Dance, Theater, and Music

Babylon

Iconic venue for world, rock, jazz, and experimental Turkish music. “Exposed-brick warehouse has made this neighborhood the hippest part of town.”—Murat Patavi, founder, 34, Istanbul-based international design quarterly. Open September-June. Advance tickets from www.biletix.com, from $16. Şehbender Sokak 3, Asmalımescit, Tünel; tel. 90 212 292 7368. www.babylon.com.tr

Kuruçeşme Arena

Al fresco shoreline venue with a sparkling Bosporus backdrop, in hopping entertainment district. Where Shakira and Sting perform when in town. Seats 3,850. Advance tickets at www.biletix.com from $35. Tip: Take ferry from Kadıköy, Üsküdar, or Beşiktaş. Muallim Naci Caddesi 60, Kuruçeşme; (no telephone).

Aya İrini

Byzantine church in courtyard of Topkapı Palace. Setting renders classical music performances mystical. “Best acoustics for a cappella and strings.”—Kerem Görsev, internationally renowned Turkish jazz pianist. Advance tickets from www.biletix.com; prices vary, sometimes free. Topkapı Sarayı Avlusu, Sultanahmet; tel. 90 212 522 0989.

Tophane-i Amire

Imperial cannonball foundry converted into an international culture center. Hosts major events, such as Istanbul Biennial, Gotan Project’s tango electronica. Boğazkesen Caddesi, Defterdar Yokuşu 2, Tophane; tel. 90 212 252 1600.

Cemil Topuzlu Harbiye Açıkhava Tiyatrosu

Central open-air theater. Seats about 4,000. “Even the worst music cannot damage the remarkable experience of this amphitheater.”—David Judson, editor, Turkish Daily News. Jan Garbarek to Norah Jones to Deep Purple. Advance tickets at www.biletix.com, from $25.Taşkışla Caddesi, Harbiye; tel. 90 212 240 7720.

Garaj İstanbul

Former Beyoğlu garage reborn as center for contemporary music, dance, and theater. “The cutting-edge performance venue of the city.”—Görgün Taner, general manager, Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts. Tickets from $9. Tomtom Mahallesi, Yeni Çarşı Caddesi, Kaymakam Reşat Bey Sokak 11/A, Galatasaray; tel. 90 212 244 4499. www.garajistanbul.org/

Nightlife

Reina

Waterside dinner and dancing in breathtaking open-air setting. Franchises of premier local restaurants inside, including Kösebaşı, the kebab house voted one of Europe’s finest in Zagat 2006 Europe’s Top Restaurants. Celebrity clientele includes Sting and Uma Thurman. Open June to September. Weekend cover charge ($43) includes one drink. Muallim Naci Caddesi 44, Ortaköy; tel. 90 212 259 5921. http://reina.com.tr/

Şamdan

Veteran nightclub. “Attracts the glitterati of Turkey.”—Vildan Yahni, editor in chief, The Guide magazines. Intimate villa in fashionable neighborhood. Mediterranean cuisine, unembellished interior. Open October-June. Nispetiye Caddesi 30, Etiler; tel. 90 212 263 4898. www.etilersamdan.com/index.html

Istanbul Jazz Center

Internationally acclaimed jazz musicians (Freddy Cole Quartet, Mike Stern) and top homegrown talent. Sleek terrace for preshow entertainment and dinner in the summertime; intimate, elegant interior of low tables and pillowed divans. LCD screens in restrooms broadcast the show so you don’t miss a beat. Tip: With $30 minimum for non-diners, plan on trying the sophisticated sea bass kebab. Main-act tickets charged separately at the door, on their website, or via www.biletix.com. Tickets from $15. Çırağan Caddesi, Salhane Solkak 10, Ortaköy; tel. 90 212 327 5050. www.istanbuljazz.com

Q Jazz Bar by Les Ottomans

Opened in 2006, this waterfront entertainment club at a luxury boutique hotel seats 200. Predominantly features international jazz artists, like Barbadian-born singer Joy Voeth. $25 cover charge plus drinks. Muallim Naci Caddesi 68, Kuruçeşme; tel. 90 212 359 1500. www.lesottomans.com

Anjelique

White-on-white, three-level dining and dance club in the Bosporus-front village of Ortaköy. Dazzling view of the lit bridge. “More intimate than the other hot spots. Mature crowd.”—Giancarlo Baltazzi, vice president, Turkish tour agency Karavan Travel. Open May-October. Fee. No drink minimum. Muallim Naci Caddesi, Şahane Sokak 5, Ortaköy; tel. 90 212 327 2844. www.istanbuldoors.com

Festivals

International Film Festival

April. Downtown cinemas screen 200-plus foreign and Turkish films, many with actors, directors in attendance. English and Turkish subtitles when possible. www.iksv.org/caz/english/

International Jazz Festival

July. Attracts world-class stars (Norah Jones, Wynton Marsalis) and perennial Turkish favorites like Kerem Görsev, İlhan Erşahin. Tip: Many performances are held at historic venues, including sixth-century Aya İrini Church and grand Ottoman residences such as Esma Sultan, Sepetçiler Kasrı. www.iksv.org/caz

Istanbul Design Week

September. Staged on historic Galata Bridge. Exhibitions of international and homegrown fashion, corporate, environmental, industrial design. Tip: close to tourist district, an easy eclectic addition to any schedule. http://www.istanbuldesignweek.com/

Share

About Istanbul and Turkey

  • Photo: Grand Bazaar

    Istanbul

    Get travel tips, see photos, take a quiz and more with National Geographic's Ultimate Guide to Istanbul.

  • Photo: Whirling dervishes

    Turkey

    Explore Turkey through facts and photos, related features, a country map, and more.

Take a Nat Geo Trip

Select a destination or trip type to find a trip:

See All Trips »

Join Nat Geo Travel's Communities




2014 Traveler Photo Contest

  • Picture of a supercell storm in Colorado.

    See the Winners

    See all the winning images from the 2014 Traveler Photo Contest.