Where are you going?
Or, let us surprise youSpin the Globe ®

Istanbul Dining

Nightlife in Istanbul
Istanbul Dining
Istanbul is one of the world's great food cities. Drawing on a long tradition of using flavors and culinary techniques from all over the region, Turkey has been cooking slow and eating locally long before it was fashionable elsewhere.
By Jessica Lee , AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Moritz Hoffmann/age fotostock
  • 1 / 10
    Nightlife in Istanbul
    Nightlife in Istanbul
    For a boisterous night out in Istanbul, have a meal at a meyhane, a traditional tavern, often with live music. The menu is mostly mezes (shared small plates), grilled meats, and fish, and it is said that “fish cry without raki,” a spirit mixed with water until it turns a creamy white. Nevizade Street is the most concentrated area of meyhanes—try the long-standing Imroz, and nearby 1924 Istanbul puts a Russian spin on the offerings. More of an oenophile? Solera Winery and Viktor Levi showcase some of Turkey’s best wines. The craft beer trend is growing in Turkey, and you can try brews for the people at The Populist.
    Photo by Moritz Hoffmann/age fotostock
  • 2 / 10
    Turkish Treats
    Turkish Treats
    Istanbul is both a sweet tooth's dream and your dentist's nightmare. Like grown-up versions of Willy Wonka's factory, shops throughout the city are crammed with pyramid piles of lokum (Turkish delight) and trays of nutty, sticky baklava. Look for Turkish delight at the Spice Market, and try all the varieties of baklava at Karaköy Güllüoğlu. For something cooler, experience stretchy and chewy Turkish ice cream at Mado.
    Photo by Paul Osterlund
  • 3 / 10
    Dining with a View
    Dining with a View
    In a city as atmospheric as Istanbul, the views are as essential to a special meal as good service and fresh ingredients. To see the city spread before you, start with drinks at the Grand Hotel de Londres roof terrace or 5.Kat, then book dinner at the renowned Mikla restaurant. Though you'll pay more for the views than the quality of the food, the Galata Bridge has many fish restaurants with unbeatable Old City views. On a fine summer night, the Bosphorus is the place to be, especially if you can score a seat at the House Café or Aşşk Kahve.
    Photo courtesy of House Cafe
  • 4 / 10
    Turkish Breakfast Club
    Turkish Breakfast Club
    Turkey has a long tradition of coffee drinking, beginning with the sultans in the 16th century, so it's no surprise that third-wave coffee culture has become ubiquitous in Istanbul. Karabatak was one of the first cafés to open in Karaköy, combining retro-modern design and proper espresso drinks, while Brew Coffeeworks follows a similar formula in Eminönü. As famed as Turkish coffee may be, it is çay (tea) that is more commonly consumed throughout the day in Istanbul, starting with several tulip-shaped glasses of the brew at breakfast. For the morning meal, expect a generous spread of fresh vegetables, cheese, and jams, plus menemen egg dishes and creamy kaymak and honey. Van Kahvaltı Evi sets the gold standard for breakfast, while the House Café and Aşşk Kahve serve eggs with a Bosphorus view.
    Photo by age fotostock
  • 5 / 10
    <em>Lokanta</em> Homemade Cooking
    Lokanta Homemade Cooking
    Traditionally, a lokanta is a lunchtime workingman's restaurant serving simple, made-from-scratch food. The menu might change daily according to seasonal ingredients, and you can avoid a language barrier by simply pointing to what you want. Mücver and Gram are modern cafés with expert chefs serving unassuming dishes like dolma (stuffed vegetables) and mercimek çorbası (lentil soup), while Namlı Gurme also serves deli items such as smoked meats and cured olives for takeaway. If you'd prefer a white-tablecloth environment to enjoy traditional dishes with a glass of wine, try Delicatessen and Kantin.
    Photo by Paul Osterlund
  • 6 / 10
    Anatolian Flavors
    Anatolian Flavors
    Turkey's heartland is Anatolia—its vast Asian territory—and migrants have brought the rich culinary traditions of the region to Istanbul's restaurant scene. Take a ferry to the Asian side and sample the spices of southeast Anatolia at Çiya in Kadıköy. In Beyoğlu, Mikla restaurant is known for its "new Anatolian kitchen," turning out ancient recipes with a modern twist. For more of what Turkey's farthest corners have to offer, explore the Fatih district, filled with delis that sell spices and cheese from the east. This is also a top place to discover the succulent, slow-cooked specialties of buryan (pit-baked lamb) and perde pilavı (pastry stuffed with spiced pilaf), which originated in the Siirt province near the southeast border.
    Photo by Julia Cosgrove
  • 7 / 10
    Street Eats
    Street Eats
    Istanbul is a city made for street snacking. Everywhere you look, you'll see vendors selling freshly baked simit (sesame bread rings, like bagels) from carts and stalls hawking doner kebaps and kumpir (stuffed baked potatoes). A grilled fish sandwich is the perfect accompaniment while walking over the Galata Bridge. Adventurous eaters might try raw mussels stuffed with rice, fried meat-and-bulgur içli köfte, or a kokoreç sandwich (that is, one with sheep intestines, but maybe better you don't know what's in it). Culinary Backstreets leads tours of street food if you'd like professional guidance.


    Photo by Riccardo Sala/age fotostock
  • 8 / 10
    King of the Kebabs
    King of the Kebabs
    Turkey is the home of the kebap, or kebab, and grilled meat in a dizzying array of choices continues to dominate Istanbul's culinary scene. Popular menu items include fistikli kebap (minced, pistachio-encrusted lamb meat), patlican kebap (skewers of meat with chunks of smoky eggplant), and Adana kebap (slightly spicy minced meat served with onions and parsley). For the ultimate indulgence, order an Iskender kebap slathered with tomato sauce and butter at Bursa Garaj. On the Asian side, Çiya serves a variety of classic kebabs from all around Turkey as well as Syria, Georgia, and Iran. Should you need fuel for haggling at the Grand Bazaar, take a lunch break at Gaziantep Burç Kebap. If you'd like higher education in grilled meat, there's no better teacher than a tour with Culinary Backstreets.
    Photo courtesy of age fotostock
  • 9 / 10
    Foodie Tours
    Foodie Tours
    Dig into Istanbul's culinary roots and you'll find a mix of Iranian, Armenian, Arabic, Mediterranean, and Anatolian influences. This fusion of flavors from ethnic communities, migrants from the countryside, and traders and travelers throughout Turkey's history has made Istanbul a foodie epicenter. If you're serious about eating, there's no better way to discover Istanbul than through a food-focused tour. Culinary Backstreets explores the markets, street carts, and back-alley favorites of locals on food walks and cooking classes where few tourists have gone before.
    Photo by Teddy Wolff
  • 10 / 10
    Savory Pastries
    Savory Pastries
    Even in a city with Turkish delight and baklava on every corner, savory pastries are also readily available and delicious fast-food options. Traditional bakeries serve hearty parcels of borek that make a filling lunch or midmorning snack, sold by weight from hole-in-the-wall börekçisi. Cheese, spinach, potato, or meat is layered on flaky yufka (phyllo) pastry to make this hearty and filling Turkish pie. Look for su böreği (water borek); the dough for this specialty is boiled in water, stuffed with a filling, and then baked in the oven. Pide is the Turkish answer to pizza, baked in a traditional wood-fired oven; generally oblong, it has a raised dough edge that surrounds a filling. Cheese, pastirmi (cured beef), tomatoes, peppers, and ground beef are typical toppings. Also look for lahmacun, a pizza with a paper-thin dough base smeared with a spicy meat paste.
    Photo by Stephanie Chen