Istanbul food guide for beginners: do’s and don’ts

Top 7 food experience

When in Istanbul, do as the Istanbulites do with these iconic food experiences.

Without a doubt, eating a country-style Turkish breakfast will be the highlight of your day. Ranging from various types of cheese to numerous choices of jam, Turkish breakfast offers a luxurious feast to get you going.

No trip to Istanbul is complete without enjoying the ritual of Turkish coffee. It is critical that there is a perfect amount of froth and level of sweetness to not overshadow its brisk taste. After drinking, it is common practice to say a few things about the drinker’s fortune by interpreting the telve, the residual coffee grounds.

Make time for tea. Served in tulip shaped glasses, black tea is an inseparable part of Turkish culture. Whether at home or a restaurant, your meal is not complete without drinking a glass of tea. Read more about the tea culture in Turkey.


Take to the street. Look for Istanbul vendors that sell street food, such as the crunchy bagel-like snack that goes with everything, simit, the infamous grilled intestines, kokoreç, or the ultimate late-night food, midye dolma (stuffed mussels).

Spend a rakı-infused night at an ocakbaşı, a restaurant centered around an open fire pit grill that serves red meat and kebab. For those who want to participate in the classic activity of rakı, mezze, and music, dining at a meyhane ensures a memorable night with great conversation.

Waterfront dining is an unmissable experience, especially in the summer. With the long days ahead, having a meal with a Bosphorus view is almost obligatory. Visit one of the best waterfront restaurants in Istanbul.

In Istanbul, there are great rooftop bars offering multiple views of the city. Be sure not to miss Alexandra Cocktail Bar in Arnavutköy for a Bosphorus view and Monkey Istanbul for a Golden Horn vista.

Shatter the myths

Instead of tourist traps and cliches, explore Istanbul’s iconic food experiences like a local.

The real attraction of Turkish Maraş ice cream is not the infamous comedic theater, but the creamy, stretchy texture. Watching your friends and children tricked by vendors is always entertaining, but the only right way to eat it is with a knife and fork!

The summer heat in Istanbul makes the sour sweet pomegranate juice sold on the street look tempting, but the iconic ruby fruit is not in season! Enjoy this classic drink in fall and winter for the freshest taste. Likewise for roasted chestnuts, which are best enjoyed on cold winter days.

The alluring smell of a fish sandwich might catch your attention while passing the restaurants under the Galata Bridge, but don’t be convinced by the lively atmosphere and Bosphorus view. Instead, just a few minutes walk away is higher quality seafood at Karaköy Fish Market.

For locals and tourists alike, a popular item on the social media bucket list requires paying homage to the Salt Bae at one of the various Nusr-Et steakhouses. But for those looking for the true meat legend of Istanbul, visit Beyti Güler at Beyti restaurant, where a kebab is named in his honor.

Unlike its German cousin garnished lavishly with salad and sauces, meat is the main focus of dürüm in Turkey. To guarantee that juicy, savory meat is filling your dürüm, be sure not to miss Bayramoğlu Döner in Kavacık, Karadeniz Döner in Beşiktaş, and Dönerci Şahin Usta in Fatih.

Especially on İstiklal Caddesi and in Sultanahmet, it is impossible to walk through the streets without hearing the relentless call ofbuyurun! from aggressive restaurant staff begging you for a visit. Smart travelers consider this a warning sign of places to avoid. Check our recommendations on places to eat in the city.

Eating kumpir in Ortaköy is one of Istanbul’s truly “love it or hate it” activities. If you don’t find the loaded baked potato alluring, walk to Feriye for some snacks at its café or a waterfront meal at the restaurant.

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Our publication witnessed a lot of ups and downs in the last 29 years, but in 2020 we have faced truly unprecedented times.

Despite our best efforts, as of August 2020 we are pressing pause on our overall activity, thanking all of our readers, followers, and partners for their ongoing support and words of encouragement.

We will miss you, just like we miss the city’s uplifting energy that kept us motivated throughout the years.

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