Last Updated on March 22nd, 2020
Istanbul is one of the cities that smell like food no matter where you go. In fact, the number of aromas is so high that you constantly want to snack on something even if you are not really hungry. This is how we felt every single day during our time in this surprising city.
On our rather long stay, Mark and I had a kitchen in our rented apartment where we could cook, but we rarely used it. There was so much food around us that we dined out all the time. And where to eat in Istanbul was never a question.
I know when you come to visit, you’ll be tempted to try everything and everywhere. But my all in all travel tip for you – not to do so. There is a chance you may miss some pretty cool spots while randomly choosing where to go.
So here is the list of personally visited and tested places where to eat in Istanbul that I know you’ll love.
This post is not only about where to eat in Istanbul but where to have a really good coffee, get incredibly delicious breakfast, eat the best kebab, taste the local desserts, and admire the evening Bosphorus with a cup of real Turkish tea. So, let’s go.
Where to eat in Istanbul on the European Side?
The European side of Istanbul has all main sightseeing spots, so in many areas, the hunt for tourists is in full swing all the time. Do not pay attention to obtrusive restaurant hosts who go out of their way to make you sit down and place an order. Just pass them by and go straight to a place where you decided to eat.
Places to Eat in Sultanahmet
Tarihi Sultanahmet Koftecisi Selim Usta
Address: Alemdar Mh., Divan Yolu Cd. No:12
Koftecisi eatery is more like a fast-food restaurant where kofte is offered. Kofte is a name for lamb or beef meatballs grilled with onions and spices.
I am not sure what exactly cooks put in those meatballs but they are so good that you’ll want to swallow your plate.
There are a few Koftecisi eateries around Istanbul but I recommend visiting this particular one on Divan Yolu Street (where the high-speed tram goes.) It has been working since 1920 and some locals say that the quality of food has stayed the same over the years.
Places like this one are always crowded. In the afternoon during the rush hour you may see a line of people waiting outside at the entrance. That’s totally normal and I advise you to wait, that line goes fast. We visited a few times on a weekday after 2 pm and every time the place was half empty.
In addition to the kofte, order a salad or soup and a famous Ayran drink.
Sehzade Cag Kebap
Address: Hoca Paşa Mahallesi, Hoca Paşa Sk. No:6 D:4
In many places around Istanbul, you can find amazing Kebab. But this eatery probably has the best one. Even if you are not in the area but have a chance to come by and try their Kebab, please do, you won’t regret.
Sehzade Cag Kebap calls itself a steakhouse, but in reality, it’s just an ordinary eatery with only two kinds of kebabs for 7 TL ($ 1.3) and two kinds of salads on the menu. From outside it looks unremarkable and does not make much of an impression but the food, simple and cheap, is heavenly. It reminded us of one type of kebab that we tried on a one-day layover in Doha.
This place is very popular among locals so it always gets packed. But don’t get discouraged, those who come to eat here usually don’t stay for too long. Waiting for the table won’t take too much time.
Address: Alemdar Mh., Yerebatan Cd. No:23
The cafe is located in the famous hotel of the same name and attracts guests with its interior. Everywhere you look you get to see lots of colorful glass lamps hanging from the ceiling.
Additionally to unique Istanbul style you get great service, delicious food, and artsy feel. On the top floor of the hotel, there is a nice patio with fewer tables where you can have a bit more privacy.
No matter what you order, it’s going to be fresh and yummy, so try whatever you feel like. But for the dessert make sure to get Turkish tea and rice pudding, they taste really good when paired together.
Where to Eat in Eminonu Neighborhood
Address: Süleymaniye Mahallesi, Fetva Ykş. No:3
This cafe is located in the historical part of Istanbul. From the rooftop terrace, you can see the minarets of ancient mosques and the famous Galata Tower.
Sometimes a bit annoying seagulls can be circling over your head trying to steal a piece of bread, but they make the entire experience here so special.
Prices for food and drinks are above average but don’t forget that you are paying extra for the view and gorgeous setting. The cost of breakfast is around 35 TL ($6) but get one if you can. It is big and fulfilling. Also, order a cup of Turkish coffee which is served here on a copper tray on the velour pillow with the seal of Sultan Suleiman. It will make you feel like a royal person.
Places to Eat in Beyoğlu
Address: Şahkulu Mahallesi, Tımarcı Sk. No:3
It is somehow challenging to walk by this cafe without ordering at least a drink. Cafe Privato is famous for a cozy atmosphere, huge tangy breakfasts, and affordable prices. Besides these benefits, there is also a fantastic view of the Galata Tower if sitting outside.
Turkish style breakfasts attract visitors here. One inexpensive breakfast is so huge that it can fill two adults.
Everything you find on the menu (even desserts) represents Turkish cuisine. There are some options for vegetarians, vegans and those who are on a gluten-free diet.
Cukurcuma Antiques & Cafe
Address: Firuzağa Mahallesi, Çukur Cuma Cd. No:52A
If you love visiting the most instagrammable places on your travels then pay a visit to Cukurcuma Antiques & Cafe. Located on a quieter street not far from Taksim square and Istiklal street, this place to eat in Istanbul is idyllic for those who want to escape the crowds, step back in time and enjoy a high-quality meal.
Old vintage furniture, middle eastern style tables, and chairs and colorful antiques set a beautiful scene. Choose to sit inside or outside on a patio from where you can watch passerby.
Snack on avocado toast or pair a beautifully made cappuccino with Turkish dessert.
Everything in this cafe is for sale. So if you like a chair you are sitting on, ask the owner about the price.
Community Kitchen Vegan Restaurant
Details | Address: Şahkulu Mahallesi, Kumbaracı Ykş. No:57
It is one of the best vegan cafes in Istanbul, located on a cute street in Beyoglu district.
The menu here changes on a daily basis but vegan kebab is available at any time. You don’t need to be vegan to eat here. Food (and yes, kebab as well) are so good that you have to give it a try.
This place is cozy and has a homelike feel. Food is always fresh and tasty. Besides pasta, vegans can also have a few types of lentil soups and baklava.
The downside of Community Kitchen is their only two tables (big ones) where you sit with other people. There is no room for seclusion and privacy.
Info | Address: Kılıçali Paşa Mahallesi, Akarsu Caddesi Anahtar Sokak 13/A
Such a nice place with a pretty patio, fountain, and cats.
A decent amount of outstanding creative personalities love to come here to hang out. One day a local artist, who makes sketches in his notebook, sits at a nearby table. And then on another day, it can be a Turkish writer drumming on a laptop keyboard.
Order here a soup of the day and brownies for a dessert – they are the best.
More Info | Address: Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa Mahallesi, Fransız Gç Sokağı 1/16
Go here when you get tired of the bustling oriental life. There are so many details reminding about Europe that you will be questioning where exactly you are – in Turkey or somewhere in Central Europe.
This small cafe is hidden in the streets of the Beyoglu district but it’s very easy to find it.
The menu has a big selection of coffee. The most expensive one is a matcha latte for 22 TL ($4). A Turkish breakfast costs around 45 TL ($8) which is big enough. If you are a smoothie lover, try a smoothie bowl with granola, banana, yogurt and soy milk for 22 TL ($4).
Places to Eat in Beşiktaş
Address: Türkali Mahallesi, Şht. Asım Cd. No:52
If you know you will be visiting the Besiktas district in Istanbul, make sure you go there on an empty stomach. Once you are in the area, first of all, head out here.
A lovely Turkish family runs this cafe set on the remodeled front yard of their home. The street where it is located is very quiet, although all activities are happening a few steps away.
Rota cafe rarely gets crowded but being there always feels like sitting on the terrace of your own home. Besides the beautiful outside patio, there is also an inside room with ample seating.
Turkish style breakfast is available all day long and their homemade lemonade is simply the best. Prices are low but all food options are amazing.
Where to eat in Istanbul on the Asian Side?
A lot of people say that the Asian side of Istanbul is greener and represents the “real life” of Turkish people. Not sure about the “real part” but Mark and I agree that it definitely has some lovely neighborhoods that look so different from what you can find on another side of the Strait.
Everything you want to do here is just to walk, watch how locals live their daily life and then hide in one of the cutest cafes or coffee shops.
Come here by river tram, hop on one of the buses, head out to explore so diverse neighborhoods and don’t forget to stop for tea or Turkish food in one of the following restaurants.
Places to Eat in Kadikoy
Address: Osmanağa Mahallesi, Hasırcı Başı Cd. 31/B
For breakfast on the Asian side, visit Pattis Kitchen – a small but adorable cafe with a homely atmosphere.
Graffiti, old school record player, Daft Punk helmets on the table make it a hipster place. Delicious coffee and excellent breakfasts are the reason to visit but honestly, any time during the day is a good time to stop by.
The average check amount is 15-20 TL ($3-$4) per person.
Info | Address: Caferağa Mahallesi, Güneşli Bahçe Sk. No:43
The cafe is located on one of the busiest and most popular streets of Kadikoy neighborhood. So don’t be surprised when you see crowds of people here. Also, don’t expect an especially warm welcome with outstanding service. This is not the reason why everyone comes here.
The main highlight of this place is Ciya kebab with cheese and mint. It is worth standing in line with a crowd of tourists to be able to try it.
Academy Bookstore Cafe
Address: Caferağa Mahallesi, Sakız Sk. 12/A
In the heart of a hipster Kadikoy neighborhood, this cafe is an excellent choice for those who would love to sit with a book or laptop while sipping on Salep or Turkish coffee.
If you need to study or do some laptop work, welcome to Academy Bookstore cafe, a perfect spot for that.
We stumbled upon this place trying to escape heavy rain and got very pleased with the service, vibe, and food. Prices are reasonable, their burgers, as for the book cafe, are surprisingly good and overall it is a wonderful place where to eat, rest, run meetups or work.
180 Coffee Bakery
Info | Address: Caferağa Mahallesi, Dr. Esat Işık Cd. Erdal Apt. 36/a
Definitely worth crossing the Bosphorus just for this coffee shop alone. Breakfasts together with sandwiches leave you to crave for more. Also, it’s not clear what type of secret ingredient cooks added to the baked goodies, but all of them are divinely delicious.
There are two types of served coffee here: Ethiopian and a blend of 100% Arabica. If you always wanted to try Salep, a Turkish drink made from mountain orchids, then do it in 180 Coffee Bakery cafe.
Places to Eat in Uskudar
Address: Sultantepe Mahallesi, Selmani Pak Cd No:9
This family-owned restaurant offers traditional dishes of Ottoman cuisine. The secrets of how to cook food are passed from one generation to another, so you can be confident that the taste is truly authentic.
Among the impressive variety of dishes on the menu, go for the pilaf. Its taste will make you doubt if any other pilaf you tried was a pilaf at all. Also, try fresh meze and sautéed lamb dish called kavurma.
Until this day you can find here various types of meat, side dishes, and traditional Turkish sweets. There are lots of delicious options to choose from!
Are you visiting Istanbul for the first time? If yes, I have an airport transfer guide with details on how to get to/from two major airports. Also, here is a post on the best sightseeing ideas in Istanbul no matter when you visit.
Did you find this article helpful? Please, share on Pinterest! I included only those places where to eat in Istanbul that I personally visited and evaluated. If you make a trip to at least one of them, share details about your experience!
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