Istanbul is home to many different cultures and has a rich variety of European and Asian influences that are living together in a lively hub. Turkey’s capital has to offer a lot of historical buildings and places: Soak up the Turkish atmosphere while wandering through the Hagia Sophia Museum, the Basilica Cistern or the Grad Bazaar, all located very close to each other in the European part of the city.
The best thing that you can do to treat yourself after a sightseeing tour or a night out is spending an afternoon at the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam. You’ll feel like a newborn after a treatment in the historical building.
Right now the country suffers from a difficult political situation that has a huge impact on the economical situation. The result: The Turkish Lira is at a very low currency, the attacks decreased tourism, accession to the EU recedes into the distance and governmental laws restrict culture and arts. On the other side: Many new gastronomical concepts and creative industries are popping up. The young generation fights for their dreams and finds ways to realise them on one’s own initiative.
Karaköy and Beyoğlu are in the core of the ‘Old City’ of Istanbul and probably the hippest neighborhoods of the city. One fancy café joins the other, but always with traditional Baklava shops or small original restaurants in between.
Techno Scene – The Rebellion of the Dreamers
A local pioneer that has been shaping Istanbul’s electronic music scene since the late 1980s is Murat Uncuoglu. He’s called ‘the first great DJ of Istanbul’. With his label ‘Isolate’ and his clubs ‘Module’ and ‘Kafes’ he’s still shaping the scene today. Just recently, he had a release on the Secret Weapons compilation by Innervisions. In 2003 he met his partner in crime Alican. Together they are promoting many projects and new festival concepts in their hometown.
It all began in the late 80’s when Murat was working at the first record shop in Istanbul ‘CD Land’. They started importing foreign LPs and the first CDs to Istanbul. Among Jazz and Funk music they also brought the first electronic music to Istanbul. The real start for electronic music in the city in 1994 was the opening of ‘Club 2019’. It’s Istanbuls first and legendary underground club, where Murat used to reside. People even changed their style to casual black when they visited the club, a real underground revolution back then. In December 1994 Murat was co-founding ‘Radio 2019’, the first electronic music radio station in Turkey, pushing electronic music forward in the country. Since November 2018 the radio is again on air, after it unplugged it’s microphones for many years. In 1999 the FG ‘Future Generation’ Radio Station got on air and people even more started listening electronic music. In the beginning of the 2000s, the scene started to change due to the internet and platforms like myspace. It was a chance for young artists to add a character to their music and to promote it. After bringing international talent to Istanbul since 2007, the famous club Indigo, which shaped the local scene, too, had to shut down in 2017. Although the scene in Istanbul exists since the end of the 80s, in recent years it has been rather shaken by the attacks and the general political situation. Nevertheless, the local scene is growing and bringing forth new artists, labels and clubs. Hence the slogan: The Rebellion of the Dreamers.
Murat said “20 years ago the times were difficult but people shared very special moments. Now there are still special moments in also difficult times. It got more difficult for DJs as due to the social media pressure they really have to create their own style that has to differ from the other artists’ sound.” With his label Isolate he receives about 100 sets a day from young artists. “All of them mostly have the same setlist” Murat says. Together with his partners he always tries to push young talents to produce new sounds and to contribute it to the scene. “When I started DJ’ing it was probably more easy. I had about 100 records, no-one else had and I kept playing them for months. Nowadays there is so much music on the market, which is actually good, because music is there to share it with people.”
Murat explained that 20 years ago there was only one club in the city and all the people listened to this kind of music when they went out. Nowadays there are more than ten different clubs and many parties going on. Each with their own crowd, so people can select which kind of music they prefer.
Although the scene has to fight for their right with the government, Murat currently describes the scene in Istanbul as ‘amazing’. In his opinion it’s one of the most amazing times for electronic music in Istanbul. Whereas 20 years ago people only listened to electronic music because it was trendy. “Nowadays the crowd is really educated about the genre. The amount of people listening to this kind of music might not have changed, but they are more educated. They know the tracks, the artists and even follow them” Murat says. Though electronic music gets more popular in Istanbul, there are not many DJs from Turkey yet. “This is changing right now” says Alican in our interview. He also wants to educate the younger generation. Alican mentioned in an interview with Mixmag that the young population is very into the music and very open-minded. The scene really trusts on the younger generation. Furthermore he explains that among eighteen to twenty-five-year-olds 65 per cent said no to the president. This gives an outlook of the time when this generation is allowed to vote.
Due to low income, clubbing is really expensive in Istanbul. Current statistics say that the average income in Istanbul is 10,437 Euro per year. Which makes it almost a luxury, affording tickets starting from 15 Euro. This is the price club owners have to charge in order to bring world class bookings to Istanbul. Additionally governmental restrictions about sponsorships with alcohol and cigarette brands in Turkey make it quite hard to run a nightclub. As the currency is very low right now it’s even more important to have sponsors. Though people like Alican and Murat find creative ways to still continue and even grow their label and venues. The two guys are avant-garde role models for the scene. They founded the label ‘Isolate’ in November 2018. The concept of the label is uplifting and fresh sounds that you can either dance to at the dance floor, but that also work at home. In addition to the releases they’re planning to organise ‘Isolate’ parties in Europe. Thus one outlook for the scene is definitely the projects Murat and Alican are planning. Murat says that the city has a huge potential.
Dive deeper in the conversation with Murat and Alican and find out about their favourite spots in the city.
Murat’s favourite spots in Istanbul:
It’s one of Murat’s favourite restaurants and located in Bebek. The owner Cem Mirap is an amazing guy that is very into music and food. The place can also be described as a bit post, but at the same time, it’s a very cool place.
Murat’s opinion: “They have the best home-made food and a great menu every day.”
For Murat it’s kind of a famous afterhour place, as it’s open for 24 hours. Among other dishes, they are popular for the Turkish-style ravioli ‘Manti’.
Murat’s comment on this one: “A new dimension of burger!”
“The GALLIARD” is a Contemporary Turkish Fusion Restaurant and Lounge with a Mediterranean twist.
The ‘Meat-Professionals’ in this restaurant are the team members of the first famous Nusret-Restaurant.
“It is almost the oldest one and very special” says Murat. “An amazing location where you can eat traditional food and the best fish ever you will taste.”
How a day with Alican in Istanbul looks like:
Start with a stroll through Karaköy and the Old Town. Then have a dinner with friends at Karaköy Lokantası. In his opinion they have the best seafood in Istanbul. After that he recommends to have some drinks at Alexandra Bar or Luzia Bar and of course finish the night at Module.
Istanbul’s nightlife is waiting for you with a great selection of clubs. Some of them are special summer locations, others have a long history. They basically cater all electronic music sub-genres, so you can spend a weekend with various tunes in Istanbul.
Get ready for an incredible sound system when entering the club of Murat Uncouglu and his partners. World class bookings with artists like Black Coffee, Dixon and Âme are waiting for you in the new venue in the North of the city.
The summer location at the beach side enchants electronic music lovers with a breath-taking view. The open-air location is run by our interview partners Murat and Alican, that have proofed a recipe for high quality electronic music bookings.
Founded in 2009, this small but special venue has a long history in the scene of Istanbul. The owners are very special and so is the crowd and the music. The club is centrally located in the center in Beyoğlu. The bookings are ranging from local talents to acts like Kater Blau residents and DJ Tennis or Jeremy Underground.
Open since 2015 and located in the city center, KLEIN attracts local and international artists to Istanbul.
Klein is big, the music is powerful, and the people are not just there to be seen – they’re there to dance.
RX Istanbul is the electronic sub-brand of Roxy, which is a real institution in the city. It’s open since 1994 and has brought superstars like Laurent Garnier, Modeselektor, Rampue, Jan Blomqvist, Joris Voorn, Claptone, Charlotte de Witte and Blond:ish to Istanbul.
Bars, Cafés & Restaurants
Istanbul’s cuisine reflects the diverse cultures living in the Bosporus city. It is a melting pot of European and Asian influences with elaborately-cooked dishes of the Ottoman cuisine, historic seafood restaurants, as well as Southeastern and Eastern Turkey influences, such as Kebab. Always accompanied by Turkish tea and sweet desserts like Baklava.
Karabatak is a beautifully furnished coffeehouse located in Karaköy. Over two floors you will find yourself in vintage armchairs, crazy gimmicks and flea market furniture. From the corner you can hear a parrot. On the table: Ristretto, Wiener Melange, Kleiner Brauner, Flat White, Cortado, Moka Pot, Fiaker and a selection of pastries.
Having a moist burger with a tender patty and crips curly fries while enjoying the sounds of national and international DJs? Why not! The café, bar and restaurant is located in the Zorlu Center and opened in summer 2018.
The principle of this restaurant is natural, fresh and clean food. It’s not only a hipster spot with trendy dishes, but a fantastic restaurant concept with a flavourful kitchen that ranges from raw vegan cheesecakes to Turkish dumplings with beef filling. It’s also the perfect spot for recharging your batteries after a night out.
Owned by siblings, this coffee roasting shop and café has to be on every coffee lovers list. The company was founded in 2013, since then it creates coffee experiences for it’s guests. Your perfectly brewed coffee comes with a variety of baked goods, granola, eggs benedict and other classic breakfast delights.
This traditional restaurant is for all of those who can not get enough of the mouthwatering kebab flavour. Lamb, chicken or vegetarian dishes – enjoy your menu with locals in a rustic ambience.
Cesme Bazlama is a pretty hipster restaurant, but charming. The owner’s mother sits at the restaurant’s stove and bakes the traditional flatbread ‘bazlama’. The warm bread comes with all day Anatolian breakfast specialties. The motto: You are not allowed to leave the restaurant without a well-fed belly.
The ‘New Restaurant’ how it’s called, presents traditional Anatolian recipes in an innovative way. Chef Civan Er surprises with delicacies on the plate and in the glass. The whole concept is well-rounded and presented in an aesthetic atmosphere.
The best Baklava
And last but not least, the best Baklava spots in Istanbul. The owner of Karaköy Güllüoğlu, Mustafa Güllü opened the first Baklava Shop in Istanbul in 1949. Since then, the shop in Karaköy is the Baklava-place-to-be. Only five minutes from this spot you’ll find another good Baklava option: Köşkeroğlu. Tip: order the Palace baklava with kaymak (clotted cream)
Istanbul has a great portfolio of hotels that are presenting the traditional flair at a high level. You’ll find countless five star hotels in the Bosporus city, that due to the low currency are at an affordable level for the public at large.
The building structure retains original features, while the luxurious modern interiors were designed by Sinan Kafadar who was inspired by its imposing bank vaults. A collection of precious books related to art, culture & music are displayed in the lobby lounge.
The boutique hotel in the pulsating center of Istanbul is surrounded by metal workshops that reside in the area since many years. In addition it’s not only located in the financial district, but used to be the Deutsche Bank building before it got renovated. Many exhibits of the former establishment are still coining the interior. Enjoy the view over the Bosphorus while having a coffee or dinner at the rooftop.
Dive into local history and interior in the Soho House Istanbul. In 1873 the palatial building got erected by a powerful Genoese shipbuilder. He engaged famous architects and artists that let the building shine in it’s coining splendour.
From 1906, it served as the U.S. embassy and residence, and then the US consulate general from 1937 to 2003. In 2014, Soho House began extensive restoration work on the Palazzo, returning it to its former glory.
Don’t miss an evening at ‘The Club’, ‘Cecconis’ or ‘The Allis’ and relish the international menue with local influences.
What are your favourite spots in Istanbul? Join us in the closed community for techno&travel lovers worldwide and share your thoughts with likeminded people.