Let loose on your trip to the land of kebabs and shisha pipes with this guide to the five best party destinations in Turkey. There’s one seriously hedonistic mix of spots to get through here, no matter if you’re after wild cityscapes that never sleep or sun-splashed beach resorts with pumping yachter bars fringing the Aegean Sea.
Our array of the best party destinations in Turkey begins in the vibrant megalopolis of Istanbul. It’s been hailed as the hipster capital of Europe, spreads across two continents, and has rollicking nightlife districts wedged between its ancient wonders. From there, we’ll head out to the glimmering shores of the Turquoise Coast and the Turkish Riviera. Those hold the places to party come the summer months, when temperatures scorch past 40 degrees and the beaches are packed with tanning bodies.
Talking of the summer months, you’re likely to find that all of the best party destinations in Turkey are even better in the peak season between May and August. That’s when both local and international travelers descend on the strips and take the nightlife to the next level.
Let’s put it this way: If you’re serious about your partying then there’s simply no missing out on Istanbul. This colossal city that spans the Bosporus between Asia and Europe has been called the nightlife capital of Turkey, the most hipster city in the world, and the most hedonistic historic town around. It’s hard to argue – the place goes off on balmy summer nights when the tourist crowd is around. Actually, it goes off on cold winter nights when they aren’t, too!
There are three or four specific neighborhoods to know about when it comes to partying in Istanbul. Let’s dig down into each of them to showcase the sort of off-the-hook action you can expect in each…
- Taksim – This is the beating heart of Istanbul and unquestionably the best-known nightlife district around. It’s the happening downtown core of the city, unfolding under the shadow of the Galata Tower in a maze of body-packed streets. You’ll find everything from swinging Turkic music bars to sleek rooftop clubs there.
- Karaköy – Calling all hipsters, your drainpipes and brothel creepers will fit right in on the slope-side district of Karaköy. Overlooking the water’s edge, this has risen to become the coolest corner of the city in the last 10 years. There are jazz bars, edgy coffee joints come beer bars, mezze kitchens that rumble on to midnight, and more.
- Besiktas – Best known for its colossal football stadium, which is the home of one of the most successful teams in Turkey, Besiktas is a vibrant but lesser-known part of the city. Head here to sit in moody bars tucked into side streets and taste the best of Turkish craft beer.
One word of warning: You won’t want to spend all of your time in Istanbul on the proverbial tiles. With the UNESCO-tagged likes of Fatih district, the Old Bazaar, and the majestic Hagia Sofia all on the sightseeing menu, that’s just not a good look. For complete boozed-up holidays from beginning to end, you’re probably better off heading to the Turkish coast…
Bodrum manages something that few resorts in the sunny, sun-kissed, southern Mediterranean manage. It’s at once elegant and party mad. We see it as a bit of Hvar on the Aegean, with added bouts of St Tropez and just a hint of the 18-30s meccas of Crete or Zante. Now if that’s not a cocktail of things that promises no-holed-bars after-dark fun then we don’t really know what is!
Bodrum, more than anything, is a yachting town. The calm seas and consistent northerly winds that descend on the surrounding peninsula make it one of the finest places in Europe – nay, the whole world – to hoist the mainsail and skim from cove to cove with just one worry on the agenda – where’s the sun cream? As such, the resident crowd tends to be moneyed folks and beautiful people, a crowd that’s not averse to a late night or two.
That feeds into a nightlife scene that’s positively pumping. There are two main areas. The first is the big marina in the town center. The boats – the gorgeous, eye-watering, 100-million-dollar boats – moor up there and crews disembark straight into cocktail-clinking tavernas on the quaysides. This is where you’ll find cool hangout spots like Funk Club, Watermelon Bar, and Adamik.
Bigger clubs that pump with EDM and chart tunes beckon to the west. They pop up on the streets about 100 meters back from Gümbet Beach. It’s the closest thing Bodrum has to a proper strip and it’s wild – think crowds of thousands of revelers moving between the Cavalli Lounge and Sapphire Club at two, three, four in the morning.
Marmaris is one of the glittering gems of the Turkish Riviera. Only this glittering gem has a dark side; a wild, hedonistic dark side. It comes out between May and September each year when the vacation cohorts descent en masse. They can triple the normal population of the place in just a matter of days, brining a whole new energy to the strips and the seafront promenades.
There are oodles of ways to get the party started here. Booze cruises are the MO of most. Hop on a gulet (a traditional Turkish yacht) and head out to explore the pebble-topped coves of the Dacta Peninsula. As morning turns to afternoon, you can swap snorkeling sessions for on-deck champagne drinking or crack out the cold beers as you tread on secret beaches hemmed in by lush pine forests.
Things go into overdrive back in the town center once the boating and beach going is over. Hit the prom to nail down the happy-hour action with some great beer deals as the sun sets and silhouettes the Greek Island of Rhodes in the distance.
Then and only then is it time to transfer up to Bar Street. Welcome to the vena cava of partying in Marmaris. This 450-meter-long strip has more party venues and DJ clubs than you can shake a plate of hummus mezze at. Check out the Marmaris Lord Bar for moody, noir lounge seating. Head to B-52 for R&B that goes on until dawn. Hit Andromeda for spinning disco balls and rammed dance floors.
We’re not going to pretend that the nightlife in Antalya is comparable to the likes of Bodrum, Marmaris, and Istanbul. It’s not quite that unchained. But there is plenty to be said for the more chilled vibes of this much-loved Mediterranean resort city. It’s great for couples and families who prefer something slightly tamer, slightly more refined. Plus, there are places to go if you decide you really want to let the hair down.
The epicenter of it all is surely the old center of Antalya. When we say old in these parts, we really mean it, too – the district is wedged between an arch built by the Roman emperor Hadrian and a 9th-century clocktower that stood throughout the whole Ottoman era. Breeze past those to places like The Rock Bar and Sponge Pub and you’ll find venues fizzing with life during the summer months.
Talking of the summer months, Antalya is actually the start of a region known as the Turquoise Coast. That, in turn, makes it the gateway to a whole medley of smaller resorts and beach towns. Each has its own unique nightlife vibe. There’s Göynük, for example, which is very relaxed and easy going. Then there’s Kemer, which is aimed more towards the jet setters with a penchant for champagne cocktails and oysters.
The final pick on our list of the best party destinations in Turkey is the happening seaside resort of Alanya. It’s not as famous as the other riviera towns mentioned here, largely because it’s a little trickier to get to than Marmaris and Bodrum, being located on the far south coast of the country around the northeastern Aegean Sea. But Alanya remains a favorite among local Turks and international travelers (it’s an almost 50/50 split in the summer) for the express reason that it’s pretty darn wild after sunset…
The whole of the action is wedged neatly into a single block of the downtown. Get down to Çarşı, İzzet Azakoğlu and you’ll feel the beating pulse of a district that’s packed to bursting with multi-floor nightclubs, curious Tiki bars, rooftop sunset hotspots and more. To the north of that are several streets that hide alternative nightclubs in the form of gritty rock bars, rockabilly pubs, and craft beer outlets. The whole place is 100% walkable and you shouldn’t have to move more than 15 minutes in any direction to reach your next watering hole.
Don’t get too carried away with the nightlife offering of Alanya, folks. This corner of Turkey is blessed with such eye-watering beaches that it all but demands a day of sober explorations. We especially love Kargıcak Beach to the east, long and sandy and clean. Or there’s Payallar Sahili to the west, which has uber-clear waters of glinting turquoise blue.
The best party destinations in Turkey – our conclusion
The best places to party in Turkey happen to be some of the best places to party in the whole of the Mediterranean region. Mhmm…this nation on the edge of Europe manages to pack in rambunctious cities that burst with hipster drinkeries and swish yachter destinations that are alive with EDM clubs and cool cocktail joints when the summer months swing around. You won’t have to look very hard to find something off the proverbial hook in this land of smoking shisha and tasty mezze platters!