12 Unmissable Things To Do In Istanbul At Night
Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey. Built in 660 BC as Byzantium, and later Constantinopole, the city is a bridge between Europe and Asia divided by the Bosphorus Strait. Istanbul, known for its rich history and the mix of modern and traditional is truly something worth seeing.
It is one of the most popular destinations in the world, with some of the most famous landmarks like Hagia Sophia, The Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar. Istanbul has so much to offer, day or night. If you are looking for fun things to do, keep this guide handy as we discover the best way to spend a night in Istanbul.
To make the most of your Istanbul evening adventure, don't carry around your shopping purchases from the day, or any briefcases or bags. Drop them at a luggage storage spot in Istanbul and pick them up later. Enjoy the exciting night out without bags weighing you down.
The Turkish bath in Istanbul, also known as hammam, is an everyday part of life in Turkish culture. They are public bathhouses similar to the Roman's thermae (bathhhouses). Although these Islamic hammams date back to the 7th century, the baths in Istanbul were built in the 15th century. They used to serve as social centers as well as baths, and with the expansion of the Ottoman Empire, they were built in almost every city across Europe, Asia, and Africa.
There are many Turkish baths in Istanbul and all will help you unwind after a long day exploring the sights. The baths include multiple rooms that will help you cleanse your body and mind. From saunas, steam rooms and salt rooms, to scrubbing rooms, pools, massage rooms and wash rooms, the cleansing process in a Turkish bath usually takes from 2 to 4 hours.
Most Istanbul bathhouses will stay open until 11pm.
Bosphorus Dinner Cruise
One of the most romantic things to do in Istanbul at night is to take a Bosphorus cruise. The duration of these tours is usually 4 hours, and they take you between Europe and Asia past many top landmarks like Topkapi Palace, Ortakoy Mosque and Maiden's Tower. You will pass by the summer houses of the sultans, other historical sites and buildings, and under the Bosphorus bridge all lit up with flashing LED lights. You also get to enjoy a 3-course Turkish dinner and a variety of drinks, along with folk shows on board the ship.
There are many tours to choose from, most offer hotel transfers and include entertainment like oriental dancing or a whirling dervish show, so make sure you get the most out of your Bosphorus dinner cruise. Whether you are celebrating an anniversary or just looking for something nice to do for the evening, cruising along the Bosphorus Strait will certainly tick all the boxes. It is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Istanbul at night.
A Bosphorus cruise normally starts around 8pm and goes until 11pm or 12 am.
Istanbul Pub Crawl
If you are looking for things to do in Istanbul at night, (ones that involve a few drinks), there is nothing better than a good pub crawl to set you in the right mood for the night. It is also one of the best ways to experience Istanbul's nightlife. A good Istanbul pub crawl includes hopping in and out of some of the trendiest pubs and bars, tasting the best of Turkish drinks and meze(snacks).
Most of these tours are quite lengthy, lasting up to seven hours, so make sure to eat something, such as Istanbul street food, in between to keep you going. The tour is ideal for a group of friends looking to have a blast and a memorable night. This is definitely one of the best things to do in Istanbul at night, as long as you are 18 or above.
Most Istanbul pub crawls start around 7-8pm and go for 5-7 hours.
Belly Dancing Show
Visiting Istanbul means learning about Turkish culture and tradition, and belly dancing shows are a big part of that. Though the origins of belly dances are from Egypt, this oriental dance is quite popular in Turkey. From nightclubs and restaurants to weddings, parties, and all kinds of events, belly dancers are the highlight of the evening.
Book yourself a tour or visit some of the best restaurants to enjoy such a show. This includes a 3-course dinner and local wines along with Anatolian folk music and a "gobek dans", belly dance in Turkish.
Depending on your tour, belly dancer shows start from around 8pm and last about 2 hours.
Istanbul is a city filled with mosques and palaces, and when the sun sets they are all beautifully lit, allowing passers-by to enjoy them even in the dark. One of the most beautiful mosques to check out at night is the Ortakoy Mosque. Located at the waterside of the Ortakoy pier square, it is one of the most Instagrammable spots on the Bosphorus.
Get your camera ready to take stunning photos of the illuminated mosque or simply enjoy the baroque-style architecture as you sit on a bench nearby. The Bosphorus Bridge is in the background, adding more magic to the gorgeous view with its flashing LED lights.
The Mosque is open until 10pm and closed during prayers. But you can always marvel at this elegant architecture from the outside.
Whirling Dervish Ceremony
Besides soaking in a Turkish bath, the whirling dervish show is another delightful thing to do in Istanbul at night. The Whirling Dervish show is a historic, ceremonial dance, it is no surprise it is on UNESCO's list. You get to watch the whirling dervishes gracefully move and twirl to traditional Persian music played by a live orchestra.
This is a unique experience, one you get to brag about when you get home, so make sure to book in advance as it is quite popular. For a genuine Whirling Dervishes performance, visit the Hodjapasha Dance Theater. Located in a converted 15th-century Turkish bathhouse, the theatre sets a wonderful atmosphere for the show and it is one of the most popular venues in Istanbul to watch this Turkish night show.
The shows in the dance Theater start at 7pm.
Located in the Beyoglu district, one of the busiest areas in Istanbul is Pera museum, a private art museum which opened in 2005. One century ago, this establishment was a grand hotel that was catering to the passengers of the Orient Express. The museum features a wide range of art collections spread across five floors, two of which have permanent exhibitions. One floor features early Turkish paintings, one of which is the famous ‘The Tortoise Trainer’ by Osman Hamdi Bey, the first and last Orientalist painter of the Ottoman Empire.
You will also find classic and contemporary art, modern Chinese art, a Kutahya tiles and ceramic collection, and Ottoman weights and measuring items. There is a stylish cafe restaurant where you can sip on Turkish tea or coffee and a gift shop to buy gifts and souvenirs.
The museum is open until 7pm from Tuesday-Saturday and 10pm on Fridays, when you can get in for free.
When looking for things to do in Istanbul at night, Galata Tower is not to be missed. Located in the Beyoglu district, the tower, originally named The Tower of Christ, was built in 1348 as a watchtower to defend the city, but today it's a museum and one of the symbols of Istanbul. At 219.5 ft tall, Galata Tower was the tallest building in Constantinople when it was built.
You can take the elevator to the 6th floor and then walk two flights of stairs to the panorama viewpoint. From the top, the stone tower boasts the most beautiful views of Istanbul including the Blue Mosque, Golden Horn, and the Bosphorus. It is easy to spend three hours exploring the tower, and when you are done you can continue to explore Istanbul and the busy Beyoglu district, full of cafes, bars, shops, restaurants and historical buildings.
Galata Tower is open till 7pm.
One of the most famous places to visit while in Istanbul is the Grand Bazaar. Though perfect for shopping during the day, this lively bazaar stays open till 7pm for late shoppers. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is one of the largest of its kind in the world. There are 4,000 shops selling anything from multi-colored scarves, gorgeous carpets, mosaic lamps, jewelry, leather, rugs, brand name jeans, spices, nuts, Turkish delight and more authentic Turkish goods.
The bazaar is visited by 400,000 people daily (mainly tourists), so it can get pretty busy. Be prepared to be bombarded with vendors trying to sell you something at every corner. Although sellers are easy to bargain with, prices here change a lot and you may end up paying a higher price than you normally would somewhere else. Located in the Fatih district inside the Walled city of Istanbul, the bazaar is a must visit on your stay in the city. It's a free activity – unless you can't resist the fabulous finds, of course.
Dancing Fountain at Sultanahmet Park
Head to Sultanahmet. One of the best places to visit in Istanbul when the sun sets is Sultanahmet Park. Located between Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, the park provides relaxing spots with a spectacular view of the two attractions day or night. During the day the park is an excellent place for a picnic, with plenty of vendors selling all kinds of treats. At night, you can sit back on a bench by the illuminated fountain in the middle of the park and enjoy the magical dancing fountain show.
While there, stop by the Blue Mosque, also known as Sultanahmet Mosque. During Ramadan, the Blue Mosque and Sultanahmet Park are spectacularly lit and decorated.
The park is open 24 hours, and the fountain is always lit at night.
The Blue Mosque is open till 7pm.
If you are looking for fun things to do in Istanbul at night, hit Istiklal Street, the most popular street in the city known for its rocking nightlife. From art galleries, pubs, bars, nightclubs, cinemas, and shops, to many restaurants serving international cuisine, a night spent on Istiklal Street is a night to remember. Ideal for solo travelers, couples, friends and families there is something fun to do on Istiklal street at every corner.
Also known as Istiklal Avenue, this is a 0.87 miles-long pedestrian street that is visited by tourists and locals alike and is busy any time of the day. Located in the Taksim area of the Beyoglu district, Istiklal Street is also a popular meeting point, the heart of Istanbul's nightlife. Read about how to get around in Istanbul so you can make your way here and to other exciting areas of the city.
Night Food Tour
Turkish food is part of Istanbul's nightlife. Most night tours will take you to popular tourist sites and street food vendors that sell scrumptious food to die for. Walk around Taksim Square, while you sample Turkish treats, sip on the dark and strong Turkish coffee and shop for souvenirs to take home. You will also visit a traditional tavern, or meyhane, where you can try raki, a Turkish alcoholic drink, and hang out with the locals.
These tours usually start around 6pm and last about 3.5 hours.
Istanbul in the Evening
Istanbul is a fascinating city with so much to offer day and night and should be on everyone's bucket list. Whether you are looking for Turkish authentic food, traditional shows, art galleries and museums, a romantic dinner cruise or a pub crawl, Istanbul has many options to keep you entertained. Keep this Istanbul nightlife guide handy for the next time you wander the streets and are not sure what to do for a fun night out in Istanbul.