Situated halfway between Europe and Asia, between the Eastern and Western worlds, Istanbul continues to amaze with its diverse influences and multifaceted personality. At the foot of its buildings and countless mosques, alternative initiatives are emerging that sit at a cultural crossroad.
Peyote: The one and only underground temple of Istanbul
Peyote is at the heart of Istanbul’s underground scene and a perfect venue for an alternative night out. With three separate floors, each section takes on a different purpose.
The first floor is a favorite for young people as live electronic DJ performances are put on by artists across the subcultural spectrum. The second floor is an important place for the local scene as most Turkish indie bands have played a concert here at least once. Another smaller stage hosts big talents such as Replikas, DDR, Nekropsi, Sakareller, Proudpilot, and others. Peyote is also a music label supporting all these bands and many more like them.
After gigs, everyone gathers on the terrace which can become quite crowded, making it an ideal spot for hanging out with a mug of cold beer. Drop by the headquarters of the Turkish underground to discover the best sounds of the city.
Kameriye Sokak 4, Beyoglu, Istanbul
Balkon: A cocktail with a view
Balkon is a two-floor restaurant and bar. Upstairs is the terrace bar with a beautiful bird’s-eye view of Istanbul; downstairs is popular during winter, serving up good food dinner and chill out music. After dark, the terrace bar fills up with a young crowd enjoying the wide selection of cocktails and wine – mojitos and margaritas are the best sellers over the weekend.
This is the kind of hip place where you’re always likely to bump into someone you know by chance. But, for those who want to escape the crowds, this is also the perfect place to go on quieter nights to just sit and chat with friends over a drink while enjoying the view.
Asmalımescit Mahallesi Sehbender Sokak 5, Beyoglu, Istanbul
Kontra Plak: Best place to dig for vinyls
Kontra Plak is a young and vibrant record store and a great place to expand your music knowledge. Its easy to lose track of time browsing through the abundance of records, and with help from its friendly and helpful staff, you’ll have no problem digging up a few hidden gems during your visit. While records are the central focus for Kontra Plak, you’ll also find other items for sale such as rare magazine issues, CDs, and books.
Sets of headphones and players are accessible for customers looking to listen before buying. You won’t leave this record store without expanding your knowledge of music, especially if you strike up a conversation with the owners.
Tomtom mahallesi, Yeni Carsi Caddesi 60/A, Galatasaray, Istanbul
FiLBooks: A cozy café for photography lovers
FILBooks is a wonderful place located in a beautiful neighborhood, where you can select a book from the shelves and leaf through it at your leisure while sipping a coffee. The first thing you notice about this café is its cool and fresh atmosphere – the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of Istanbul city life. This two-story space, decked out in turquoise and crammed full of elephant figures, is dedicated to books, artist talks, workshops and, of course, delicious coffees. They also serve daily cakes and sandwiches. One of the two owners, Cemre Yeşil, is a photographer and has been collecting all kinds of photography books since her early years. She considers this place a collaborative hub for photography. FILBooks also organizes book launches, screenings, pop-up events and projects. Just go in, order your coffee, head upstairs, pick your book, sit on a swing, and enjoy! If you’re lucky, you may even catch a random movie screening in their backyard.
Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa Mah, Ali Paşa Değirmeni Sok. No:1/1, Beyoğlu, Istanbul
Kiki: After-party hangout
Kiki is the number one after-party hangout of Istanbul. It is the place where locals and foreign youths alike gather after a wild night out. On weekend nights, Kiki is often crowded due to its revolving door schedule of high-profile DJ performances. While there is often no room to stand, the fun and dancing here continues until closing time, which makes it an unofficial rave house under the name of a bar.
Don’t forget to try their specialty cocktails. “Absolut Vodka Mastic” and “Kiki Satsuma Sandoz” shouldn’t be missed! Kiki takes a club-like bar approach, but it also offers Turkish, Italian, and Spanish cuisine during the day. To prepare in advance, take a look at the happy hour and events listing posted on their website and plan for a night of dancing.
Sıraselviler Caddesi 42, Beyoglu, Istanbul
Discover more alternative and cultural spots in Istanbul with our city guide Indie Guides Istanbul.