Istanbul Restaurants and Dining

(Istanbul, Marmara, Turkey)

Picture of al fresco summer diningIstanbul's dining scene reflects the culture's passion for good food and dining out. In the past, visitors to Istanbul were greeted almost exclusively with local cuisine, though in recent years, many upscale restaurants have been branching out and developing menus that showcase their chefs' abilities to blend international flavours with local Turkish standards. The result is a more diverse selection and in some cases, a novel fusion of east and west.

Locals dress well when dining out and in some cases visitors may be surprised to find smartly dressed patrons in even the humblest environs. Many restaurants and eateries in Istanbul now cater to the business crowd and open for lunch. Otherwise, dinner is usually served from 18:00 until late. The Turkish dining scene often doesn't start until relatively late.

Summer photo of cafe tables

What to Eat

Istanbul has fostered a truly eclectic culture of food. Skewered lamb kebabs are the town's ubiquitous mainstay, served in pita pockets alongside a garden salad.

A more elaborate local meal begins with mezes (reminiscent of Spanish tapas) before moving on to main courses showcasing fresh, local seafood. Despite the city's tenor of Islam, alcoholic beverages are still readily available. The anise-flavoured raki liqueur is the ideal complement to an authentic dinner in Istanbul.

Image of waterfront tables

Where to Eat

For the finest dining experience Istanbul has to offer, head to the row of waterfront eateries situated along the Bosphorus Strait. Restaurants here provide upscale dining, much of which features the best of local cuisine (though you will also find a few international establishments) backed by outstanding views of the strait and the historic cityscape.

Aside from the upscale core of restaurants along the Bosphorus, you will also find several quaint neighbourhoods in the periphery, home to local restaurants serving seafood. The Beyoglu district is particularly well known in Istanbul for this, and its dining establishments and similar eateries are scattered across a network of small alleyways and side streets where culinary aficionados will discover a tantalising blend of fine dining and hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Excellent food is available on both sides of this divide.

Cafe photographAll of the reputable hotels operate their own restaurants and guests of these establishments may want to make a reservation for at least one dinner. While international cuisine is more common at hotels, these dining venues also serve some high-quality Turkish cuisine prepared by locally renowned chefs.

On the other hand, authentic cuisine can be found in a variety of environs. In fact, many of the city's highest-prized restaurants are quite modest, specialising in one or two dishes (often kebabs), which are served in an unpretentious atmosphere. The old quarter of Istanbul is full of these local finds, and visitors will discover that eating in these small, family owned restaurants is extremely economical.

Outdoor dining is especially popular in Istanbul during the summer months. Restaurants large and small often move their tables to outdoor terraces for some refreshing al fresco dining. In most cases, these tables are reserved ahead of time, so it pays to call in advance.