Few cities rival the immense character of Istanbul. Over centuries, it has been the epicenter of nations and home to many ethnicities and cultures. It’s also a melting pot of people from around Turkey. Transplants from the Aegean coast or Eastern Turkey, as well as immigrants from abroad, bring their own cuisines and cultures to pockets across Istanbul, lending unique dynamics to every neighborhood. Over the course of a day, visitors may find themselves wandering around kebab shops in an Eastern influenced area, perusing stores in a posh shopping district, relaxing with a cup of coffee at a laid back European-style cafe, or picking from the area’s freshest produce at a food market.
The dining options are infinite, from fish restaurants among the villas along the Bosphorus to classic street carts to mind-blowing fine dining. Visitors can enjoy a strong cup of Turkish coffee or surprising Turkish wines, a humble simit or perfect meatballs. On weekdays, busy workers grab breakfast on the go and spend little time at lunch, but the pace slows on the weekends and in the evenings. Locals flock to leisurely weekend breakfasts and spend evenings eating, drinking, and talking at favorite meyhanes (taverns) and restaurants. Even on the busiest days, though, there’s always time for tea and coffee, both indispensable parts of food culture in Turkey.
French antiquarian Petrus Gyllius wrote of Constantinople in 1561, “It seems to me that while other cities may be mortal, this one will remain as long as there are men on earth.” Here are immortal Istanbul’s essential restaurants.
Editor’s Note: Eater is not updating international maps at this time given disruptions to global travel during the COVID-19 crisis.
Prices per person, excluding alcohol:
$ = Less than 50 lira (less than $8 USD)
$$ = 51 - 100 lira ($8 - $16 USD)
$$$ = 100 - 200 lira ($16 - $32 USD)
$$$$ = More than 200 lira (more than $32 USD)