When you’re surrounded by so much delicious Turkish food, it can be overwhelming deciding where to go in Istanbul for a meal. If you’ve travelled to the city of bazaars, palaces and culture, we want to make sure you experience the best restaurants in Istanbul where you’ll be dining on authentic Turkish cuisine.
Covering breakfast, lunch and dinner we’ve put together a list of the places to eat during your visit to Turkey, and our top picks for must-try dishes.
If you want a Turkish breakfast…
Kahvalti (breakfast) is a big deal in Istanbul. With many Turkish people starting their day with a traditional Turkish tea followed by an array of cheeses, olives, eggs and flaky pastry before washing it all down with a sweet coffee…grabbing a bowl of cereal or popping some bread in the toaster just won’t cut it when you’re in Turkey! Begin your day at one of these Turkish cafés:
Van Kahvalti Evi
Famous for its breakfast this café attracts hungry crowds looking to feast on a full breakfast spread of Turkish classics. Order the bread plate to start, it arrives with a selection of jams, cheeses and olives. Follow this dish up with Yumurtalar Sucuklu, a traditional bowl of eggs and sausage, then order some more cheese for the table to share. It’s a breakfast experience like no other.
Red Tour Route, Stop: Port
Hidden in the Bebek hills, it’s well worth a visit to this outdoor themed breakfast venue. Those that choose to eat here do so for the atmosphere in Backyard’s beautiful garden and the extensive range of food on offer. Perfect for families, the menu is a mix of classic brunch dishes such as Eggs Benedict, Backyard Pancakes and French Toast, as well as the more traditional Turkish plates; Menemen, Sucuk and Çılbır with Pastrami.
If you want Turkish pizza…
You may be thinking ‘what’s the big deal about Turkish pizza, surely I can get pizza anywhere?’ Well, Lahmacun (or Pide) is a Turkish flat bread layered with a sauce of fresh tomatoes, peppers and lamb mince – yum, right? Don’t be put off by the lack of cheese either, they’re so addictive you’ll be ordering this must-try dish whenever you find it on the menu.
Ortaklar Kebap Lahmacun
Looks can be deceiving, although it looks small from the outside this restaurant is actually spread over 4 floors. And with many customers returning for a meal every day it’s no wonder why. With Lahmacun so good you’ll order a stack of them. They also do some of the best doner, lentil soup and kebab in Istanbul. As inexpensive as it is tasty, we won’t be surprised if you eat here more than once.
Red & Blue Tour Route, Stop: Sultanahmet Square
Situated in the heart of Istanbul, diners can tuck into some of the yummiest Turkish cuisine in the lively neighbourhood of Sultanahmet. Cooked fresh on their wood-fired oven, this place is known for serving some of the best Pide in the city. Cheap and cheerful, Café Rumist is a must for travellers that like their pizza topped with cheese. Pair yours with an Ottoman Juice.
Red & Blue Tour Route, Stop: Sultanahmet Square
If you want traditional Turkish food…
Kebabs, kebabs and more kebabs. You may be surprised to learn there are countless ways to cook a piece of meat, thankfully the best place to try them all is in Istanbul. Pick your favourite grilled dish from the restaurants below:
Old Istanbul Cuisine
If you want an authentic Turkish experience in very pretty surroundings, look no further than Old Istanbul Cuisine. Eating here feels like you’ve stumbled into a scene from Aladdin. To experience the best in Turkish cuisine, order the Assorted Meze Platter to start and the Pottery Kebab for your main.
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Red & Blue Tour Route, Stop: Galata Bridge
Spend the day exploring the exciting neighbourhood of Sultanahment, take a picture of the Blue Mosque and then eat like the locals do at this family-owned restaurant. Perfect for large groups and families, we recommend ordering a range of dishes from the menu and sharing them between yourselves. Our favourites include the hummus, lamb, clay pot and testi kebab. Save room for dessert, all diners get a plate of delicious Baklava on the house!
Red & Blue Tour Route, Stop: Sultanahmet SquareIf you want Turkish street food…
Whether you’re travelling on a budget or simply prefer to grab some food on-the-go, we know the best places to grab a quick bite for a super reasonable price. Check out our recommended Istanbul eats:
If a filling wrap is what you’re after, head straight to this fast-food restaurant for a Dürüm. Made from either lavash or yufka flatbread, this sandwich is filled with all the regular ingredients found in a kebab. Hop off at Taksim Square and pick one up whilst you explore the area.
Red Tour Route, Stop: Taksim Square
Istanbul is full of surprises, and an entire road full of places selling jacket potatoes is just one of them! Those who want something filling and hearty as they explore Bosphorus, should head straight to the popular neighbourhood of Ortakoy where they’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to ordering a Kumpir. The topping combinations are endless, but we recommend choosing a traditional Turkish cheese for yours.
If you want Turkish desserts…
Hafiz Mustafa 1864
A dessert lover’s dream come true, Hafiz Mustafa is a must for anyone that wants to try an array of delicious sweet treats. Serving some of the best Turkish coffee in Istanbul, you’ll be able to smell the inviting aroma of the beans before you spot the restaurant. Order a huge pot as we’re certain you’ll want more than one cup as you feast on fresh Baklava, Chocolate Kanafeh or something from their fridge full of puddings.
The competition for the restaurant with the best Baklava in Istanbul is fierce but we’d be doing you a disservice if we didn’t recommend Karakoy. Preparing their pastries in-store every single day there’s always something delectable to try. Known for having a queue no matter what time of the day you go, this place attracts visitors from all over the world. Don’t miss out on some of the most delicious Baklava you’ll ever have.
Red Tour Route, Stop: Tophane
Truth is, when it comes to Turkish food there are more mixed grills, meze and baklava that will melt in your mouth in Istanbul than you’ll know what to do with. Eat your way around the city by day using our guide and then take a look at our Istanbul Nightlife recommendations.