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Where to eat in Istanbul

“Where to find the strength to stop eating in Istanbul?” — this headline would suit the article best. It is hard to pass by roasted chestnuts on the street, the smell of coffee is overwhelming you, street barkers are trying to tempt you inside cafes, and the desire to visit an authentic Turkish restaurant is so strong! In order not to go crazy with all this, you should be fully prepared before visiting Turkey. In this article, we have collected notes of experienced bloggers and reviews of travelers. Choose whatever you like.

If you don’t know how to get to Istanbul, just book a Kiwitaxi transfer now and enjoy your trip!

Street food

You can easily find it in Istanbul popular tourist areas. We have made an impressive list of snacks:

  • Try a balik ekmek or simply fish in bread. This sandwich also contains lettuce, peppers, carrots, and onions. The price starts at 7 Lira.
StephenStephen MonkBoughtLunch

shares his favorite balik ekmek stand:

My favorite spot though? Just on the north side of the Galata Bridge, beside the pier for ferries up the Golden Horn, two dudes with griddles churn out a steady business in what may be the best fish sandwich in Europe OR Asia. Take it with a little bit of lemon sauce, a dash of salt, and a whole lot of crunchy baguette.

Balik ekmek in Istanbul
Photo by minoritynomad
  • Buy a börek — a flaky pie with meat, potato, cheese, or spinach. The price starts at 4 Lira.
 börek in Istanbul
Photo by comeandgogo

Here is a guide to börek names from Kerry Arslan, the author of the turkishlifecafe blog:

Su böreği — The dough in layers with a filling of feta cheese, parsley and oil. The dough is then boiled in a pan and brushed with butter before serving.

Su böreği
Photo by pomegranatesandgrapes

Sigara böreği — can be served as a Meze or Breakfast dish, the Yufka classically is filled with feta cheese and rolled to form a cigar shape, hence the name.

Sigara böreği
Photo by ishouldcocoa

Kol böreği — Is the classic type of borek found in homes, the Yufka is rolled in long tube and placed in round borek trays and baked in the oven. The fillings are various.

Kol böreği
Photo by mymomcookbook

Gül böreği — Is arranged in spiral resembling a rose shape and filled with various fillings.

Gül böreği

Çiğ börek — Is semi circular in shape and filled with raw minced meat and fried in oil.

Çiğ börek

Laz böreği — Is a sweetened variety filled with a kind of custard type pudding known as the muhallebi.

Laz böreği
Photo by myturkishtable
  • take a selfie with kokoreç and proudly write on Instagram that this ‘caterpillar’ is sheep intestines with young lamb organs and spices. Be careful — someone may ask you for a video of how you are eating this😵.
Photo by turkeythings

Enes, the author of the turkeythings blog, tells which drinks go best with kokoreç:

The best drink with Kokoreç is “ayran” (yogurt and water mix). However, some people just go with a can of coke. Your choice.

Names like Half Kokoreç or Quarter Kokoreç define the size of the bread.

  • If you don’t like experiments, take a döner.
Photo by thextrasuitcase

Local shawarma contains only meat and fresh vegetables. You will not find ajika, ketchup, or mayonnaise in it.

Jacky, the author of the nomadepicureans blog, tells about her favorite döner spot:

The most iconic doner kebab can be found just off the Grand Bazaar, at Donerci Sahin Usta. This is hands down the best kebab I’ve ever eaten in my life (and I’ve had… a lot). It is very pricey at 26 TL a piece, but definitely worth it.

Photo by localguidesconnect

If you want a döner with minced meat instead of whole meat, ask for kavurma.

  • When you see a red cart, rush for a simit — a Turkish bagel made with yeast dough. Before serving, it is dipped into syrup and coated with sesame seeds. The price starts at 1 Lira.
Photo by gonewiththefamily
  • If you want a show, buy dondurma. Nowhere in the world, you will see such a trick for two scoops of goat milk ice cream. And you will not mind paying 5 Lira for a portion.

  • Crunch roasted chestnuts (kestane) and grilled corn (mısır). You can buy them from red carts — the same as those selling simits.
Crunch roasted chestnuts (kestane) in Istanbul
Photo by urbantravelandaccessibility

Jacky, the author of the nomadepicureans blog, recommends avoiding those carts located near tourist attractions:

The chestnuts aren’t roasted particularly well so that they may be almost raw when you get them. Better to stray a little further and pick up some farther away.

  • If you want something salty, take şalgam. This is pickled cabbage and cucumbers in boiled turnip juice.
Photo by whatsstewin
  • Wash all this down with Turkish tea (çay) and salep. Salep is made from wild orchid roots, milk, cinnamon, and ginger. At street stalls like the one in the picture, it is often diluted pre-packaged powder full of chemicals. In the Istanbul markets section, we will tell you where to buy pure salep. The price for tea starts at 2 Lira, and for salep — at 3 Lira.
Photo by tripadvisor
  • Refresh yourself with nar suyu — freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice. For vitamins, you will pay from 2 Lira.

nar suyu


If you do not want to eat on the go, head to a home-style food restaurant. Choose it based on the number of its visitors: lots of people at a restaurant mean that food there is delicious. Lokantas usually serve soups and the main course consisting of meat, rice, and eggplants.

Balik Lokantasi will offer you a fish meal, while Içkili Lokanta — some alcohol for dinner.

One of the cheapest lokantas in the city is Balkan Lokantasi. Mark Wiens, the author of the migrationology blog, describes this place:

It’s cafeteria style, and there’s no way I could tell you all the names of the dishes, but you can pretty much eat any kind of home-style Turkish food — from casseroles to stews. It’s a fantastic restaurant in Istanbul to have a feast on a budget.

Balkan Lokantasi
Photo by tripadvisor

Address: Cihannüma Mahallesi, Akmazçeşme Sokak, No 6, Beşiktaş, İstanbul;

Open hours: 10 am to 9:45 pm daily.

20 Lira will be enough for one person to dine at this lokanta.


Street eateries can look like this:

Büfe in Istanbul
Photo by istanbulclues

or this:

Büfe in Istanbul

or even this:

Büfe in Istanbul
Photo by mapio

Here, you will find döners, pitas, sandwiches, kokoreç, during the warm season — freshly-squeezed juice, and in winter — salep.

Fast food

If you are a fast food lover, these places will be a great choice:

  • The Simit Sarayi bakery chain will offer you delicious simits and other pastries at very reasonable prices.
  • For Turkish hot dogs, go to Patso 7. One hot dog will cost you 5 Lira.
  • The popular chain Sampiyon Kokorec is famous for its fabulous kokoreç.


We have not found the exact number of Istanbul markets on the Internet. There are so many of them that no one has dared to count them. Most often, bloggers and tourists write about these places:

  • Egyptian Bazaar or Spice Bazaar

From the European part of the city, you can get here by T1 tram — get off at Eminönü stop. From the Asian part, you will get to the market by ferry (to Eminönü pier).

Opening hours: from 08:00 to 19:00 (Monday-Saturday), from 09:30 to 19:00

This is the entrance to the market:

Egyptian Bazaar or Spice Bazaar
Photo by turkeytraveltalk

It is called Spice Bazaar because in the old days spices sold there were imported from Egypt. Now, it has more than spices. At this market, you can buy Turkish sweets, dried fruits, coffee, tea, nuts, fish, olives, cheese, balyk, essential oils, and that very salep powder. The last one can be easily cooked at home — there are plenty of recipes for it on the Internet.

Egyptian Bazaar or Spice Bazaar
Photo by youngadventuress
Egyptian Bazaar or Spice Bazaar
Photo by youngadventuress

TravelQueenie365, a TripAdvisor forums user, gives advice to those who are fond of cheese:

They also sell a kind of long thin cheese but it’s out in the unsheltered area. You will see it when you exit the bazaar. If you are a cheese lover, I suggest you to buy some because it is a very local Turkish cheese and it tastes very very good.

 Egyptian Bazaar or Spice Bazaar.
Photo by pirancafe
  • Kumkapi fish market

This is the largest fish market in Istanbul. If you are going from the European side: at Sirkeci station, take the Marmaray to Yenikapi station. Then, take a dolmus from there or walk along Kennedy waterfront.

Kumkapi fish market
Photo by nomadicniko

Turkishguide, a TripAdvisor forums user, recommends enjoying one of the fish restaurants in the Kumkapi market area:

Friendly atmosphere, open air restaurants side by side, musicians playing wonderful music going from one table to another. It is casual and great fun.

Be careful when coming to the market in the evening — the district is quite poor, and some alleyways around the market may be unsafe.

  • Karaköy fish market

You will find this market near the Galata Tower. Follow the signs leading from the tower to the Galata Bridge — you will not pass it by.

The Karaköy fish market restaurants also attract lots of people. Thus, Emma, the author of the emma-daydreambeliever blog, tells:

Once you’ve made it past the rows of dead fish you will reach an outdoor dining area, and if seafood is your thing you will be in heaven. Sitting along the banks of the Golden Horn looking out over Istanbul, some might say it’s the best dinner view in town!

Specialized cafes in Istanbul:

  • Işkembeci. They specialize in lamb tripe soup.

Turkish tripe soup is said to be a great hangover cure. Marc Guillet, the author of the enjoy-istanbul blog, confirms that:

I had my first Turkish tripe soup — İşkembe Çorbası — in 1983 in the Çiçek Pasaj. It was after a night out with friends and firm drinking. My Turkish friends said “you must try this soup, guaranteed no hangover tomorrow.” I did not believe it, but the soup tasted fine. And you know what? The morning after, no hangover!

Hipmofo, a TripAdvisor forums user, knows where to try delicious İşkembe:

Tarihi Cumhuriyet Iskembe Salonu is situated in the Taksim area on a bustling and narrow meat market street.  We ordered a tripe stew that was chock full of tender tripe. The broth was creamy, meaty and totally satisfying. On occasion offal, like tripe, can be extremely gamey and minerally. This stew did not have any of those off-putting elements. Mixed with garlic and a little hot sauce, we totally enjoyed this dish.

Tarihi Cumhuriyet Iskembe Salonu
Photo by tripadvisor
  • Kebapçi. Here, you will be offered kebab — roasted or grilled meat.

There are plenty of kebab types in Turkey. Antoine and Can, the authors of the tooistanbul blog, recommend trying the following ones:

Iskender Kebabi is a kind of “Doner kebab” prepared from thinly cuts of grilled lamb, basted with hot tomato sauce over pieces of pita bread and generously slathered with melted sheep butter and yogurt.

Şaşlık is thin slices of beef and onions marinated in yogurt and put on a skewer, usually cooked to perfection to give a soft texture to the meat.

Adana kebab is long hand minced grilled lamb meat, juicy and spicy.

Cop-sis is pounded boneless meat with tomatoes and garlic, marinated with black pepper, thyme and oil on wooden skewers. This dish is traditionally accompanied by rocca leaves.

Testi-kebap is a combination of meat and vegetables cooked in their own juice inside a sealed clay pot. When ready, breaking the clay pot is the only way to eat it”.

İsmet Ersoy, the author of the culinistanbul blog, tells where you can try one of the best kebabs in the city:

Kasap Osman is among the most successful restaurants of Sirkeci district continuously active and hectic. Here, the İskender Kebab is served in a pot rather than in a ceramic plate. As for the meat served, it should be noted that Kasap Osman values nothing above the quality of its meat with the years of experience. Thanks to these dedicated efforts, Kasap Osman has become, beyond dispute, one of the best döner shops of İstanbul.

  • Köfteci. Here, you can taste Turkish meatballs — köfte.

Köfte also come in lots of varieties. We have picked the most favorite ones among tourists and locals:

Içli köfte.

Stephanie and AllisonStephanie and Allison Sofia Adventures

describe this dish:

The balls are made of a bulgur crust, stuffed with meat, usually beef or lamb, and aromatic spices. Sometimes nuts may also be fixed into the stuffing. The balls are then deep-fried and served steaming hot.

Içli köfte.
Photo by turkeythings

Çiğ köfte.

JB and RenéeJB and Renée Will Fly for Food

give the description of this type of köfte:

It is traditionally a raw meat dish made with either beef or lamb and commonly served cold as a meze or in a dürüm. Cold and spicy with a distinct peppery flavor.

Çiğ köfte
Photo by turkeythings

Izmir köfte. Vidar, the author of the akitcheninistanbul blog, describes it:

The dish is as simple as it is genius: Köfte, or Turkish meatballs if you like, with potatoes, peppers and a simple tomato sauce.

Izmir köfte
Photo by akitcheninistanbul

JB & Renée Macatulad send tourists to Sultanahmet Koftecisi which is “said to serve some of the best kofte in Istanbul” and explain how to find it among its copycats:

Tarihi Sultanahmet Koftecisi Selim Usta is located just minutes from the stop so keep an eye out for it the moment you get off the tram in Sultanahmet. Be aware that a few copycats seem to have sprouted around it bearing similar names. The one you want, pictured below, has the words “Selim Usta” in the name. It’s not on the red awning, but if you look above, at the brown wooden sign, you’ll see it there.

Sultanahmet Koftecisi
Photo by willflyforfood
  • Pideci. At these cafes, you can enjoy a Turkish version of pizza — pide.

Amira Rahmat, one of the authors of the havehalalwilltravel blog, found delicious authentic pide at Hocapaşa Pidecisi:

Serving the humble yet delectable pide since 1964, this shop is not to be missed. The pide, or flatbread, is prepared right in front of your eyes, topped with your favourite fillings and meat, and then sent to the wood-burning oven.

Hocapaşa Pidecisi
Photo by facebook.com/pg/hocapasapidecisi

Pastry shops

They are also plentiful in Istanbul. We have picked a couple of places which are mentioned most often by tourists and bloggers.

Sophie, the author of the thirdeyetraveller blog, found perfect baklava at Hafiz Mustafa:

Their luxury boutiques can be found dotted around the city and they are a delight to visit! Their pastries, sweets, treats and delights are of the highest quality and can be purchased by the kg so you can get as much or as little as you like.

Hafiz Mustafa
Photo by startingwitha
Hafiz Mustafa
Photo by startingwitha

Amani, the author of the the9to5wanderer blog, also has her favorite pastry shop in Istanbul:

Mado, a Turkish pastry shop off Istiklal Caddesi in Istanbul. It’s a chain, but whatever. I. Could. Not. Get. Enough. Seriously, it was like a drug. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. If you are in Istanbul, Mado is a must. Go once, go twice, go three times, like I did. You will not be disappointed, although you may leave Istanbul with your clothes feeling a little tighter.

Pastry shops in Istanbul
Photo by the9to5wanderer

On average, a dessert and a cup of tea at Mado will cost you 15 Lira.

Coffee houses

Deniz Dönmez, the writer for the spottedbylocals blog, tells about the best coffee maker in Istanbul:

I tell you where to get the best cup of coffee: Mandabatmaz. This shop has been around on its tiny street since 1967, and Cemil Usta has been brewing his perfect cup for over 20 years. You just need to tell him how you like your coffee. Quick lesson: “Sade”, no sugar, is the way to go. Ok — maybe “az şekerli” (a little sweet) could also work. For Turkish coffee, one of the primary success indicators is the foam on top. Mandabatmaz literally means ‘a buffalo wouldn’t sink’ — so imagine.

Coffee houses in Istanbul
Photo by spottedbylocals

Mandabatmaz can be found on Istiklal Avenue. A cup of coffee costs 6 Lira.

Another iconic coffee place in Istanbul is Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi. It is not a cafe — this place is a shop of the oldest and most famous coffee producer in Turkey. So if you want to bring home some quality Turkish coffee, this spot is highly recommended (by both tourists and locals). It can be found at the back of the Spice Bazaar.

Coffee houses in Istanbul
Photo by thatswhatshehad

For 1 kg of this coffee, you will pay 35 Lira.


Ekaterina GoroshkoEkaterina Goroshko Travellers Planet Blog

tells about modern Istanbul restaurants which offer the best views of the city. We have picked a couple of the most interesting ones:

Neolokal is a new restaurant from celebrity Turkish chef Maksut Aşkar, located in an old bank building which now houses an art institute. Neolokal serves traditional local dishes in a modern way, and each dish has a story. The outdoor terrace offers views of the old City.

Restaurants in Istanbul
Photo by ootlah

The restaurant is located near the Galata Tower. A three-course meal excluding drinks costs 180 Lira on average.

Located at the top of the Marmara Pera Hotel, the Mikla roof terrace bar is slightly surreal, in the midst of jasmine scents accompanied by the chilling breeze of Galata, you feel like anything is possible in this city.

Restaurants in Istanbul
Photo by danislogbookdestinationistanbulbeyond

Mikla offers its guests a three-course a la carte menu for 185 Lira and a seven-course tasting menu for 265 Lira.

Ulgen OzgulUlgen Ozgul My Beatiful Istanbul

describes another gorgeous place which is located at the Egyptian Spice Bazaar:

Pandeli was a restaurant that not only local people, but intellectuals, artists, writers and politicians liked to go as well. This legendary restaurant also once hosted Queen Elizabeth II, the King of Spain Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia and celebrities among who are Audrey Hepburn, Robert De Niro, John Malkovich, Peter Ustinov, Roman Polanski, Sarah Jessica Parker, Daniel Day Lewis, Burt Lancester, Melina Merkuri and Sean Connery. Atatürk, founder of the Turkish Republic was a loyal patron of Pandeli and it is said that he missed the place when he was in Ankara.

Restaurants in Istanbul
Photo by mybeautifulistanbul
Restaurants in Istanbul
Photo by mybeautifulistanbul. Audrey Hepburn at Pandeli


A few last words

You have a whole Istanbul food guide. Of course, you will not be able to try everything during one visit to Istanbul. However, you will have a reason to come back to this city more than once.

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