Istanbul 's heart beats fastest along Istiklal Caddesi, whose narrow back streets are home to a reputed 1000 bars. Most guides will tell you to head for Cicek Pasaj(flower passage), a safe bet, but where it's really at is one street down - Balik pasaj. Like jumping into a kaleidoscope, every sense is overloaded with a collision of sound, smells, colour and of course people. You'd be forgiven for thinking that you'd accidentally wandered into a fish market, but just keep going and soon enough the market stalls give way to tables.
This is the meyhane (tavern) capital of Istanbul, and the place to crack open a bottle of raki and put the world to rights while working your way through endless meze. One of the oldest meyhane (and Ataurk's favourite) is Cumhuryiet, and although the downstairs looks fairly lifeless, upstairs is a riot. If you're still standing and fancy another tipple, see if you can find the bohemian Secret Garden. Living up to its name, it doesn't have a sign, is down a couple of back streets, through a few doors, up some stairs and so on. ask!