to heavy metal to opera, you’ll find all sorts of upcoming concerts. But if you prefer smaller crowds, you can also find low-key, charming music venues (pretty much in any genre) across Istanbul (like Borusan Müzik Evi, Dorock XL Venue, or Nardis Jazz Club). Just for your information, smaller venues sell out fast so I’d recommend buying a ticket online in advance to guarantee your entry.
9. Walk through Karaköy neighborhood
The streets of Karaköy have truly bloomed over the past several years. You can now find a mix of art galleries, hip cafés, and vibrant street art – not to mention all kinds of shops. It’s an extremely popular area amongst high school and college students, so there’s pretty much always a lot of foot traffic. You can easily grab a pogača and coffee or tea, sit down at a nice café, and people-watch for as long as you want!
If you’re looking for a young, Gen Z/Millennial crowd, I’d definitely recommend staying in an accommodation that’s located in or near Karaköy.
10. Taste a traditional Turkish dessert
Last but never least, feed your sweet tooth! Eating at night is always a good time. You’ve got Turkish ice cream, baklava, Turkish Delight, cakes, pastries, and SO much more to choose from.
Dessert places are typically open late at night because they get a lot of foot traffic as people shuffle home after eating out. I’d recommend Ali Muhiddin Haci Bekir for traditional Turkish desserts, Hafız Mustafa 1864 Meydan for baklava, and MADO for ice cream.
What are the best places to visit in Istanbul for couples at night?
Visiting Istanbul with your other half? The city comes to life at night, offering an array of romantic experiences for couples and significant others.
Ortaköy Mosque and Waterfront
Relatively close to Taksim and Nisantasi, the picturesque Ortaköy neighborhood is a favorite among everyone, but especially couples. Take pictures against a backdrop of another continent and remember it for a lifetime! Explore cozy cafés, authentic Turkish food, and historical sites. If you get there hungry, I’d recommend indulging in a baked potato with traditional toppings (it’s a large potato, so definitely share with your partner!). Or, if potatoes aren’t your thing, I ate at a super nice restaurant called The House Cafe one time with my mom in Ortaköy and the food was DELICIOUS!
As mentioned earlier, the tower is an awesome activity to do at night. There’s nothing quite like seeing a historical city all illuminated. When you get to the top, you can chat, cuddle, and soak in all of the beauty and majesty of Istanbul together. Be sure to take pictures of you two together – you won’t want to forget that memory!
The Cinema at Zorlu Center
Zorlu Center is one of Istanbul’s fanciest shopping malls. It’s gigantic, has every store imaginable, and has a top-notch movie theater where you can see the latest movies. If it’s cold out and you’re both tired, seeing a movie could be a great choice! I personally love going to see movies in Istanbul (the movie theater is never packed and the seats are clean and comfy).
Also, don’t be alarmed if there’s a break in the middle of the movie! I know this is unusual for Americans, but it’s just so you can get some water and go to the bathroom. The breaks are typically 10 to 15 minutes long.
Is it safe to walk in Istanbul at night?
Istanbul is generally considered to be a safe city for tourists, even at night. Of course, as with any major city, it’s important to take certain precautions to stay safe. Stick to well-lit, family-friendly areas, and avoid wandering into unfamiliar, dimly lit alleys. Even if you’re a big group, tourists and foreigners might not be welcome in certain areas. Istanbul is 57.51 billion ft², the world’s 15th-largest city.
Popular neighborhoods like Nisantasi, Taksim, and Ortaköy are bustling with activity for hours into the night, making them safer options for an evening stroll. It’s also a good idea to travel in a group or with a partner, and be mindful of your belongings to avoid getting pickpocketed (I’ve never had my things stolen while traveling with this awesome anti-theft brand on Amazon). By staying safe, you’ll confidently explore Istanbul’s vibrant nightlife and make the most of your visit!
What should you avoid in Istanbul?
When visiting Istanbul, there are a few things you should avoid to ensure a smooth trip. Firstly, be weary of scams targeting tourists, such as overpriced taxis, unsolicited services, or people asking for money. To prevent falling for these tricks, use reputable taxi services you’ve researched ahead of time (pro tip: save their phone number into your Contacts so it’s handy if you ever need it), negotiate fares upfront to popular destinations (pro tip: know what the fare should be from locations to and from your accommodation), and only exchange money at banks or official exchange offices.
Secondly, I’d suggest never(!) acting in a disrespectful way at religious sites, like at the Blue Mosque or Hagia Sophia. If you’ve planned ahead and know you’re going to a religious site, then please dress modestly, remove your shoes, and don’t yell. If you end up spontaneously deciding to go and you’re not dressed for it, you can buy a $3 shawl from a nearby shop to cover your shoulders.
Thirdly, Turkish culture is generally pretty conservative, so I’d recommend not talking about sensitive political topics or showing public displays of affection that are more than holding hands. You’ll also want to avoid being too trusting of strangers or accepting gifts that may come with strings attached.
Where should I go after midnight in Istanbul?
Istanbul offers so many choices for tourists looking to explore after midnight. One popular option is visiting Taksim district. There, you’ll find many different bars and clubs that stay open well into the early hours of the morning. Istiklal Street, in particular, is a lively spot where you can walk around, listen to live music, and enjoy a late-night meal or drink.
For a more sophisticated evening, head to one of Istanbul’s many rooftop bars, like Mikla, where you can sip on expertly crafted cocktails while taking in the breathtaking views of the city skyline.
Istanbul’s street food scene also has you covered if that’s your thing. From mouth-watering döner kebabs like those from Dürümzade in Taksim to the beloved wet burger (islak burger in Turkish) done especially well by Kizilkayalar Hamburger who also have a location in Taksim, there are plenty of options to satisfy your hunger after a night out on the town.
Or, if you really want to try an authentic Turkish experience, check out a popular meyhane! Meyhanes are places where men (in modern meyhanes, women are welcome) gather, eat delicious mezes (kind of like tapas), grilled meats, and drink raki, unofficially known as Turkey’s National Drink. If you’re staying close to Taksim, I’d recommend Müşterek Meyhane for its home-cooked mezes charming atmosphere, and attention to detail, not to mention the meyhane has a 4.7/5 rating on Google (as of writing).
You might not’ve heard, but Istanbul’s music and arts scene is next-level. There are always live shows, performances, concerts, and DJs tearing up the night. Places like Babylon, Nardis Jazz Club, and Salon IKSV are just a few spots where you can catch a live show.
Does Istanbul have good nightlife?
Istanbul has awesome nightlife! If you’re staying in Beyoglu, a neighborhood that includes Taksim, then there’s literally a million places you could go to enjoy your night. Right beside Taksim is Nisantasi, which is another lively place to walk around and find entertainment. Nisantasi is considered a more upscale neighborhood, just for your information.
Without having to hop over to Nisantasi, you can find a more upscale bar in Taksim like Citylights Bar. Or if you’re looking to dance the night away, there are a handful of popular clubs like Escape Club İstanbul, Taksim Club IQ, and Çiçek Pera İstanbul.
Where to Find Organized Tours & Events To Book Ahead
Is the Grand Bazaar open at night?
No, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is not open at night. It’s open Monday to Saturday from 8:30am to 7:00pm (closed on Sunday’s). The bazaar is most fun to explore during the day anyways. It’s usually crowded 6 days a week, especially after work hours and on Saturday. And it’s not just full of tourists – you’ll definitely see some locals hanging out (aside from the shop owners, of course).