Istanbul is one of the biggest party cities in Europe and is famous for its December 31st count downs. On New Year’s Eve in Istanbul, expect to see the city aglow with fireworks that light up the Bosphorus.
Countless revelers will be celebrating on every boat, patio, waterfront park, and hilltop that offers a decent view.
New Year’s Eve is heavily celebrated in Istanbul with parties spread across all districts. You don’t have to be down by the waterfront to enjoy the fireworks, as the city towers, hills and rooftop bars also provide great sightlines.
Below you’ll find a bunch of different options to consider, as you plan a seamlessly perfect night that you’ll remember forever.
The city of Istanbul displays one of the most magnificent, spectacular, and beautiful New Year’s Eve fireworks shows in the world. At midnight the the skies light up the magnificent Bosphorus with the gleaming spectacle of modern pyrotechnics.
Regardless of where you are in the city, you can’t miss the sky being on fire, nor not hear the thundering booms. You can watch them by the waterfront, on rooftops, on hills, or from cruise boats and yachts. The vantage points which include Istanbul bridges in the background make that postcard-perfect moment.
Being high ground, near, or on the water are the best places to be to watch the magic unfold as the firework will reflect off Bosphorus illuminating everything in sight.
The most romantic New Year’s Eve dinner in Istanbul tends to include jaw-dropping views of the city to whet your appetite. Watching the city light up as you dine on gourmet food prepared by world-renowned chefs is as good as it gets. Should you wish to propose to a loved one at the stroke of midnight be sure to book your table well in advance.
For rooftop views try restaurants like 360 Istanbul on Istiklal Street, Ulus 29 or Sunset in Ulus Park, Spago near Masca Park, or Seven Hills in Sultanahmet.
If you want to be near the waterfront then try Banyan and Ruby in Ortakoy. or Sardunya Karakoy Yali by Mimar University. On the Asian side, you can also try Del Mar in Uksudar, or Uskumru in Anadolu Hisari.
If you prefer a more quaint sit-down affair, there’s Firuze in Sishane and Alaf in Kurucesme.
NYE dinner cruises in Istanbul are floating entertainment zones, where you get more bang for your New Year’s buck. Typical these 4-to-6 hour, open-bar affairs start with a welcome drink and appetizers, followed by a full-course meal from a few selectable options. Then the bar opens up, as live entertainment shows of traditional folk dancing, and whirling dervishes begin.
Party favors are handed out around 30 minutes before midnight as everyone migrates on the main deck. After the fireworks, a DJ comes on to get the whole boat dancing as they slowly make their way to the port.
The main cruise companies that have the best shows are Turnatour, Incisu, Seremoni, Pereme, Orient Bosphorus, and Queen Tour.
Pro Tip: The upgrade for premium drinks and seating is highly recommended, as it means better views and shorter lines at the bar.
If you’re visiting Istanbul in a small group, and willing to splurge on a little luxury, then renting a private yacht is the ideal option. Not only will not have to worry about social distancing, but you’ll also get a much better meal and drink selection than the typical dinner cruise.
You’ll be able to get the best seat in the house, rather than having to jockey for position. If you desire to move to a new location to get another view, your captain will be happy to do that. Being able to capture the magic at just the right angle, is a perk worth paying for.
If you’re wanting to get a glimpse of the Istanbul elite, then getting your ticket to one of Istanbul’s top NYE clubs is a must. Be prepared to pack something special though, as the locals like to dress up to the nines when celebrating New Year’s Eve. If you’re just full of energy, you might not need VIP bottle service and can dance the night away to Istanbul’s best bands and DJs.
With an endless supply of clubs to choose from, it should not be a surprise that Istanbul attracts some most famous DJs in Europe to come spin their tables on New Year’s Eve. The entertainment at Masquerade is also a treat, as are the live bands at Dorock XL.
The W Istanbul party always seems take things up a notch as does the IF Performance Hall White Party, and the Babylon Oldies but Goodies.
If you want to enjoy a similar type of Turkish Nights show on NYE as those found on the Bosphorus cruises while on land, there are few different options for that too.
There are many options to experience Turkish Nights on New Years in Istanbul. Nomads is probably the most exotic, followed by Kervansaray, Gar Music Hall, and Tashan Arkat. The Seven Hills Restaurant however has the best food, as well as the best view.
Galas & Balls
If you want to schmooze with the upper class or simply enjoy a more classic affair, then the galas held at Istanbul’s luxury hotels might be the way to go. Typically, these are dress up in your Sunday best events that feature local entertainers of the highest caliber.
The appetizers and meals are of much higher quality than those found on dinner cruises and the party is more subdued and low-key.
Places like the Ciragan Palace, Pera Palace and Bosphoros Four Seasons are on the high-end, while other like The Presidential Hotel offer similar fare with a lower-end cost.
There are a surprisingly high number of jazz clubs in Istanbul and those like Nardis usually offer up a unique concert to ring in the New Year. Divine Brasserie is another place that has these intimate events.
Do note that the jazz clubs in Istanbul tend to be smaller, and have very limited seating, so it’s best to book early once you’re keen on seeing a particular artist perform. Dinner is sometimes included, sometimes not so be sure to check if that’s something you require.
Bars, Pubs & Bistros
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly place, you’ll find a lot of unique NYE bars in Istanbul. The city is full of drinking options from little nooks-and-crannies to more sophisticated cocktail-bars like Lucca and Bina. The Lost Cafe Bar is also a good option, as it Taps Bebek for beer lovers. You could also try a pub crawl too which will allow you to see a few different bars and clubs.
In a normal year, these would be one of the best options to enjoy the top live music on NYE in Istanbul. The coronavirus, however, has taken the joy of celebrating with large crowds where it’s hard to tell where one body starts and another begins.
It’s unclear how they will go about doing hosting the countdown this year, but it still might worth thinking about if enough safety protocols have been put in place.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has left the schedule for Istanbul New Year’s Eve countdown concerts up in the air for 2020. It’s still unknown if any concerts will happen at all, and if so, they’re only likely to come together in the very last minute.
With COVID-19 still making a mess of the world, you have to be wary of this budget-friendly option, as you’ll never know how big the crowd is going to get until you’re surrounded.
Places with more open spaces like Ortakoy, Bagdat Street, Nisantasi, or Kadikoy are ideal due to their moderate crowd sizes. They will let you let loose and enjoy the party atmosphere without feeling like you are getting suffocated by people all around you.
The fact that you can also duck in and out of various little bars and restaurants, allows you the option to find some personal space when needed.
There a few ingrained traditions woven into the fabric of New Year’s Eve celebrations in Istanbul. The New Year’s tree and the exchanging of gifts is a lot like Christmas in the West.
Spending time with family, especially at dinner time remains prevalent, but once the party hour hits, it’s a non-stop blitz that it some places, it seems like the party never ends.
If you’re going out to party, you’re going to get the munchies sooner or later. You might as well get this done early by strolling around the city enjoying bites of the finest street foods that Istanbul has to offer. You might even want to stuff your pockets with some Turkish delights too that you can use to compliment your hot bag of roasted chestnuts.
While we’re still awaiting word if entertainment venues will be open on New Year’s Eve in Istanbul, our advice is to wait until the coronavirus situation becomes more clear before making any concrete plans.
You can however, still set the wheels in motion for how you want to mange your party budget and social distancing. If you’re looking to book a hotel or get New Year’s Eve tickets in advance, you might want wait to sometime near Christmas to see how things go.
No one knows if the street parties will be on this year, but at least the New Year’s weather will be predictable. You can always still scout out party locations too while making plans to prepare against theft.