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10 Ways to Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Istanbul: Where to Go and What to Do

There's no place like Istanbul to ring in the New Year!

The City on Two Continents has everything you need to make it a memorable night: incredible parties & energetic events, stunning fireworks display, and a diverse range of experiences to suit every taste. 

So if you're looking for an unforgettable New Year's Eve celebration, nothing beats celebrating the New Year on two continents. 

Here's our guide to help you make the most of your Istanbul New Year's Eve Celebration. Read about the Turkish New Year’s traditions, top things to do on New Year's Eve in Istanbul, parties & events, and tips for a save and fun night.

Let's start with the firework show in Istanbul!

Istanbul New Year’s Eve Fireworks: What to Expect?

For several years now, Istanbul welcomes the new year with its spectacular midnight fireworks. The New Year celebration in Istanbul takes place over the Bosphorus and illuminates the famous strait in a colorful sea of colors. The dazzling show with pyrotechnics lights up the sky over Istanbul for several minutes, leaving all spectators in awestruck wonder. Not only is the backdrop of the Istanbul skyline simply stunning, but also the reflection of the spectacle on the surface of the water and the electric atmosphere - a truly magical experience not to be missed! 

In addition, fireworks are set off throughout the city at midnight, with numerous neighborhoods hosting street parties, performances and their own firework shows.

Local New Year’s Traditions: What do Turkish People do on New Year’s Eve?

"Yılbaşı" or New Year's Eve in Turkey is celebrated on a large scale. If you want to celebrate New Year’s Eve the Turkish way, here are some local traditions and customs you need to know about:

  • Family Dinner: For many Turks, New Year's Eve is a time to spend with family and close friends, and a delicious meal is always a welcome part of any holiday celebration, especially on New Year’s Eve. Turkish families often gather together for a special feast on this night, enjoying traditional dishes like rice with chestnuts, roasted Turkey or chicken, and lots of meze (Turkish cold and warm appetizers).
  • TV Coverage: Family members usually gather in front of the TV and wait for the countdown while watching TV. All the major channels have special programming and there are often live performances from some of Turkey's biggest celebrities.
  • Gifts: Exchanging gifts is another popular Turkish New Year's tradition. Family and friends often exchange small presents as a way of wishing each other good luck in the new year.
  • Red Underwear: A special tradition for New Year's Eve is to wear red underwear - it is said that this will bring good luck for the coming year!
  • Draw of the Big New Year's Eve Lottery: Another tradition that many Turkish people enjoy is the draw of the big New Year's Eve lottery. This is a national event and everyone looks forward to seeing if they won anything.
  • Tombola: Tombola is a popular game played on New Year's Eve in Turkey. It's similar to bingo, and it's a great way to spend time with family and friends.
  • Pomegranates: Another interesting tradition is to smash pomegranates in front of your house door. Smashing pomegranates is said to bring good luck, so you'll often see people doing this on New Year's Eve. The more seeds that are released, the more luck you'll have in the new year!
  • Christmas Decorations: Strangers are often surprised by the New Year’s Eve decorations that adorn the city and Turkish homes. Christmas trees and Santas - or rather yılbaşı agacı (New Year Tree) and Noel baba can be found everywhere during this time.

10 Best Things to Do in Istanbul on New Year’s Eve

Below are the 10 best ways to celebrate New Year's Eve in Istanbul, plus a bonus:

1. Watch the Fireworks at the Bosphorus Shore

As midnight approaches, it is time for the highlight of the night: the fireworks show that takes place over the Bosphorus Strait! There are numerous restaurants and bars along the waterfront where you can watch the spectacular fireworks display, but for a more relaxed New Year's Eve experience, head down to the Bosporus shore and just find a spot where you can see the water.

With Istanbul's skyline as a backdrop, you'll be able to see the fireworks display in all its glory. Popular viewing locations are the banks of the trendy Ortakoy and Besiktas neighborhood, as well as the prime spots at the Bosphorus and Galata Bridge. Make sure to grab a spot early to get a good view!

2. Party at one of Istanbul's many Nightclubs & Bars

Grab your friends and hit the dance floor to ring in the new year. Istanbul is home to some of the best nightclubs in Europe, so it's no surprise that many people choose to spend their New Year's Eve partying the night away at one of these hotspots. Most of the clubs organize special New Year Eve’s Parties, and it’s best to buy tickets for popular clubs in advance. 

If you're looking for a vibrant and wild night out, be sure to check out Oligark, Reina, Klein, Masquerade Club or Sortie. These clubs are known for their incredible DJ-setups, spectacular views and, of course, their epic New Year's Eve parties! Or if you would rather listen to live music, try venues like Babylon Bomonti or Jolly Joker. For a more relaxed vibe, head to Kadikoy’s famous Bagdat Street and have a look at the special New Year's program of the many bars that are lined up there. 

3. Take in the Spectacle from a Rooftop Bar

Another great way to celebrate New Year’s Eve while taking in Istanbul's amazing skyline are the city’s many rooftop bars. They offer stunning views of the cityscape, and you can toast to the new year while enjoying the exhilarating atmosphere. Another advantage is that you can enjoy the fireworks display from up high without being in the thick of the crowds.

There are many rooftop bars to choose from in Istanbul, so you can find one that suits your style and budget. The 360Istanbul, Mikla and Vogue Restaurant & Bar are some of the most popular places to take in panoramic views of Istanbul while sipping on cocktails and enjoying live music. 

4. Enjoy a Romantic Dinner at one of Istanbul's Top Restaurants

For a more relaxed and romantic way to celebrate New Year's Eve, why not treat your loved one to a special dinner at one of Istanbul's many top restaurants? There are plenty of options to choose from, so you're sure to find the perfect spot for you and your significant other.

Most restaurants offer special menus for the occasion. If you choose a restaurant with a Bosphorus view, you can even watch the fireworks from the comfort of your table. Keep in mind that these restaurants tend to be pricier than normal, but the experience is worth it. Early reservation is a must!

5. Spend your Night at a Meyhane

Looking for a more unique and authentic New Year’s experience? Then head to a meyhane and celebrate New Year’s until the wee hours of the morning. Meyhanes are traditional Turkish taverns where locals gather to drink, eat, and sing. You'll find a lively atmosphere at any meyhane, but on New Year's Eve the mood is especially festive.

Make sure to try some of the delicious Turkish meze (appetizers) and wash it down with a glass or two of raki, the national spirit of Turkey. When midnight comes, you'll be in the perfect place to celebrate with the locals. You can find some of the best methanes in Nevizade Street, a side street of Istiklal Avenue, including Ney’le Mey’le Meyhane, Nevizade, and Lambo.

6. Attend a Concert or Show of a Turkish Singer/Band

If you're looking for a festive way to spend New Year's Eve in Istanbul, why not attend a concert or show by a Turkish singer or band? There are many talented local singers and bands out there who can make your New Year's Eve an unforgettable night. Attending one of their concerts is a great way to ring in the new year. Plus, it's a great opportunity to experience some of Turkey's culture, cuisine and music.

A special New Year's Eve menu is often included, but prices are usually on par with European prices. So if you're in Istanbul, be sure to check out some of the great concerts and shows that are happening on New Year's Eve. Keep in mind to make your reservations at least 3 weeks in advance, as these shows are very popular.

7. Join a New Year’s Eve Bosphorus Cruise Party

What’s a more thrilling way to count down to the new year than on a New Year’s Eve Bosphorus Cruise Party? You can literally celebrate New Year’s Eve on two continents. Seeing Istanbul’s skyline and landmarks illuminated at night is an experience you won’t want to miss.

On this festive occasion, you can enjoy live music & shows as well as delicious food and drinks, and dance the night away as you cruise along the Bosphorus Strait. Plus, there’s arguably no better place to watch the New Year's Eve fireworks than from the deck of a boat… These cruises usually sell out quickly, so be sure to book your tickets in advance!

  • You can book your New Year's Eve Bosphorus Cruise here

8. Go to a Street Party

Count down the final seconds of the year at one of Istanbul's famous New Year's Eve street parties. On New Year's Eve, many streets in Istanbul come alive with music, dancing, and festivities. Parties typically start one hour before midnight.

Taksim Square is the main gathering place for New Year's Eve in Istanbul. The square and its side streets, especially Istiklal Caddesi, will be packed with thousands of locals. So if you want to join in the fun, you should take that into account. Other popular spots to check out include Kadıköy, Ortaköy Square, Nişantaşı, and Bağdat Caddesi.

9. Attend an Istanbul New Year's Eve Gala

If you are looking for a festive and glamorous way to ring in the new year, attend a lavish New Year's Eve Gala at one of Istanbul's many five-star hotels. The night will include a sumptuous meal, live music and entertainment, and of course, champagne at midnight.

You'll be able to dress up for the occasion and dance the night away in a glamorous setting. Popular hotels hosting these galas include Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul, The Hilton Bosphorus, Shangri-La Bosphorus and Swissotel The Bosphorus Istanbul.

10. Celebrate like the Locals

One of the best things about traveling is getting to experience local culture firsthand! So if you have local friends, you should ask them if they host or go to a private house party. This is how the locals do it, and it's an amazing way to experience the culture and meet new people.

These parties are usually small and intimate, and include great food, music, and dancing. You’ll make new friends, party all night, and have an unforgettable time.

Bonus: Activities for the Day 

If you're looking for something to do during the day, before the clock strikes midnight, be sure to try some local cuisine and explore the city’s rich past. There are so many historical sites to see in Istanbul that it would be a shame to come here and not take in at least some of them.

See below some of the top sights you should not miss:

Pro Tip: We strongly recommend buying skip-the-line tickets wherever possible. Otherwise, you may find yourself standing outside in the cold and waiting in line for hours.

For more inspiration, see our dedicated page with the Top 10 attractions in Istanbul: Tickets & Tours.

Tip: Get the advantageous city pass Istanbul Welcome Card to save money on your visits to museums and have a better experience with guided tours included. Click here to benefit from 5% discount

Istanbul New Year’s Eve Tips

Here are 5 tips to help you make the most of your New Year’s Eve in Istanbul:

  • Make Early Reservations: New Year's Eve is one of the busiest nights of the year, and you don't want to be left without a table at your favorite restaurant or club. Whether you are opting for a fancy restaurant or a night out in a club or bar, it is best to make your reservations at least 2 to 3 weeks in advance, so you can enjoy the night without having to worry about finding a spot.
  • Beware of Pickpockets: Be sure to stay safe and watch your belongings, as it can get crowded and pickpockets are known to operate in crowded area. It's best to keep your valuables close to your body and not carry too much cash with you.
  • Prepare for the Weather:  It can be cold in Istanbul at this time of year, so make sure you pack the right clothes, especially if you are planning on partying outdoors. Check our guide to Istanbul in December, with information and tips for the weather in Istanbul in December and January.
  • Beware of the Traffic: New Year's Eve is one of the busiest nights in Istanbul. If you're planning on going out and about, be sure to plan ahead for traffic. Take advantage of public transportation, and consider starting your night early to avoid the traffic. Many of the city's main roads will be congested, so it's best to get a head start on your evening.
  • Have fun! Istanbul is a beautiful city and there's no better time to explore it than on New Year's Eve. Dance the night away, try new foods, and make some amazing memories. Happy New Year!

Follow these tips, and you're sure to have a memorable New Year's Eve in Istanbul! For more inspiration and tips on what to do this time of the year, check out our Guide to Istanbul in December: Best Things to Do, Weather, Christmas & New Year, as well as our List with recommended Hotels in Istanbul

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