After dusk, the city comes alive, in nooks, crannies, on balconies overlooking the Bosphorus, with music, wine, and the confidence of an emerging party capital
Why not party in a 19th-century building with a 360-degree view of Istanbul? Dance overlooking the Bosphorus, Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara? 360 Istanbul does more than just place itself in possibly the best spot in the city. Its Turkish fusion cuisine is excellent and it’s accompanied by an exhaustive wine list. The club often hosts performances and live shows; pick one such night for the best experience.
Chandeliers, champagne, and the expanse of the Bosphorus at your feet, Ulus 29 is essentially a restaurant where Turkey’s finest come to wine, dine and be seen. The attached club is where the nights melt into unabashed hedonism. Weekends are packed in this hilltop club, where huge bay-windows command a majestic view of the Istanbul Strait. The top- notch sommelier here will recommend the best Turkish wines.
Anjelique probably gave birth to the chillout lounge. Spread over three floors, it attracts locals and tourists, with an admirable spread of food and a fabulous DJ. Head there before sunset for a particularly spectacular view, and wind down to the club below for an equally memorable night. By midnight the three floors turn into three different clubs belting out an assortment of music. Together with the sleek mirrored décor, Istanbul’s twinkling skyline, it’s easy to pretend to have been transported to a modern Arabian Nights scenario.
Part of Nu Club’s special charm is its ability to adapt to seasons. During Istanbul’s cold and damp winters, the entertainment complex covers up and you can go from bar to bar without braving the elements at all. In balmy spring and summer, the terrace opens up for dinner and drinks. It’s a smaller space compared to the other clubs, but creates its own charm within its limited quarters with a lively mix of house and pop music.
A great DJ, cheap beer and the town’s best pizza mark out Indigo in Istanbul. When you’re tired of the super tanned, super toned, posh brigade sipping on martinis and puffing cigars, head to Indigo for an energetic electronica scene. This is a space purely to dance in, so be prepared to give up on space. Instead let the incredible lights and sound take over your senses. Occasionally they also have live shows – so check their website before heading there.
Araf is the club version of an international student hall. Its budget beer and incredible performances embody everything typical of an international student dormitory, just in the best version possible. Head here for exceptional world music (they have an in-house gypsy band) and on weekends, be prepared for rock n roll, reggae, funk and even pop. It tends to get incredibly crowded on weekends after 1am.
Dunia is where Istanbul heads for good indie music. It’s located on a street crammed with bars, in a neighbourhood that’s known for its produce mostly – a market space with restaurants and fishmongers. Its unique nature converts it into a different space every night – sometimes it’s a café, sometimes an art gallery, a theatre. But mostly it revels in hosting talented independent musicians around well-priced alcohol and good food.
A long bar snakes around, dotted with bar stools: a simple design, which works marvellously with the adjoining lounge garden. Cezayir is where the intellectuals and style collectives also descend–the bar sometimes also feels like an inner circle that you’ve been invited to. It’s lit up with sun roofs, and the armchairs in the lounge area challenge you to get out of them. It sits in what was once a school for the Italian Workers’ Association, and is now a Baroque masterpiece.
Imagine an Alice in Wonderland sort of space that’s inspired by the future. The ceiling breaks apart in psychedelic geometric shapes, lit in day-glo colours. If ambience plays any part at all in making or breaking your night, 11.11 is going to blow your mind. The unique design is ably supported by an edgy playlist and works so well in elevating time and space. Visiting DJs spin house tracks every fortnight.
The comfort of Sultan Pub lies, ironically enough in its predictable nature of an American style bar. There are beers and some great bar grub, as well as hamburgers. The novelty of chugging it all down while looking across at the Hagia Sofia is quite the privilege. It also happens to be one of the few good standalone bars in an area dominated by hotel bars. You can also sit out in the open on the footpath, French café style, but the terrace view of the Sultanahmet region beckons most.
Some people head to Münferit purely for the free shots poured at end of the night by Ferit, the owner. But most visit the place for its modern take on a tavern. Tiled floors, mirrored walls and wooden panels combine to make a chic, lounge-style club with great dance tunes that belt out till the early hours of the morning. And just to energise you, they specialise in a fabulous round of Çikolatalı Lokma, Turkish doughnuts with chocolate.
Reina’s claim to fame isn’t just that Paris Hilton danced here in her G-string. Or, that the super rich arrive here via private yachts. Or, the fact that it can hold 2,500 people. It’s a combination of all this and more. Reina is one of Istanbul’s most famous night-clubs. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it’s more an entertainment emporium, with multiple bars and restaurants.