The Istanbul nightlife is very unlike that of other large cosmopolitan cities. Instead of an array of nightclubs and specified nightlife venues, it is trendy restaurants that turn into equally trendy bars after a certain hour that pull in the cocktail drinking and conversing crowds. Here are our picks of such restaurants where there is both food and a nightlife scene when the bar goes into full swing after a certain hour:
One elevator ride all the way up the Marmara Pera Hotel and we arrive at Mikla restaurant with Istanbul still quietly palpitating behind the glass. A minimalist feel takes over at Mikla, where the white tablecloths and thin glass globes of red-wine speak of sophistication. A menu inspired by the dual nationality of its head chef, Mehmet Gürs of Scandinavian and Turkish descent, features innovative dishes that are always palatable alongside a wine list worthy of being commented on. As for that drink, Mikla’s bar and terrace offer an extended opportunity to linger upon the beautiful view with a cocktail in hand.
From that terrace we move onto the peak of a hill in the Ulus neighborhood where one restaurant gazes at the lights of the bridge shimmering away on the surface of the Bosphorus strait every evening. It is Ulus 29 we speak of, dressed in a sleek avant-garde design complete with provocative glass chandeliers and high-backed velvet chairs. With a menu of traditional Turkish and international persuasion, the award-winning wine list also makes a mark with its catalogue like demeanor. After dinner, the terrace bar is a worthy getaway for a well-mixed cocktail, all illuminated by the lavish view that never ceases to amaze. Another nighttime-view pleaser is Sunset Grill & Bar located on another Ulus hilltop overlooking an equally stunning view of that bridge whose decorative lights change from one color to the next all night long. While also offering a few Turkish dishes, Sunset’s expertise lies in the international and Japanese cuisines. After your meal, various cocktails and a selection of cigars are available at the bar.
More hidden but equally worthy is a glass elevator ride up the IKSV (Arts and Culture Foundation) building where a dance of mirrors give subtle hints to what is about to unfold. When those elevator doors do open, modern indoor seating is complemented by a terrace facing the entirety of the old city and the Golden Horn that are reflected endlessly in a full-length mirror in the back. X Bar and Restaurant has a menu of Turkish and Mediterranean fusion dishes, while the bar area is also a place to converse while sipping a drink and stealing glances at the city. Another Golden Horn view is available at Leb-i Derya on Kumbaracı Yokuşu, where the floor-to-ceiling glass allows for maximized gazing. On offer is a dinner time menu of international dishes as well as a full bar where cocktails can be enjoyed.
Similar to this concept but located in the Akaretler district is Vogue, which faces the view of the Bosphorus and the living glow of the Asian side in the distance. A tourist favorite for dinner and nightlife is 360 Istanbul located in Beyoğlu with a 360 degree view (hence the name) of Istanbul from its terrace. A Turkish cuisine with an international twist is served for lunch and dinner, while the weekend nights turn the space into a nightclub with live performers sometimes seen climbing the walls. Another dinner and nightlife spot is Anjelique located right by the waterfront in Ortaköy, which turns into an impressive nightclub after dinner with DJs playing the best of Turkish and international hits. Steps away from the water, with a drink in hand, and watching Istanbul’s pretty little things dancing the night away is just another perspective in the Istanbul experience. From the water to the hills, all the way to the top floor terraces of buildings, Istanbul stretches in every direction imaginable to bring an aesthetic no one can forget once witnessed.
Located in Ortaköy, Banyan is a venue known for its dramatic fire in the middle of the indoor area and a menu of Asian fusion fare and a terrace that overlooks the water. Stay around for a drink or two after dinner to really satiate your sights on the fantastic view of the Bosphorus and the Ortaköy Mosque. Another Asian fusion hotspot is Zuma, known for being the trendiest Japanese restaurant in London and Hong Kong. Its Istanbul branch is an impressive two-story venue facing the water, with a breezy terrace where authentic Japanese dishes are consumed by Istanbul’s glamorous crowd. The bar, where a comprehensive list of cocktails and imported sake is available, is another stop on the Zuma map of events.