You'll probably be surprised to find a somewhat active gay scene in Istanbul. Despite the strong influence of Islam, homosexuality is legal in Turkey and the age of consent is 18. Western tourists may have contributed to a growing tolerance or maybe the country simply wants to be more European (and eventually accepted into the European Union). Gay Pride took place for the first time in Istanbul in 2004 and gay activists continue to fight for equal rights in the country.
It is important that you be very discreet in public and know exactly where to go. It’s actually common for straight men to sleep with transgender women and transvestites, but the bars catering to that can be dangerous and should be avoided. Also note that sex between men is not possible at a hammam. Stick to the following spots:
Chianti Café Pub
A café in the afternoon and a bar at night, this is a meeting place for the gay community. It hosts karaoke nights and guest DJs.
Facebook Page: chianticafepup
This stylish club is one of the most popular among the hippest gay boys. It hosts theme parties and often invites international DJs. If you wish to go clubbing for a night in Istanbul, head here first.
Facebook Page: LoveDancePoint
Mixing gay and straight, men and women, this club opens on Fridays and Saturdays for nights of dancing and fun. Special theme nights include “fetish party” and “striptease party.”
Facebook Page: XlargeClub
Although there are no “gay saunas,” Istanbul has hammams, or Turkish baths, frequented by gay men. Below are the traditional hammams you’ll want to head to, not because they’re gay venues, but because they offer the traditional Turkish bath experience:
This modern, man-only sauna is as close as it gets to a gay sauna. Centrally located, it offers a swimming pool, a gym, jacuzzi, and private massages by male masseurs.
Tahiri Galatasaray Hamam
Dating from 1481, this historic hammam was once for men only, but now has a section for the ladies. In the classic interior made up of tiles and marble you’ll find semi-private rooms and massage services.
This large hammam is now close to three centuries old and has welcomed famous personalities over the years. It provides the traditional rituals, ending with a rejuvenating Turkish tea.
There are no gay hotels in Istanbul, but there are a couple that are particularly attractive to gay travelers:
Taksim Gonen Hotel
Located close to Taksim Square, this hotel stands out for its cosmopolitan guests, who enjoy its rooftop terrace, indoor pool, Turkish bath, sauna, and gym.
The Marmara Pera
Offering spectacular panoramic views of the city, this 4-star hotel welcomes all kinds of guests. It features a rooftop terrace, an outdoor pool, a well-equipped gym, and a restaurant serving local and international cuisine.
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