Commonly referred to as, “the city where East meets West”, Istanbul has long-had a unique reputation of progressiveness in the region. And it’s for this reason that tourists have continued to flock to the city, even at times of political unrest.
Rich history, delicious food and eye-popping architecture – Istanbul has it all. And when the sun goes down, there’s still an abundance to do. But finding a tourist-free spot isn’t always easy if you’re not familiar with the local scene.
“The best thing about Istanbul for me is one-off parties in unknown spaces”, says 29-year-old Istanbul-raised producer Sami Baha, who has made a name for himself on London’s underground music scene.
Baha’s first introduction to music was made through rap music when he was a teenager. At the time, hip-hop parties were tiny and most people saw him and his friends as “weirdos”, as he puts it. But now, Istanbul is experiencing a nightlife boom. “Before, I was annoyed that it was only house music playing. But things have changed. There’s a big variety of sounds when you go clubbing”, he affirms.
A new generation of DJs and artists have injected a much-needed diverse and inclusive energy to the city’s nightlife scene where, according to Baha “People are interested in concepts rather than regular clubbing”.
So if you’re looking for an insider’s guide to the Turkish capital, we asked Baha to give us the lowdown on his favourite haunts.
Zorlu PSMZorlu is a big venue that hosts a lot of festivals, exhibitions, workshops, panels and all kinds of events. Last year I went to the Red Bull Music Festival there and it was really amazing. They have a huge stage and sound system. Digilogue Festival also takes place in Zorlu so it’s definitely worth going there.
Zorlu Center, Levazım Mah. Koru Sok. No:2/PSM/70 Zincirlikuyu, Beşiktaş / İstanbul
1741 (Cagaloglu Hammam)I’m from the old part of Istanbul originally so any new bar in the area gets my attention. 1741 is a rooftop bar in the old city on top of the Cagaloglu Hammam’s roof. They have the greatest cocktails, Turkish delicacies and the view looking out at Galata is amazing.
Alemdar, Alemdar Mah. Profesör Kazım İsmail Gürkan Cad, Cağaloğlu Hamamı Sk. No: 34, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Mu is a relatively new venue in the industrial part of the city. It’s a huge club, which is a contrast to Istanbul’s mid size bars. I like that it’s on every weekend and you can join the party anytime as the music goes on until 7am, which is rare. Mu can be your first stop or last stop on any night.
Huzur Mh Beyazıt Cd No 15 Istanbul, Turkey
Salon IKSVSalon is one of my favourite venues in the Galata-Sishane area, it’s the performance venue of the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts and is home to contemporary music performances from around the world. I played there in Demonation Festival right before I moved to London and it was lovely!
Nejat Eczacıbaşı Binası Bereketzade Mahallesi Sadi Konuralp Caddesi, Şişhane Sk. No:5, 34433 Beyoğlu, Turkey
Yel Degirmeni (Kadikoy)
Yeldegirmeni is the historical part of the Kadikoy, it has been settled for hundreds of years. The neighbourhood has been home so many different ethnicities including the Greeks, Jews and Armenians since the 15th century. I always enjoy just hanging out on the street, talking to friends passing by. Last time I was there, Autobahn (the German highway system) had a second hand instrument sale there and it was a lot fun.
Rasimpaşa, 34716 Kadıköy/İstanbul, Turkey