Well, it really depends on what kind of night you want to have. Let’s walk through a few of your options.
If you’re going to start your night out with a big Turkish dinner (highly suggested) and some Raki, a good time to sit down at a restaurant is 8:00 pm. Typical Turkish meze dinners can last until midnight, so sit back, relax, and reserve some energy for hitting the town.
If you are just going to meet for drinks, around 10:00 pm is a good time. There’s bound to be lots of people at any bar you go to, which makes for a lively atmosphere, but you can still get a table.
For dancing, clubs don’t really get kicking until midnight. From then on, there’s always the crowd that quits at 2 am, but many people will stay out until 4 or 5.
No matter when you start, after staying out all night make sure you get the Turkish drunken late-night snack: an “islak” hamburger! The name means “wet” hamburger because they have a bit of tomato paste on them and are steamed so the bun is perfectly warm and soft when you bite in. What a perfect end to a great evening in Istanbul. Have fun!