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Where to eat in Istanbul: 10 best local restaurants to visit

Looking to experience unique cuisine set against the backdrop of a beautiful, historic city? Whether you want to feast on a traditional meal of mezes or meaty kebabs, Turkey's Istanbul will delight even the most gourmet foodie, plus many of the restaurants are also Halal. With so many options on offer, Skycanner has created a palatable guide to help you find the best of the city's food scene.

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Istanbul’s Food Scene

Istanbul is a city rich with a mix of cultures – a result of its one-of-a-kind status as being the only city in the world to span across two continents; Europe and Asia. With the influences of its past empires soaking through the corners of the city, the most recent being the Ottoman rule, as well as being a well trodden path for traders travelling East and West, Istanbul is without a doubt, a melting pot of diverse culture, which can be seen most obviously through its food.

The best food in Istanbul is often the most simple. Street food sellers line the pavements with their offerings, some of the more well known types being:

Meze Well known around European countries, Meze is a mix of cold starters, or appetisers that you would eat before your meal. Dishes can include grilled eggplant, mint yogurt dip and artichoke.

Simit What might first appear to look like a bagel, Simit is a circular bread sprinkled with sesame seeds, and can be found on almost any street corner of Istanbul. A great choice for a breakfast on the go, washed down with some Turkish tea (or coffee!).

Menemen A must try is Menemen – a Turkish scrambled egg dish. Thrown together with tomatoes, onions, peppers as well as herbs and pepper. Another great breakfast choice.

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Top 10 Restaurants in Istanbul

1. Halil Lahmacun – Best place to sample an authentic local dish

An Instanbul favourite, Lahmcan is a sort of pizza, but with more of Middle Eastern tones. Your "pizza" base comes with a meat spread, vegetables and herbs. To taste the best of the bunch, head to Halil Lahmacun which you’ll find in the Asian side of the city, Kadıköy district. This place has become popular and for a good reason too. Although small, Halil’s Dörtok’s establishment churns out oven-fired creations to a heavy lunchtime crowd. A must try and very affordable!

Mains start from RM7 (5TRY)

Address: Güneşlibahçe Sokak 26, Kadıköy

Opening Hours: 11.30am – 9pm

How to get here: Take a boat to Kadıköy on the Asian side

2. Bambi Cafe – For a quick and affordable bite

If you’re looking for a cheap and cheerful local meal, then Bambi Cafe is your place. With numerous branches around the city of Istanbul, this is a turn up and tuck in sort of joint, with affordable (comfort food) snacks. This is where the locals go for kasarli doners and chicken kebabs, often late in the evening. Some branches are even open 24 hours a day. The shop in Taksim has been opened since 1974, so it must be doing something right!

Mains start from RM7 (5TRY)

Address: Sıraselviler Caddesi No.2/J Taksim

Opening Hours: 7am – 5am

How to get here: Head to Taksim Square


3. Çiya Sofrası – an Istanbul’s insider’s secret

Known as being arguably one of the best restaurants in Istanbul, Çiya Sofrası is no longer a local secret due to it’s rave reviews. Located on the Asian side of the city, this buffet style eatery serves dishes inspired from allover Turkey, in a relaxed and low key, home-style atmosphere.

Mains start from RM21-28 (15-20 TRY)

Address: Güneşlibahçe Sokak 43, Kadıköy

Opening Hours: 12pm – 10pm

How to get here: Take a boat to Kadıköy on the Asian side


4. Giritli Restaurant – Best for a casual date with your loved one

Located in the Sultanahmet neighbourhood of Istanbul, Giritli is a romantic restaurant housed in a European style, wood clad building with a wonderful garden adorned with fairy lights. The owner, Ayşe Şensılay is of Crete descent, and this is shown through the food which focuses on fish. Order the grilled calamari and seafood salad for a choice you won’t regret.

Mains start from RM21-28 (15-20 TRY)

Address: Cankurtaran Mahallesi, Keresteci Hakkı Sk. 8

Opening Hours: 12pm – 12am

How to get here: Find Giritli a couple of roads away from Sultan Ahmet Camii


5. Deraliye Ottoman Palace Cuisine – Best for when you’re sightseeing

With its superb location a stones throw away from Hagio Sophio in old Istanbul, Deraliye Ottoman Palace Cuisine is surely a restaurant to add to your list while you are seeing the sites. The aim of Deraliye is to bring you back to the Ottoman days, by letting you sample the historical flavours of Istanbul. For starters, sample stuffed calamari, babbaganush or baked oysters and then move onto goose kebab, lamb shank and stuffed vine for main. Have an unforgettable meal!

Mains start from RM25 (18 TRY)

Address: Divanyolu Cad, Alemdar Mah, Ticarethane Sk, No:10 Sultanahmet

Opening Hours: 11am – 2am

How to get here: Right by Hagia Sophia


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6. Harem Istanbul Cafe & Restaurant – Best for families that love good food

With it’s central location in the heart of Sultanahmet, Harem is a great choice if you are visiting the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia with the family. Being child friendly, the restaurant caters lovely children’s meals and high chairs for toddlers. With its roots in Turkish and Ottoman cuisine, the food stands out with all dishes made from scratch, using only the best local ingredients. Top picks are the lamb chops, meatballs, grilled sea bass, and vegetarian casserole.

Mains start from RM35 (25TRY)

Address: Alemdar Mah Biçkiyurdu Sok No 6

Opening Hours: 11:00 am – 12:00 am

How to get here: By Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque


7. Tapasuma – For a mid-priced restaurant with stunning views

An experienced not to be missed in Istanbul is dining alongside the glorious Bosphorus strait. Positioned on the Çengelköy shore on the Asian side of the city, Tapasuma is a contemporary restaurant housed in a restored nineteenth century distillery. Cold and hot tapas dishes are on offer, such as zucchini blossoms stuffed with seafood or warm hummus, and for mains you must try their seven herbs oven baked chicken or beef tenderloin. Come for a leisurely lunch or to enjoy the amazing Istanbul sunset.

Mains start from RM63 (45TRY)

Address: Kuleli Caddesi 43, Çengelköy

Opening Hours: 12pm – 12am

How to get here: Take a boat to Çengelköy on the Asian side


8. Ulus 29 Restaurant – For a contemporary, luxurious evening dining experience

For the most beautiful view of the Bosphorus, in an elegant and smart setting, book a table at Ulus 29 Restaurant. As well as the magnificent views, the service is top notch and the food is divine – serving both traditional Turkish flavours as well as international favourites. Start with artichoke truffled soup and perhaps even some sushi. One of their signature dishes is the crispy börek pastry filled with duck in pomegranate sauce, and they also do a great lahmacun. Ask for a table with the best view!

Mains start from RM140 (100TRY)

Address: Kuruçeşme Mahallesi, 34345 Beşiktaş

Opening Hours: 6pm – 2am

How to get here: Located in Ulus park, in the north of the city


9. Sunset Grill & Bar – Best for Bosphorus and bridge views

Regarded by many visitors to Istanbul as being THE place to visit, Sunset Grill & Bar has built up a reputation for fine dining matched with spectacular views. Situated on a hilltop in the upscale Ulus park, guests can enjoy views of the Bosphorus strait and Bosphorus Bridge. Dishes are seasonal, with international cuisine on offer as well as Japanese and Turkish dishes. The seafood menu is fabulous – try the grilled wild sea bass with miso sauce or Norwegian salmon with mushroom risotto.

Mains start from RM140 (100TRY)

Address: Kuruçeşme Mah. Yol Sok. No:2 Ulus Park, Ulus, Beşiktaş

Opening Hours: 12pm – 3am

How to get here: Located in Ulus park, in the north of the city


10. Tugra Restaurant – Best for experiencing life as a sultan in a palace

Have you ever dreamt of having dinner in a palace? Well, your wish may finally come true when you choose to dine at Tugra Restaurant, in the Ciragan Palace Kempinski hotel. This beautiful building was once the residence of the last Ottoman Sultans, and is filled with heavy marble and dazzling chandeliers. Guests are spoilt with a divine view of the Bosphorus, as well as a dazzling menu. Go for the grilled Bosphorus blue fish wrapped in vine leaves, chicken topkapi with oriental rice and pistachios, and homemade baklava with clotted cream for dessert.

Mains start from RM140 (100TRY)

Address: Ciragan Palace Kempinski, Ciraĝan Caddesi 32, Besiktas

Opening Hours: 7pm – 12am

How to get here: Inside the Ciragan Palace


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Published in April 2017. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.