One of Istanbul’s first venues to capitalize on its view, Be@inci Kat (literally ‘5th floor’) has a small terrace for summer nights. For winter, think deep red walls, purple drapes, beaded curtains, and chandeliers in an arty, gay-friendly bar—a favorite among Istanbul’s literati, with actressowner Yasemin Alkaya watching over the fun. Open till 3am at weekends. 5/F 7 Soganci Sok. www.5kat.com. Metro/bus: Taksim.
In busy Nevizade, this bar crams tables onto the pavement terrace to watch the crowds. Upstairs, beer-drinking locals enjoy a studenty vibe, with a friendly atmosphere and decent snack menu. 22 Nevizade Sok, Balik Pazari. y0212 245 6718. www.aslanimrestaurant.com. Bus/metro:Taksim.
In this corner bar in a bohemian Tünel alleyway, tables on the streets fill up on summer evenings with beer-drinking young locals. Inside, it’s a goodnatured squash in winter, especially for the live gypsy clarinet music every Thursday (10pm–1.30am). 5 General Yazgan Sok. 0212 249 0550. Tunnel: Tünel.
Gizli Bahçe BEYOGLU
Not the place for a quiet drink and chat after 9pm, when the jazz-funk cranks up to deafening pitch and cheerful 20-somethings enter the fun, especially at weekends. Homely rather than chic; come for an early evening beer before dinner on Nevizade Sokak, sinking into one of the mismatched armchairs on the open terrace or tiny balcony. 15 Nevizade Sok. 0212 249 2192. Bus/metro:
James Joyce BEYOGLU
If you’re dying to watch a Manchester United match on TV, eat a full Irish breakfast, drink Guinness, and surround yourself with ‘Oirish’ paraphernalia, join young expats and locals at Istanbul’s first Irish pub. The terrace fills up on summer nights; winters pack punters inside to hear live bands every night from 10pm. 26 Balo Sok, off Istiklal Cad. 0212 244 7970. www.theirishcentre.com.
In an ornate 19th century courtyard, K.V. (pronounced ‘keh-veh’) has outdoor tables amid plants and fairy lights for a touch of romance. When it gets chilly, step inside to the tiny high-ceilinged interior with huge chandeliers and pink neon lighting. Also a popular restaurant, it can be difficult getting a table at weekends, especially with live jazzon Fri and Sat nights. 10 Tünel Geçidi. 0212 251 4348. www.kv.com.tr. Tunnel: Tünel.
Pano Şeraphanesi GALATASARAY
Also a lively restaurant, this traditional Greek wine house has good deals on bottles of its own wines (in a city with pricey alcohol). Perch at high tables on the first floor with a plate of cheeses or meats to accompany your drink, or sit outside in summer at pavement tables. 4 Kalyoncu Kulluk Cad.
0212 292 6664. www.panosarap.com. Bus/metro to Taksim, then 10-min walk.
One of the few bars in the area, the main bar is at the end of a courtyard, getting lively in summer with a mix of tourists and locals. There are separate stone-walled partitions with rugs and stools off the courtyard. DJs play European hits every night, creating a real holiday mood. 11 Incili ÇavuşÇikmaz Sok. 0212 519 5807. www.sahpub.com.tr. Tram: Sultanahmet.
Tucked away down Atlas Pasaj by the cinema, this tiny bar has rock music, photos on the walls and a
laid-back boho atmosphere, refreshingly unpretentious. Come for beers, rather than anything too fancy. Atlas Pasaji, Istiklal Cad. 0212 251 2245. Bus/metro: Taksim.
Yeşil Ev SULTANAHMET
In the grounds of this rebuilt Ottoman house (see p 148), the leafy garden is a peaceful escape from sightseeing and shopping. A perfect way to start your evening with a glass of wine, although not open late. 5 Kabasakal Cad. 0212 517 6785. www.istanbulyesilev.com. Tram: Sultanahmet.
Café-Bars & Restaurant Bars
Inside Ada bookstore, this café now covers most of the first floor. Good for an early evening beer while listening to their excellent music from around the world, or a coffee while browsing through books. Open until about 10pm every evening.158A Istiklal Cad. 0212 251 6682. www.adacafebistro.com Bus/metro: Taksim.
Babylon Lounge TÜNEL
This cozy café-bar, little brother to the club Babylon, opened in November 2007, ideal as a pre-gig
venue or recovering from a hangover. Detox over fresh juices and comfort food—or maybe a cocktail
or beer to get the party started. Wooden floorboards, dim lighting, and minimalist décor are easy
on the eye. 4 Jurnal Sok, off Asmalilmescit. 0212 245 3800. www.babylonlounge-ist.com. Tram/
Cadde-i Kebir TAKSIM
One of the cheapest café-bars in the area, this is an unpretentious place with a lovely outside area on the street, perfect for a beer and watching the Istiklal crowds go by. 7 Imam Adnan Sok. 0212 244 3372. Bus/metro:
This restaurant (see p 109) has a great location and is loved for its garden terrace in summer, with a plant-filled indoor bar and fashionable upstairs bar. This is a real hit with Istanbul’s thirty-something nightbirds, especially for its weekend DJ. 16 Hayriye Cad. 0212 245 9980.www.cezayir-istanbul.com. Bus/metro: Taksim.
Dogatepe Café & Restaurant HISARÜSTÜ
Worth the 20min bus ride from Taksim on hot summer nights. Go for a terraceedge seat at the pricey bar for views over Rumeli Hisari (see p 45) and the huge Bosphorus bridge. Open daily till 2am. 4-6 Duatepe Parki, Nispetiye Cad. 0212 257 4391. www.dogatepe.com.tr. Bus: 599C from Taksim.
Nothing overly stylish about this cheerful café-bar, located on Galata Fight for the best seats in the house at Leb-i Derya. bridge. This is the place to kick back with a tea, backgammon, beer, or nargile(waterpipe) watching boats cruise the Bosphorus, with music and live football on TV catering,
for all tastes. 20 Bogaz Tarafi, Alti Karaköy, Yeni Galata Koprüsü. 0212 292 7001. Tram: Karaköy.
Leb-i Derya GALATASARAY
Although also a restaurant and big brother to Leb-i Derya Richmond (see p 111), its tiny rooftop terrace in this unassuming neighborhood attracts young well-heeled professionals. Hang on to that stool if you find outdoor space or take in the lounge music, liqueur-laced tea, and carefully concocted cocktails. 7/F 57 Kumbaraci Yokuşu. 0212 293 4989. Bus/metro Taksim, then 10-min walk.
A new location for an old Cihangir favorite, this cafébar epitomizes Tünel’s emerging trendy side. Sink into comfortable armchairs overlooking the square for a cappuccino, or perch on a bar stool facing the huge mirror to see the reflection of beautiful people behind you. A meeting point of bohemians, fashion photographers, and expats. 186 Tünel Meydani. 0212 245 4028. Tunnel: Tünel.
Relaxed and crowded for weekend brunch, this mammoth café/bar is now as popular as its previous incarnation Leyla (see above). Think wooden floors, soft armchairs, and newspapers at weekends. 46 Akarsu Cad. 0212 244 5350. Bus/metro: Taksim.
Wooden floors, minimal décor, and creaky stairs to a gorgeous upper floor. The best seats are by the windows opening to the street. This popular café-bar is usually peaceful, a suitable refuge for lone women who don’t want to be disturbed. The daily menu is chalked up on the blackboard over the bar,
including breakfast and pastas. 4A Bekar Sok, off Istiklal Cad. 0212 252 7100. www.piasarikahve.com. Metro/bus: Taksim.
The House Café ORTAKÖY
Also a restaurant (see p 111) the outdoor decking comes alive on summer evenings. The bar staff love
making fruity cocktails, or sip a cold beer while watching the lights on the bridge change color. If it’s too chilly, the wooden-floored plantfilled interior is inviting. 1 Salhane Sok. 0212 227 2699. www.the
housecafe.com.tr. AE, MC, V. Bus/ boat: Ortaköy.
Clubs and DJ Bars
In newly trendy Misir Apartment (see p 3) this terrace bar-club-restaurant is a hit with fashionistas. Glass walls mean enjoying the views even when it’s too cold for the terrace, and at weekends excellent house DJs Sashah and Tekin light up the dance floor until the wee hours. Line your stomach with international cuisine before sampling top cocktails. 9/F 163 Istiklal Cad. 0212 251 1042. Bus/metro: Taksim.
One of Istanbul’s best-loved summer clubs with a Bosphorus-facing terrace, slick bar and restaurant. Forget the weekends (members only); phone ahead for the guest-list on week nights, then dress to get past discerning doormen. A wealthy young crowd parties to Turkish and European pop. International cuisine, including sushi is on the club’s decent menu. Free entry. 5 Salhane Sok, Muallim Naci Cad. 0212 327 2844. www.istanbuldoors.com. Bus/boat: Ortakoy.
This micro- brewery has a bit of everything. With huge brewing paraphernalia inside, regulars eat or watch live football on TV from street-facing tables. Through the back is the club, with DJ nights
including techno, dance or house (cover charge varies) or live local bands. 22 Balo Sok, off Istiklal Cad. 0212 293 5690. Bus/metro: Taksim.
A friendly little club with a mixed crowd and three tiny floors that fill up by midnight (deserted before 11pm) at weekends. House DJs mix some of the edgiest sounds in town, from post-punk and drum-and-bass to electro-rock. From the glass-ceilinged top floor (hot but fully air-conditioned,
thankfully) pop downstairs to see a live band, usually something pretty unconventional. 3/F 22 Tosbaga Sok.y0212 244 1081. Closed Sun; no cover. Bus/metro: Taksim.
Electronic techno acts and DJs regularly perform in this club, loved for its great lighting, sound system and laser shows. Hard-core clubbers seek solace in the vast, dark space. Buy advance tickets for popular acts. 1-4 Arkasu Sok, off Istiklal Cad. 0212 244 8567. www.livingindigo.com. Cover. Closed June-Sep. Tunnel: Tünel.
The garden’s fantastic mural make this rock bar a major draw in summer. An Istanbul institution for rock fans, live bands play almost nightly, mainly well-loved UK covers. Otherwise, DJs spins crowpleasers ranging from loud to glam rock, to a cross-section of ages. Summer Sundays have afternoon barbecues. 33 Siraselviler Cad. 0212 293 6100. Cover charge Friand Sat 20 TL. Metro/bus: Taksim.
Nu Teras TEPEBAŞI
After pizza or pasta (see p 113) the party starts, White-sofa chic style at Supper Club. when this summer restaurant transforms into a casually fashionable club at weekends (mid May–mid Oct).
Enjoy Bosphorus views to house DJ sounds, even better after a few vodka hazelnut shots. 149/1 Mesrutiyet Cad. 0212 245 6070. www.istanbulyi.com. Bus: Tepebaşi.
More than just a club; movie stars, A–Z-list celebs, and financial whiz kids flock to be seen at this vast entertainment complex. You might get in early in the week (after making reservations) for
drinks and music on the terrace bar. Black-suited doormen are notoriously choosy; remember that gaudy (rather than tasteful glamour) is good. During winter the terrace closes and action transfers to the indoor club, decked out in black. Steep cover charge and drinks. 44 Muallim Naci Cad. 0212
259 5919. For the bar only, 50 TL per person (inc one drink). www.reina.com.tr. Boat/bus: Ortaköy.
A busy club, this has live rock and pop bands nearly every night, attracting a casual bunch of twenty-somethings in its cavernous interior. Yan Gastro bar has snacks and even full meals, like helim(halloumi) skewers and seafood lasagna. 5 Aslanyatagi Sok, Siraselviler Cad. 0212 249 1283.
www.roxy.com.tr. Cover charge. Bus/metro: Taksim.
Supper Club ORTAKÖY
Latest in the Europe-wide chain, opened in May 2008, where trendy young locals lounge on white sofas and dine on a four-course set meal à la candlelight, plus entertainment. Come here for an expensive drink (hopefully the staff will become more friendly), a dance on the decking to deep house, or just to recline to the late-night chill-out music bathed in lighting changing colors. 65 Muallim Naci Cad. 0212 2611 988. www.supperclub.com. Closed Sun and Mon; no cover. Bus/boat:
A popular club, packed at weekends, where young good-looking gay guys fill the dance-floor with a distinctly European feel. Look out for the aquarium in the dark chill-out room! On Friday and Saturday nights, the bar at the back is exclusively for lesbians. 3/1 Soganci Sok, off Siraselviler Cad. 0212 245 1718. www.barbahce.com. Wed–Sat. Metro/bus: Taksim.
Mor Kedi TAKSIM
A homely café for gays and lesbians only, this is part drop-in center, friendly coffee bar and information point. It’s about armchairs, Scrabble and reading newspapers rather than cruisey
pick-up joint. The fantastic owner Nihal brews up tea, cooks up comfort food, and gladly helps gay visitors. If you’re new in Istanbul and want the low-down on the best clubs or gay-friendly hotels, this is your best starting-point. 3/F 7 Imam Adnan Sok, off Istiklal Cad. 0212 244 2592. www.cafemorkedi.com. Bus/metro: Taksim.
Originally a gay restaurant, local gay guys love its chi chi feel, popular as much as a café-bar as a club. Cozy lounges, complete with chandeliers, contrast with the action on the dance floor, usually to popular European dance tracks. Karaoke every Thursday and Friday nights. 11/4 Lamartin Cad. 0212 235 7914. www.othersideistanbul.com. Bus/metro: Taksim.
Tek Yon BEYOGLU
New venue for Istanbul’s popular gay club, previously the place for local ‘bears’, it now attracts a more mixed crowd. Gay and straight women would also be welcome, but perhaps not at weekends when things get busy. Loud Turkish and Euro pop are the sounds, with plenty of seats and space for a chat upstairs, until everyone packs onto the dance-floor. Don’t think of getting there before midnight. 14 Ekrem Türk Sok. 0212 245 1653. www.tekyonclub.com. Bus to Tarlibaşi Bulvari.
Cigarettes and Alcohol
Turks generally smoke like chimneys so a trip to Istanbul’s bars, cafés and clubs—especially traditional tea-houses with card-playing men—comes with plumes of smoke. Nargiles(fruity waterpipes) have made a resurgence among all ages, including young women. So what happens when the smoking ban hits Turkey on 1 July 2009? (Many Istanbul venues have already introduced a ban, including taxis, malls, offices and hotels.) Bars and clubs will be more pleasant and outside spaces smartened up, although winter months are the test, when venturing outside for a cigarette is a less attractive option. Regular increases in alcohol prices shock me; Istanbul is now on a par with New
York and London, mainly due to excessive taxation by the government. For local drinks, Efes beer and Turkish wines are good, but steer clear of domestic vodka and gin. Raki (aniseed liquor) is mixed with water.
While Istanbul is generally safe, here’s a few hints for visitors: avoid the rare scam of a lone male tourist meeting a friendly chap on the street, being invited to ‘a great bar’ and ending up with ladies at his table and a colossal bar bill. If you’re in a seedy club, men should bear in mind that things aren’t always as they seem: Women may really be men and, in gay clubs, men could be rent boys. Homosexuality is illegal but tolerated here with many gay bars and clubs. For the newcomer, some gay clubs seem alarming with transvestites, transsexuals, bi, straight, and gay guys galore. The bars and clubs listed above are ‘safe’, where a lone tourist won’t feel out of place. Like most parts of the world, look after your wallet!