Smoking a water pipe, known as nargile in Turkey, and hookah or shisha in the rest of the world, is a popular pastime for Istanbulites. First brought to the country from India way back in the 16th century by the Ottoman empire, it is now a staple with locals and tourists alike.

Historically, smoking nargile was considered to be a status symbol, with the highest honour reserved for those who smoked pipe with the sultan. In those days, the pipe contained just tobacco. However, in recent years, a flurry of flavours, including mint, strawberry, apple, rose and cappuccino, have become fast favourites with the locals.

Today, the area of Tophane in Istanbul, also known as “nargile central”, is where the action’s at. Immerse yourself in Turkish culture and hang out with the locals by visiting one of the many nargile joints in the city. We’ve picked out the best ones for you.

1. Çorlulu Ali Paşa Nargile Café

One of Istanbul’s most popular shisha joints, this quaint nargile café is located in a 300-year-old building just off the Grand Bazaar. You need to walk through a small cemetery to access it, but once you do you won’t go away disappointed.

In spite of being situated in such a touristy part of the city, the café is surprisingly devoid of tourists. You’ll find locals chatting with each other, as they partake in shisha with some hot Turkish tea.

Also a hit here are the local coffees and the sahlep (a warm, milky cinnamon drink). Pair it with a mint and apple nargile to spend a happy afternoon in a lively atmosphere.

How To Reach Çorlulu Ali Paşa Nargile Café: Yeniçeriler Caddesi 36/28; it is on the right while walking towards the direction of Beyazıt from Sultanahmet.

2. Lulu Hookah Lounge

One of the more expensive shisha joints in the city, this one’s particularly popular with tourists. Perched on the 7th floor of Anjer Hotel Bosphorus, it offers spectacular views of the Bosphorus and the city.

The ambience is what makes this place truly special, as there’s a water well, discreet overhead heating lamps and a combo of bench and chair options.

This is one of the few places where the food is as good as the nargile itself, and there are a wide variety of flavours for you to try.

How To Reach Lulu Hookah Lounge: Anjer Hotel Bosphorus, Meclis-i Mebusan Cd. No: 61

3. Perla Kallavi Teras Café

Located on the hip and happening Taksim Square, in the Beyoglu area, this is one of the few nargile cafes that use real oak coal for a distinct flavour. Giving the look of a cosy living room, you’ll find soft white sofas, wooden tables and coloured mirrors as you admire the views.

Try out their unique flavour combinations, such as lemon and cola, and rose and mint, as well as classics including cappuccino, hazelnut, orange, peach, strawberry, and chocolate. Pair it with some delicious food, where dishes include salads, pizzas, pastas, sandwiches, burgers, and wraps.

How To Reach Perla Kallavi Teras Café: Yeniçarşi Caddesi No 14, Beyoğlu

4. Erenler Nargile

This hookah parlour is just a stone’s throw away from the Grand Bazaar and Beyazit Mosque. Occupying a building in the garden square of the mosque next door, Erenler is where guests go to experience the Istanbul of yore.

You’ll instantly be transported into a different time period as you enter this place, with the mix of locals and tourists being the only thing bringing you back to the 21st century.

Along with the range of shisha flavours available here, make sure you ask for a cup of apple tea that will pair perfectly with your water pipe. This is the kind of place where you come in a large group – with its convivial atmosphere and 200 seating capacity, you’re bound to have a fun evening.

How To Reach Erenler Nargile: Yeniçeriler Cadessi 36/28, Çorlulu Ali Paşa Medresesi

5. Ağa Kapısı

Often referred to as Istanbul’s hidden gem, Aga Kapisi offers breathtaking views from its rooftop – you can even see the Golden Horn and Suleymaniye Mosque from here. It’s not just a shisha joint – the food and drinks here are great too. This is a local hangout, so you won’t find too many tourists but the experience will be worth a visit.

Be prepared to wait, though – the stupendous views mean that there’s always a queue. Try the Ottoman tea, along with the shisha – it’s sweet and absolutely delicious.

How To Reach Aga Kapisi: Süleymaniye Mah., Fetva Yokuşu Nazir İzzet Efendi Sok. No 11

6. Dürbün

If you’d rather be in a more touristy nargile café, Durbun is for you. A hot spot with foreigners, who like its soft ambience, magical views of the Bosphorus, and variety of Western and local food, this is ideal for a chill night out in town.

From the service and atmosphere to the food, drinks and shisha – they all hit the spot at this place. Durbun is also the right place to end your night out partying in, as it stays open till very late.

With its winning combination of price, view, and selection of nargile flavours, this one comes highly recommended.

How To Reach Durbun: Hobyar Mah., Yalıköşkü Cad. No:22 Kat:4

7. Şerbethane

Spend a relaxed day or evening here, playing backgammon as you sip your Turkish chai and smoke a water pipe. Excellent people, live entertainment, exotic food and flavourful shisha – it’s no wonder then that Serbethane is an instant hit. Located at Sultanahmet, this is the place locals flock to for some tea and afternoon relaxation.

Try out the Serbethane Specials nargile, which includes flavours such as jellybean, sherbet, and Turkish delight, in addition to classic fruity ones such as apple, orange, watermelon, and strawberry.

The mixed flavours, in particular, are very popular. This is also the place to try some delicious kebabs, as well as other Turkish delicacies.

How To Reach Serbethane: Küçükayasofya Cad. Torun Sok. Arasta Pazar No: 117, Sultanahmet

8. Huqqa

This is the kind of nargile café that you either love or hate – there really is no middle ground. Often described as “shiny” and “showy”, it does have an attitude problem. So, the menu is displayed on iPads and serve a wide variety of shishas in a mind-boggling array of flavours.

But it makes up for it with flavour and taste – the nargiles here truly live up to their name. Classy, elegant and sassy, it is set along the Bosphorus, offers a superb ambience and is an excellent place to meet, chill out, and dine.

If you’re looking for Instagram-worthy photos, you’ve come to the right place – along with the serene atmosphere, you’ll see a lot of good looking people in a fun and casual setting.

How To Reach Huqqa: Kurucesme Mah. Muallim Naci Caddesi No: 56

9. Nargilem Café

One of Tophane’s most famous shisha joints, Nargilem Café stands out on a street rammed with nargile cafes. Serving patrons for more than 15 years, drinking hot tea and playing backgammon with those around you is a tradition here.

You’ll find locals packed to the rim, blowing smoke rings and greeting each other in rapid Turkish. Tourists are few and far between, so if an authentic experience is something you crave you’ve come to the right place.

The atmosphere is convivial and the hookah flavours aplenty to choose from. Make sure you don’t touch the strategically placed peanuts though – you might be stuck with an unexpected addition to your bill.

How To Reach Nargilem Café: Tophane Nargile Alanı, Tophane Salı Pazarı Sıra Mağazalar 101, Beyoğlu

10. Sokak Kahvesi

While all the shisha in this tony place is superb, the grape flavoured one is considered exceptional. Combine it with mint and you have a winning combination you won’t easily forget.

Sokak Kahvesi isn’t strictly a nargile café – it’s a coffee shop chain with a menu of Italian dishes and blended drinks. The interiors are comfy – all yellow lights and wooden seats – and invoke a very homely feel.

There’s also an upstairs deck area where you can go for added privacy. Try the sirloin steak and wash it all down with apple tea, as you smoke your water pipe – it’ll be a relaxed, cosy meal that’ll leave you feeling refreshed.

How To Reach Sokak Kahvesi: Tünel Meydanı (Erkanı Harp Sokak), Taksim

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Shisha Etiquette

  1. It is considered rude to take deep drags of the shisha, as you would a cigarette. Instead, take it in gently and slowly.
  2. The “sipsi”, or plastic mouthpiece, is given to you for sanitary reasons. Make sure you use it and don’t smoke straight from the pipe.
  3. If you’ve been handing over the pipe to the person next to you all this while, know that that’s considered bad manners in Turkey. Instead, leave the pipe on the side for your neighbour to pick as and when s/he needs it.
  4. Never light a cigarette directly from the hot coal. Not only is it frowned upon, but the Turks believe that it can spoil the coal to be placed in the nargile.