For a memorable and fun filled gay vacation in Turkey, Istanbul is the best and most preferred gay travel destination. It holds much of the countries historical and cultural features ranging from museums, legendary artifacts, as well the Ottoman Empire heritage. Once you hit Istanbul, it’s all free tea and the beautiful chaos that makes the city so enchanting. For the visitor, a paradise”. To be realistic, the current political situation does not make Turkey “as ‘free’ a place (for activists, journalists, academics, free-thinking folks) as it was a few years ago, but without any doubt, it is probably more safe.
Gay Istanbul is often at the top of many bucket lists for those who want to experience a bit of everything: delicious food, wild nightlife, historic architecture, intriguing hammams (Turkish Baths) and Islamic culture. A mega-metropolis whose skyline is a mixture of minarets and modern high-rises and streets are infused with history; Gay Istanbul draws countless queer men from across the Middle-East. They come as either traveller or to live permanently, and in Istanbul, they are offered a relatively liberal and open gay scene. Istanbul is one of the Middle East’s most progressive cities. Same-sex sexual activity was legalized in the Ottoman Empire (predecessor of Turkey) in 1858 and has always been legal in Turkey although the subject is still highly taboo and discrimination frequently occurs.
Gay Istanbul has a lot to offer to you guys and you will not need to much in order to make it one of your favourite cities in the world. There are not only gay clubs, parties and gay hammam’s in Istanbul but also incredible food, world-class shopping, affordable 5-star hotels and plenty of historical attractions in this unique international destination.
These are some of our suggested top activities in Istanbul with Tours in Pride:
1.- Hagia Sophia: an icon of Istanbul and UNESCO World Heritage Site, it would be impossible even to contemplate visiting this city without seeing her architectural miracle church turned mosque turned museum.
2.- Topkapi Palace: home to many Sultans of the past offering spectacular views, and countless shiny things as the home of the Crown Jewels from the Ottoman Empire.
3.- Sultan Ahmed Mosque: the famous ‘Blue Mosque’ covered in extravagance tile work. Still a working mosque, visitors are welcomed inside outside of prayer time.
4.- Dolmabahçe Palace: built in 19th century is one of the most glamorous palaces in the world. It was the administrative center of the late Ottoman Empire with the last of Ottoman Sultans was residing there. After the foundation of the Turkish Republic in Ankara, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk transferred all government functions to the youthful capital.
5.- The Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı): One of the largest and oldest markets in the world. Always crowded and crazy, and experience like no other in one of the most visited places on the planet!
6.- Spice Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı): built in 1664, is one of the most colourful bazaar of Istanbul that offers numberless spices, Turkish delights, caviar, dried nuts and more
7.- Dervishes Show: an exciting ceremony known for its whirring dance and sophisticated music that tells the story of man’s ascent to perfection (as if…)
8.- Galata Tower: one of the highest and oldest towers of Istanbul. 63 meter high tower provides a panoramic view of the old town. It was built in the 14th century by the Genoese colony as part of the defense wall surrounding their district at Galata directly opposite ancient Constantinopolis. After the conquest of Constantinople by Mehmet II, it served to detect fires in the city. It is sour ended by Serdar-ı Ekrem, a super-cool cobbled shopping street with plenty of boutiques, curiosities and designer showrooms.
9.- Maiden’s Tower (Kız Kulesi): a cute little tower hugging an islet in the mighty Bosporus with a popular cafe.
10.- Çukurcuma Caddesi and Cihangir neighborhood: in one of the oldest cities in the world it only makes sense to dabble in a bit of antique shopping amongst neo-classical homes. Plenty of nostalgia cluttered shops. We would consider it as the hipster, arty and gay friendly district of Istanbul.
11.- Kadıköy: on the Asian side of the Bosporus and a must while in Istanbul, arguably the best place to be stationed in probing the sprawling capital. While a single visit cannot show all that Istanbul has to offer, choosing the right area for your base can be a way to get the best out of your stay. That’s why Tours in Pride take you to discover the hidden gem of Istanbul.
12.- Karaköy and Tophane: Down the Beyoglu district, on the banks of the Bosphorus and just in front of Old Town are these two neighbourhoods which besides being among the oldest of Istanbul are also among the most interesting to discover. A whole new population of young people of Istanbul is now meeting there for a coffee or to work in the many shared office concepts. Street-art is a global phenomenon that did not miss Istanbul and particularly Karaköy. It has been now several years that Turkish street artists have made a name for themselves and perform their art freely in the streets, some shop owners even pay for it. Some little streets give the impression of being in open-air galleries. Karaköy is also currently one of the best places to be in Istanbul at night. The weekends evenings it is lively and perfect for partying until dawn it its different clubs.
13.- Turkish Bath’s Experience (Hammam) : we will make sure you have a real local PG spa experience leaving you revitalized in this long-revered custom of Turkey. Sadly Gay Istanbul does not offer your traditional gay sauna experience like you will find in most Western countries. While there are many busy saunas, gyms, and hammams (Turkish bath houses), you should realize this is a very traditional and cultural past time in Istanbul and popular with both gay and straight men. To avoid any issues or disappointment, best to go into the Istanbul bathhouse scene simply want to experience the history and tradition of the Turkish bath.
14.- Turkish Dinning Experience: step off the main tourist trail and learn to eat like a true Turkish person with authentic local cuisine and delicacies. Have the chance to enjoy a guided evening tour spent mostly dining on a variety of Turkish food and dishes. Get to savor a Simit bread roll with fresh grapes and seeds and learn how to barbecue grill your own kebabs before having the time for your life, dancing the night away, and listening to live music inside a real Turkish tapas bar. Spots like Nevizade, or Tunel are the best options for that.
15.- Bosphorus Cruise (Ortaköy): cruise between two continents while you pass centuries of history and relics of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, the bridges, the views of the golden horn and of course the Yalis (the mansions constructed at immediate waterside of the Bosphorus). We can organize it as a simple sightseeing cruise or private boat celebrations with local dj’s, turkish music and a lot of drinks and handsome local Turkish friends.
16.- Istanbul Gay Tour: a gay-popular activity is to explore the city with our queer local friends, walking around the usual tourist sites, or enjoying a fabulous gay nightlife tour to really experience the real Gay Istanbul (and get shown the best Taksim gay bars). In Istanbul there is a thriving and vibrant nightlife scene where locals and foreigners come together to dance, drink and socialize with their queer family. Turks love to party, and while the Istanbul gay scene is under pressure, it seems local queers are merely more determined to come together at night and celebrate pride and diversity in the face of increasing adversity. Things can get crazy on a night out in Gay Istanbul, and what better way could there be to get to know the locals than in Istanbul gay bar! Our Tours in Pride favourite spots are:
I think that this is all we have to share with you guys by now and hope these are enough reasons to make move your ass and start organizing your next gay holidays in Turkey with Tours in Pride, we will try to make it happen! If you have further questions about your gay holidays in Turkey, do not hesitate to contact us any time!
Do not forget that for any highly personalized gay travel experience just drop us a message and let us create you next escape.
Your Tours in Pride team.