Discover our local Gay Istanbul Guide and insiders’ recommendations, for best gay bars, clubs, restaurants, museums, monuments, shopping …
The massive Turkish capital, with its 15 million inhabitants, is the only city in the world that extends over two continents, along with Bosporus Strait.
This position between East and West has forged the history of the City.
The position of the gay community is somewhat ambiguous. Daily life is fine for gay people in the capital, but society tends to become more and more conservative, especially outside Istanbul.
On the one hand, Gay Pride is often banned or prohibited.
On the other hand, Istanbul offers a rich and vibrant gay life, which is quite rare for a Muslim country.
Gay venues are well established, and if discretion is required, even in the city center, you will not encounter particular problems, either with the authorities or with the inhabitants.
This relative freedom makes Istanbul the gay capital of the Middle East.
You will meet an impressive number of Iranians, Saudi Arabians, Iraqis from the new middle classes in gay clubs or after parties.
It is much easier for them to travel here, as unlike for European Union or the US, a visa is generally not required.
You can start your visit with the Church of Saint Sophia, a magnificent Basilica that became a Mosque and then a National Museum. From there you can walk through the “Great Bazaar,” a commercial maze that is still the pride of the city.
More than 500 years old, it is one of the largest covered markets in the world, with more than 5000 shops.
Topkapi Palace must be visited to realize how sophisticated court life could be on Ottoman times.
Back in the city center, you will be surprised by the very European dimension of architecture and lifestyle.
Remember that the city, which was called Constantinople and then Byzantium, was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire until 1453, and Muslim invasion.
Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was populated by a vast number of Greeks and Armenians, but also by Italians, French, and Jews coming from all over Europe and from the rest of the Ottoman Empire.
The alleys are full of charm, and the old buildings are gradually being renovated and transformed into boutique hotels and trendy shops.
At the museum level, you can start with the Museum of Contemporary Art in Istanbul, to discover the new Turkish artists who are gaining fame in Europe and America.
The superb Archaeological Museum gathers the finds that have been made all around the Mediterranean. For centuries, the Turkish coast was part of the Greek Empire, with many mythical sites, such as Troy or Ephesus.
Gay area in Istanbul
There is no gay district as such, but most of the venues are concentrated around Taksim Square. Gay bars and clubs are crowded every Friday and Saturday evening.
Day trip from Istambul
In the summer, take a boat trip to discover all the wonders of the Bosporus Strait, its magnificent wooden palaces and stunning modern villas.
Around the strait, there are many restaurants, lounges, and clubs that are crowded during the summer, and very popular with the young people of Stamboli, including straight and gays.