Istanbul Dining Guide 2024: What to Eat? Best Places + Advice

Being the ultimate dining capital of Turkey, Istanbul offers wide range of Turkish cuisine at the variety of well established, good and luxury Istanbul restaurants and ancient Ottoman places. Istanbul also offers wide range of world cuisine such as Mediterranean, Japanese, Italian, French, Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Portuguese and Thai food. Sea food at the Bosphorus shore fish and meze restaurants is also recommended.

Insights: What to expect?

Here are some key takeaways to keep in mind when you are on your way for your dining journey in Istanbul:

  • Culinary Diversity: Istanbul’s dining scene offers a rich blend of traditional Turkish cuisine and international flavors.
  • Must-Try Dishes: Sample iconic Turkish dishes like kebabs, mezes, baklava, and Turkish delight for an authentic taste of the city.
  • Street Food Gems: Explore the vibrant street food culture, including simit, kumpir, and balık ekmek (fish sandwich), for delicious and budget-friendly options.
  • Fine Dining Experiences: The city boasts several high-end restaurants offering gourmet experiences with stunning views.
  • Local and Seasonal Ingredients: Emphasize the use of fresh, locally sourced, and seasonal ingredients in many Istanbul eateries.
  • Vegetarian and Vegan Options: Increasing availability of vegetarian and vegan dishes, catering to diverse dietary preferences.
  • Café Culture: Enjoy the bustling café scene, perfect for sipping Turkish coffee or tea and indulging in pastries.
  • Rooftop and Waterside Dining: Take advantage of scenic dining spots along the Bosphorus or on rooftop terraces.
  • Cultural Integration: Dining in Istanbul is not just about food; it’s an immersion into Turkish culture and hospitality.
  • Expert Recommendations: Our guide pages includes curated suggestions from local food experts and insider tips for the best dining experiences.

Gastronomy and Food

The Essence of Istanbul’s Gastronomy

The rich and varied food culture of Istanbul is at the heart of its cuisine. The city is in a mixed area, so its food has flavors from all over the world, including Central Asia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and the Caucasus.

This unique mix of factors makes for a lively food scene that is both traditional and new. In Istanbul, the most common foods are:

  • Meat dishes such as ‘kebabs’, ‘köfte’ (meatballs), and ‘döner’ (rotating grilled meat)
  • Seafood from the rich waters of the Bosphorus and the Marmara Sea
  • Seasonal vegetables used in ‘meze’ (small plates) and main dishes
  • Freshly baked bread and pastries

Signature Dishes

A visit to Istanbul is incomplete without trying the classic ‘kebab’. Varieties include ‘Urfa’, ‘Adana’, and ‘Cağ’ kebab, each with a unique preparation and taste.

Istanbul’s street food scene is also a culinary adventure. ‘Simit’ (sesame bread ring), ‘balık ekmek’ (fish sandwich), ‘lahmacun’ (Turkish pizza) and ‘kokoreç’ (grilled lamb intestines) are some of the must-try dishes.

On a sweet note, the city offers an array of delicious desserts. ‘Baklava’, ‘lokma’ (fried sweet dough), and ‘künefe’ (cheese pastry soaked in syrup) are just a few examples.

Turkish Cuisine

The richness of the Turkish cuisine will let you experience and enjoy new flavors, from exquisite pastry choices to delicious meat, fish and vegetable specialties. The gastronomy of Turkey reflects a remarkable culinary synthesis that comes from its cultural heritage.

The traditional Turkish cuisine is really worth a taste. Travelers may choose from a wide range of Turkish kebabs, mezes (starters) and dishes that are mostly based on meat. Also Turkish sweets such as baklava and Turkish delight are worldwide famous.

Common ingredients in Turkish cuisine include; lamb, olive oil, chickpeas, aubergines, yogurt, cheese, rice, pastry, spinach, potatoes, bread, tomatoes, spices and herbs such as cumin, paprika, mint and thyme.

Turkish kebab

Famous Turkish mezes include; hummus (a chickpea dip), dolma (vine leaves, peppers, pumpkin or aubergines stuffed with rice and/or meat), borek (thin layers of dough stuffed with meat, cheese and vegetables) and cacik (cucumber with yogurt, dried mint and olive oil).

Famous main dishes of Turkish cuisine include; kuzu guvec (lamb casserole), olive oil-drizzled lamb kebabs, kofte (meatballs made from minced meat, parsley, bread-egg, onion and spices such as cumin, oregano, mint, garlic and pepper. Turkish cuisine ranks with the French and Chinese cuisine in Istanbul.

Street Food

The street food scene of the city is a culinary journey like no other. From the familiar comfort of döner kebabs to the intriguing flavors of kokoreç, there’s a street snack for every palate. Are you ready to embark on a mouthwatering journey through the bustling streets of Istanbul?

Dining Scene: Best Places to Dine & Wine + Restaurants

Don’t Miss: Camlica Tower – Highly Recommended

Discover Istanbul like never before from its most spectacular vantage point – Camlica Tower. This iconic tower will offer you a breathtaking 360-degree city panorama that will leave you in awe.

You are able to have great dining experience here with a range of optional delights – choose from breakfast, lunch, or dinner to complement your experience.

While the tower is situated on the Asian side of the city, uphill along Uskudar, there is also private hotel transfers in air-conditioned luxury.

Book Your Seat and Meal + Transfer

Top Istanbul Restaurants

Istanbul offers wide range of Turkish cuisine at the variety of well established, good and luxury Istanbul restaurants and ancient Ottoman places.

Our picks of the Top 15 best restaurants in Istanbul

Best Restaurants by Areas + Districts


There are many places to eat in Beyoğlu, which is known for its lively nightlife. You can find almost anything here, from traditional “meyhane” to modern Turkish places to food from around the world.


There are a lot of traditional Turkish restaurants in Sultanahmet, which is Istanbul’s historical neighborhood. Traditional Ottoman food is served here, with famous buildings like the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia in the background.


With its busy fish market and many restaurants, Besiktas is a great place for people who love seafood. There are many kinds of restaurants in this area, from fancy seafood places to small fish sandwich boats.


Kadikoy is a lively neighborhood on the Asian side of Istanbul that has a great food scene. There are many restaurants, street food stands, and shops there that sell a variety of Turkish and other foods.

See our picks of the best restaurants in Istanbul by districts;

Michelin-starred Restaurants + Recommendations

There are 5 Michelin starred Istanbul restaurants in the latest 2023 edition of the Michelin Guide! (1 restaurant with two MICHELIN Stars, 4 restaurants with a MICHELIN Star, 1 restaurant with MICHELIN Green Star, 10 Bib Gourmand restaurants, and 38 recommended restaurants) And this makes this amazing city a superb choice to experience the perfect gastronomy with its fantastic array of Michelin star dining options.

Among these, Turk Fatih Tutak draws attention with 2 Michelin Stars, Araka Restaurant, Mikla Restaurant, Neolokal and Nicole Restaurant with 1 Michelin Star. If you are after an ultimate dining experience during your Istanbul visit, we highly recommend to have a fantastic meal at these Michelin-starred restaurants in Istanbul.

See Michelin-starred Istanbul Restaurants

On the Old Town – Historical Peninsula

The Fatih district, which takes up a large part of Istanbul’s old city, is a mix of different cultures and cuisines. The food scene is just as varied and colorful as the past. To get a taste of the city’s past and present, follow this food tour through its traditional Turkish Lokantas, modern bistros, and historic restaurants with Ottoman influences.

There are many restaurants in the area, so there is something for every food lover, whether they want to try traditional Turkish street food or some of Istanbul’s best seafood meals.

In Sultanahmet, the historic center of the city, places like Matbah and Konyali Lokantasi serve food with Ottoman influences that take you back in time. Many people love the busy food markets and seafood restaurants in the Eminonu and Sirkeci neighborhoods.

You can enjoy a fresh fish burger while looking out at the Bosphorus. In the farther north, in Beyazit and Aksaray, there are a lot of kebab shops and traditional Turkish restaurants that serve traditional food.

Our picks of the best restaurants in Sultanahmet

Our picks of the best restaurants in Fatih district

On the Shore: Restaurants with Bosphorus View

The city straddles the Bosphorus and is full of beautiful places with views of both the food and the spectacular waterway. There is a wide range of food available at restaurants with views of the Bosphorus, from traditional Turkish meze and kebabs to fine foreign dishes. When paired with the peaceful view of the Bosphorus, these meals become unforgettable culinary trips.

Whether you’re looking for a quiet brunch, a romantic dinner date, or a fun night out, these places with views of the Bosphorus will make your time in Istanbul truly unforgettable.

Our picks of the best restaurants with Bosphorus View in Istanbul

Rooftop Restaurants & Bars

There’s nothing better than to enjoy your evening dine & wine in one of the best terrace or rooftop restaurant or bar, in the company of panoramic views of the city. You can both appreciate the excellent cuisine and the great views in these places. See best rooftop restaurants and bars in Istanbul.

Kebabs: Turkish Kebab Restaurants

It’s not possible to visit Istanbul without trying the famous and delicious Turkish kebab. The kebab is a classic food that perfectly captures the flavors of Turkey. It shows the country’s rich culinary history.

There are a lot of kebab shops in Istanbul, and each one has its own story to tell through its atmosphere, service, and, most importantly, the dish it serves. There’s a “kebabci” in Istanbul for everyone, whether you like your kebabs spicy and strong or mild and juicy. It will be a delicious experience you’ll remember long after you leave the city.

Our picks of the best Turkish kebab restaurants in Istanbul

Ottoman Cuisine Restaurants

Ottoman food is a mix of different types of food from different parts of the country it came from. From the strong flavors of the Mediterranean to the delicate tastes of Central Asian food, Ottoman cuisine is a very rich and varied patchwork of food.

The beautiful city of Istanbul is the only place you need to go to enjoy the best of this culinary culture. The city’s food scene pays tribute to its Ottoman past. Many restaurants are dedicated to bringing back and preserving the empire’s fancy food customs.

Our picks of the best Ottoman cuisine restaurants in Istanbul


In this traditional Turkish meal, people share a range of meze dishes before moving on to a main course, which is usually a fish that is in season.

Seafood Restaurants & Fish Dishes

Istanbul is on two continents and is surrounded by the Marmara Sea, the Bosphorus, and the Golden Horn. Istanbul’s past and way of life are deeply rooted in seafood. Because of its unique setting, Istanbul is a seafood lover’s dream because there is so much fresh fish and other seafood to choose from.

It would be a shame to visit Istanbul and not try some of its fish. With as many different kinds of seafood to choose from, the city’s seafood restaurants are culinary icons in their own right.

Our picks of the best seafood restaurants in Istanbul

Meat Restaurants & Steakhouses

The meat and steak scene in Istanbul shows how committed the city is to quality and custom, as well as its wide range of cuisines. When you visit Istanbul’s best meat and steak places, you’ll learn not only how much the people there love meat, but also how much love, skill, and pride go into making each dish. A trip through food that will please any meat lover’s taste buds.

In Istanbul, steakhouses give more than just food; they also let you interact with other people while you eat. Some restaurants let customers pick out their own cuts of meat from the butcher shop, while others have open kitchens where customers can watch chefs grill steaks to perfection. With this dramatic touch, the meal becomes more interesting.

Our picks of the best meat and steak restaurants in Istanbul

Japanese & Sushi Restaurants: Buffets, Bars

Japanese food is seasonal, beautifully presented, and focuses on using fresh products. It fits in well in Istanbul, which is known for having a lively food scene. The best of Japanese cooking practices are served at Istanbul’s Japanese restaurants, which combine the real tastes of Japan with the city’s cosmopolitan energy.

While Turkish food deserves all the attention it gets, the sophisticated tastes of Istanbul have accepted sushi with open arms. There are now many great places in the city that serve fresh, high-quality sushi that is on par with some of the best in the world.

There are all-you-can-eat buffets, cozy sushi bars, and places with Michelin stars in Istanbul, so there is something for every taste and budget.

Our picks of the best Sushi restaurants in Istanbul

Our picks of the best Japanese restaurants in Istanbul

Italian Food and Restaurants

Italian food has always been popular because it focuses on good products, keeping things simple, and a love of food. Food from Italy is more appealing than ever in Istanbul. Every Italian restaurant in the city serves a variety of meals that are true to Italian cooking. The food at each restaurant tells a different story.

Since there are more and more Italian places in Istanbul, food lovers can always get a taste of Italy. Whether you love Italian food or have never tried it before, Istanbul’s Italian food scene will take you on a memorable culinary journey.

Our picks of the best Italian restaurants in Istanbul

Turkish Tea + Breakfast & Brunch

Turkish tea is very important for locals in Turkey. A great number of the the population in Turkey admires this drink and won’t start the day without. Typical Turkish breakfast include white cheese, old cheese, black and green olives, butter, honey, jam, an omelette or boiled eggs, sliced tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.

Our picks of the best Places for Breakfast & Brunch in Istanbul

Turkish Coffee

Turkish coffee is one of the most important cultural heritages of Turkey confirmed by UNESCO. Your Istanbul visit won’t be complete if you leave the city without having a good Turkish coffee in one of the best seaside or historical cafes.

Our picks of the best Places for Turkish Coffee in Istanbul

Wine Houses

You can find great wine houses and wine bars in Istanbul where you can enjoy a wonderful night out with wine tasting and wine delight.

Our picks of the best Wine Houses in Istanbul

Istanbul for Vegans and Vegetarians

Being a vegan or vegetarian in Istanbul has become somehow easy in the last decade or so. You may have a challenge by a restricted number of choices when it comes to the Turkish cuisine. The wide range of food in Istanbul has boomed and so Istanbul has necessary options for its vegans and vegetarians. Read more on our A guide to being a Vegan/Vegetarian in Istanbul and Best Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurants pages.

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Top Selling Dining Experiences & Food Tours

For both first time visitors and the ones want to experience and enjoy the gastronomy of Istanbul, we highly recommend the below unique and tailor made culinary tours. You can feel free to book one of the below top selling Istanbul culinary and food tours.

Insider Advice: Kickstart your Istanbul adventure with Istanbul E-Pass or Istanbul Tourist Pass. These passes provide free access to top attractions with around 70% savings.

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