Visitors to Istanbul are often surprised to find that despite its largely Islamic population, there is no dearth of alcohol and good times to be had in the city. The city bears its European teeth when it comes to nightlife, with most club venues not kicking off until around midnight and going on well into the wee hours on weekends. Summer is the best time for night owls, with fantastic open-air clubs and dance terraces by the Bosphorus. Indeed, a lot of Istanbul's restaurants double as nightlife venues, with places such as 360 Istanbul, NuTeras, and Zarifi pushing aside the tables after 11 p.m. on weekends, dimming the lights, and pumping up the music.
Techno beats aside, young Turks are also big fans of live music, hence the popularity of small gig venues such as Babylon and Ghetto, as well as the frequent sets performed in various meyhanes (taverns) around the city.
There's even a small but surprisingly vibrant gay scene here, centered around Bar Bahçe in Beyoğlu (7 Sogancı Sokak, off Sıraselviler Caddesi; 90-212-245-1718; www.barbahce.com) and XLarge, a large glitzy venue with a drag show (12 Meşrutiyet Caddessi, Kallavi Sokak; 90-508-788-7372).