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.
Gastronomy and Food
The Essence of Istanbul’s Gastronomy
At the heart of Istanbul’s gastronomy is its diverse and colourful food culture. Influenced by its multicultural past and location, the city’s cuisine brings together elements from Central Asia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, the Balkans and the Caucasus.
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This unique blend of influences creates a vibrant culinary scene that is both traditional and innovative.
The staple foods in Istanbul include:
- 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
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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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.
Best Restaurants by Areas + Districts
Known for its vibrant nightlife, Beyoğlu also offers a wide range of dining options. From classic ‘meyhane’ and modern Turkish restaurants to international cuisine, you can find almost anything here.
Sultanahmet, Istanbul’s historical district, is home to many classic Turkish restaurants. Here you can enjoy traditional Ottoman cuisine with the backdrop of iconic landmarks like the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.
Beşiktaş, with its bustling fish market and numerous eateries, is a great place for seafood lovers. From high-end seafood restaurants to small fish sandwich boats, this district has a variety of options.
On the Asian side of Istanbul, Kadıköy is a vibrant neighbourhood with a thriving food scene. It hosts a plethora of restaurants, street food stalls, and markets offering a wide range of Turkish and international foods.
See our picks of the best restaurants in Istanbul by districts;
- Best Restaurants in Sultanahmet
- Best Restaurants in Fatih
- Best Restaurants in Taksim
- Best Restaurants in Karakoy
- Best Restaurants in Besiktas
- Best Restaurants in Sisli
- Best Restaurants in Sariyer
- Best Restaurants in Kadikoy
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.
On the Old Town – Historical Peninsula
Covering a vast portion of Istanbul’s old city, the Fatih district is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines, its food scene as varied and colorful as its history. Here, you’ll find a culinary roadmap to the city’s past and present, one that takes you through mouthwatering street food stalls, traditional Turkish Lokantas, modern bistros, and historic Ottoman-inspired eateries. The district’s wealth of eateries caters to every foodie’s whim, whether you’re yearning for a taste of classic Turkish street food or eager to sample some of Istanbul’s finest seafood dishes.
In Sultanahmet, the city’s historic core, restaurants such as Matbah and Konyali Lokantasi serve up Ottoman-inspired dishes, offering a taste of a bygone era. The neighborhoods of Eminonu and Sirkeci are famed for their bustling food markets and seafood restaurants, where one can feast on a fresh fish sandwich right by the glittering waters of the Bosphorus. Further north, in Beyazit and Aksaray, visitors will find a plethora of kebab joints and traditional Lokantas serving classic Turkish fare.
On the Shore: Restaurants with Bosphorus View
Straddling the Bosphorus, the city is dotted with stunning restaurants that offer not just delectable cuisine, but also panoramic vistas of this majestic strait. Restaurants overlooking the Bosphorus cater to a variety of culinary preferences, offering everything from traditional Turkish mezzes and kebabs to refined international cuisines. Coupled with the serene view of the Bosphorus, these meals transform into remarkable gastronomic journeys.
Whether you’re looking for a romantic dinner date, a leisurely brunch, or a lively night out, these Bosphorus view restaurants add a touch of magic to your culinary experience, making your Istanbul adventure a truly memorable one.
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
No trip to Istanbul is complete without indulging in the iconic, palate-pleasing Turkish kebab. A testament to the country’s rich culinary heritage, the kebab is a quintessential dish that beautifully encapsulates the flavors of Turkey.
Every kebab joint in Istanbul has a unique story to tell, through its ambiance, service, and, most importantly, its take on the legendary Turkish kebab. Whether you prefer your kebab spicy and robust or subtle and juicy, there’s a ‘kebabci’ waiting for you in Istanbul, promising a culinary experience that will linger in your memory long after you’ve left the city.
Ottoman Cuisine Restaurants
Ottoman cuisine is a mosaic of culinary influences, a testament to the diversity of the empire it originated from. From the robust flavors of the Mediterranean to the subtle nuances of Central Asian fare, Ottoman cuisine weaves a culinary tapestry that is both rich and diverse.
To savor the best of this culinary tradition, one need look no further than the majestic city of Istanbul. The city’s food scene is a homage to its Ottoman past, with several restaurants dedicating themselves to reviving and preserving the lavish culinary traditions of the empire.
This classic Turkish dining experience features a variety of meze dishes that are shared among diners, followed by a main course, often a seasonal fish.
Seafood Restaurants & Fish Dishes
Straddling two continents and surrounded by the Marmara Sea, the Bosphorus, and the Golden Horn, Istanbul has a seafood culture that is deeply ingrained in its history and lifestyle. The abundance of fresh fish and other seafood available due to the city’s unique location makes Istanbul a seafood lover’s paradise.
Visiting Istanbul and not indulging in its seafood would be a missed opportunity. The city’s seafood restaurants, with their offerings as varied as the city itself, are culinary landmarks in their own right.
Meat Restaurants & Steakhouses
Istanbul’s meat and steak scene is a testament to the city’s rich culinary diversity and its commitment to quality and tradition. As you explore Istanbul’s best meat and steak restaurants, you’ll discover not only the city’s love for meat but also the passion, craftsmanship, and pride that go into preparing each dish. It’s a culinary journey that’s sure to delight the taste buds of any meat lover.
Steakhouses in Istanbul offer more than just a meal – they offer an interactive dining experience. In some establishments, patrons can even choose their own cuts of meat from the restaurant’s butcher shop, while others allow diners to watch as chefs expertly grill steaks to perfection in open kitchens. This theatrical touch adds an element of excitement to the dining experience.
Japanese & Sushi Restaurants: Buffets, Bars
Japanese cuisine, characterized by its seasonality, visual presentation, and emphasis on fresh ingredients, finds a fitting home in Istanbul, a city known for its vibrant food scene. Istanbul’s Japanese restaurants showcase the best of Japanese culinary traditions, integrating the authentic tastes of Japan with Istanbul’s cosmopolitan energy.
While Turkish cuisine commands rightful attention, the cosmopolitan palate of Istanbul has welcomed sushi with open arms. Today, the city’s sushi scene is thriving, with numerous restaurants offering fresh, high-quality sushi that could rival some of the best in the world.
Whether it’s all-you-can-eat buffets, cozy sushi bars, or Michelin-starred establishments, Istanbul’s sushi restaurants cater to a variety of preferences and budgets.
Italian Food and Restaurants
Italian cuisine, with its accent on quality ingredients, simplicity, and love for food, has always held universal appeal. In Istanbul, the allure of Italian food is stronger than ever. The city’s Italian restaurants serve up a medley of dishes that echo the heart and soul of Italian cooking, and each restaurant tells a unique story through its food.
With an ever-growing number of Italian restaurants in the city, the taste of Italy is never far away for Istanbul’s food enthusiasts. Whether you’re a devoted fan of Italian cuisine or a curious first-timer, Istanbul’s Italian food scene promises an unforgettable culinary journey.
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.
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.
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.
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.