The Hornet Guide to Gay Istanbul
Istanbul is a huge metropolitan city with a big gay community. With a population of 15 million and 10 million tourists a year, it stands to reason Istanbul would have a vibrant gay nightlife. Istanbul is also one of the most liberal Muslim cities, allowing gay clubs, bars and cafes. Here is our guide to the best gay Istanbul has to offer.
Gay Istanbul Clubs
SuperFabric is the only gay club in Istanbul where you can watch high-quality stage shows. Every 30 minutes, there’s a new show with more than fifteen dancers on the stage performing. From shower dances, fetish shows and drag queens to nationally famous Turkish belly dancer Didem, you’ll always be entertained. Between the shows, you can dance to pop hits in both Turkish and English.
If you’re not into crowds, you can reserve a table. There is a cover charge, but once you’re in, the bar staff will take care of you.
Istanbul’s most social gay club, Love, is favored by the younger crowd. Love is always busy on the weekend — and it can be hard to find a place on the dance floor. DJs spin upbeat sets, including your favorite English-language songs.
You can’t smoke inside, but you can buy cigarettes — you’ll just have to smoke them outside. One warning though — this club doesn’t allow trans people, so if you’re transgender or you’re traveling with trans friends, you’ll want to give this one a pass.
One of oldest gay clubs in Istanbul, Tek Yön is also the friendliest. Every gay man in Istanbul partied here at least once. Unfortunately, like Love, Tek Yön also has a strict anti-trans policy.
XLarge is one of the city’s most gay-friendly clubs. It always has go-go girls and boys dancing for the crowd, with drag shows on weekends. XLarge is not just great for dancing, but a perfect place for live performance. Hovarda, XLarge’s sister bar, is open during the day if you want to hang out with friends.
Club 17 has the reputation as Istanbul’s biggest escort market — but be careful on the dance floor. Most of the handsome guys are more interested in your wallet than you.
Gay Istanbul Bars
If you love cocktails, the gay-friendly 5 More Cocktails is a perfect place to sip new concoctions. This cocktail bar offers sophisticated music, a nice atmosphere and friendly service.
Sahne Pinokyo recently added a new stage — and they put it to use! There’s always a live singer belting out Turkish hits. If you’re looking for a true local experience, check out Sahne Pinokyo.
Chianti also has a stage and always features live performances by local Turkish singers. With its warm, welcoming staff, no wonder it’s had a loyal fan base for years. Chianti has a terrace which also makes it easier for people who like to smoke while enjoying their drinks. In the daytime, the place also functions as a cafe.
Haspa is a small disco in Istanbul, full of loud music and DJs spinning both Turkish and English-language hits on weekends — perfect for a fun night out. It also boasts a smoking area for guests, so smoke ’em if you got ’em!
Cheeky is Istanbul’s only dark room and after-party gay bar. Unlike the other bars on our list with more standard schedules, Cheeky gets busy after 2:00 a.m. and stays open until 7:00 a.m. Cheeky has a diverse crowd — you can meet and socialize with guys across generations.
Gay Istanbul Cafés
If loud clubs and bars aren’t your things, there are couple gay-friendly cafés you may want to give a try. Chaplin is a café for young people who like to hang out during the day.
Mor Kedi is Istanbul’s oldest gay café, thanks to its loyal customers. Like Chaplin, it’s open during the daytime every day — it’s the perfect place to get a coffee, relax and chat.
Feature image by lisegagne via iStockphoto.com