Sultanahmet is where the most famous historical monuments of Istanbul are located. There are wonderful restaurants in Sultanahmet, which preserves the traditional food culture of Istanbul.
After visiting the Topkapi Palace in Sultanahmet, you have the chance to experience the Ottoman palace cuisine. The first two restaurants on the list offer options from the rich menu of Ottoman palace cuisine.
However, what Sultanahmet offers to its visitors is of course not limited to this. You can also taste delicious dishes such as meatballs, doner kebab and shish kebab, which are the famous flavors of Turkish cuisine around Sultanahmet.
Best Restaurants in Sultanahmet Old City
In the article on the best restaurants of Sultanahmet, there are luxurious places where you can have a nice dinner, as well as street restaurants where you can take a delicious meal break. Of course, when we say Sultanahmet, we include not only the restaurants around Hagia Sophia, but also the restaurants close to the Spice Bazaar and Grand Bazaar.
In addition, you will see the meatball and doner kebab restaurants preferred by Istanbulites in daily life in the following lines. Restaurants in this category include the districts of Istanbul Old City, such as Sirkeci, Eminonu and Beyazit, which are within 5-10 minutes’ walking distance from Sultanahmet.
1. Deraliye Restaurant
Deraliye Restaurant is a 35 years old establishment at Sultanahmet and it serves customers traditional Ottoman cuisines. Original recipes from the countries that influenced Ottoman kitchen are followed at Deraliye Restaurant. Therefore, you can find dishes from Central Asia, Iran, Anatolia, and the Balkans at this restaurant.
Traditional palace delicacies that were served to the Sultan, Valide Sultan (mother of the Sultan), and their guests would be prepared meticulously. And Deraliye Restaurant, as one of the few Ottoman restaurants in Istanbul, promises you a time travel to the Ottoman era kitchen.
At Deraliye, you can find stuffed grape leaves with cherries, stuffed cabbage with chestnuts and stuffed sudak fish from Mehmed the Conqueror era. As it’s one of the popular restaurants among both local and foreign visitors alike, Deraliye Restaurant finds a place in the list of best restaurants in Sultanahmet.
2. Matbah Restaurant
Matbah Restaurant is an expert on Ottoman kitchen, but it’s equally popular for its Turkish dishes. And the menu names at Matbah Restaurant have special ones such us Dersaadet or Istinbolin. (the old names of Istanbul)
In these menus, special examples of Ottoman kitchen, such as almond soup, lamb neck stew with plums, imam bayildi (eggplant stuffed with onion, garlic, and tomatoes), balli gemici boregi (pastry with cheese and honey), nirbac (lamb’s quarter and lamb meatballs with carrot stew), hibes (appetizer made of tahini, lemons, cumin, garlic, salt, and pepper powder) can be found.
Additionally, special dishes made with beef, chicken, and fish are also included in the menu of Matbah Restaurant. In the a la carte menu, you can try cold and appetizing starters like baba ghanoush and stuffed calamari with shrimps.
Apart from traditional Ottoman cuisines, there are dessert options you can crown your meal with. Almond halva, rice pudding with gum, and baklava are the dessert options at Matbah Restaurant.
In Matbah’s summer and winter garden, you can have group meals. Moreover, you can listen to classical Turkish music played with oud while you dine on Friday and Saturdays.
Matbah Restaurant is one of the best restaurants in Sultanahmet in many international guide books. You can find Matbah at Caferiye Street, right next to Hagia Sophia.
3. Hamdi Restaurant
Hamdi Restaurant is located next to Spice Bazaar. The establishment of the restaurant is based on a success story. Hamdi Arpaci, who started his career as a food vendor in Eminonu, the busiest area of the Old City, opened a restaurant 7 years later. When this was not enough, Hamdi Restaurant moved to the 3-storey building it operates today.
The Deraliye and Matbah restaurants, which I introduced in the first lines, are located in the very center of Sultanahmet. However, you have to walk towards the sea (Near Galata Bridge) to reach the Hamdi Restaurant.
Hamdi is an ideal place for an afternoon lunch break after visiting historical monuments in Sultanahmet. Hamdi Restaurant is located right next to the Spice Bazaar, so you can go before or after a visit to the Spice Bazaar.
You can choose Hamdi for doner kebab, iskender kebab or lahmacun which are the most special tastes of Istanbul. I should also mention that the restaurant has a wonderful view of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus.
4. Sultanahmet Koftecisi (Selim Usta)
Sultanahmet Koftecisi is a place identified with the neighborhood in the minds of locals. This almost a hundred year of establishment was founded by Mr. Mehmet Seracettin in 1926 and its first name was ‘Turan Kebapcisi’ when it was first opened on Divanyolu Street at Sultanahmet.
Meatball mixture is made of fine ground beef, a little bread crumbs, salt, and onion at this restaurant. And this special meatball has already so many fans and regulars. The meatballs served at this shop are accompanied by classical and delicious haricot bean salad and pilaf. Apart from meatballs, lamb on skewers is in the menu too.
Istanbulites who come to see the historical monuments in Sultanahmet do not return home without eating meatballs in this place. Because of the popularity of Sultanahmet Koftecisi, three restaurants with the same name are located side by side. If you want to go to the restaurant I have recommended, please make sure you see the “Selim Usta” sign.
5. Namli Rumeli Koftecisi
Namli Rumeli Koftecisi was opened in 1982 at Hocapasa in Sirkeci. If you wish to start your meal with soup, you can go for either lentil soup or yogurt soup. Also, home-made ayran (yogurt drink) at Namli Rumeli Koftecisi is really delicious and definitely worth trying.
This shop is famous for its meatballs, but you can opt to have chicken skewers or lamb skewers too. Moreover, haricot bean salad and classical salad at Namli Rumeli Koftecisi are equally tasty. And after your meal, you can have semolina halva as dessert.
6. Can Oba Restaurant
Can Oba Restaurant is an alcohol-free restaurant, located at Hocapasha Street and it’s a must-visit place if you are a seafood lover. It’s a small restaurant with only five tables, but it’s getting more and more popular.
Fish soup is made in an unconventional way here. Fish soup is made with seafood like calamari or sand mussel instead of fish. Additionally, in its menu, you can find such seafood choices as salmon salad, risotto with squid, clam on spinach bed, as well as kebab options.
The chef of the restaurant is Can Oba, who worked in Michelin star restaurants before. The dishes in the menu vary on daily basis and Can Oba Restaurant is regarded as one of the best restaurants in Istanbul by many gourmets and therefore, it finds itself a place in our list of the best restaurants in Sultanahmet.
Hodjapasha Cultural Center, which offers the best Dervish Show, is located on a street branching from Hocapasa Street. Before or after the show, you can have a dinner break at Can Oba, the best restaurant in Sirkeci (Istanbul Old City).
7. Seyhmus Kebap Salonu
Seyhmus Kebap Salonu is on Medrese Street at Cemberlitas, which is only 5 minutes walk from Sultanahmet. This place is a real deal if you want to have some good quality kebab such as Mardin kebab or Seyhmus’ special kebab options.
Kebab at Seyhmus Kebap Salonu is made of beef that is turned into ground beef with a knife instead of ground beef machine and your kebab is served with spicy ezme, bulgur pilaf, grilled tomatoes, grilled peppers, and onion with sumac.
This shabby looking restaurant is the place where you can eat any of the kebabs in its menu and you won’t regret doing so. Also, you can have tel kadayif (shredded phyllo) after your meal at Seyhmus Kebap Salonu.
8. Boris’in Yeri
Boris’in Yeri is nearby Kor Agop, one of the oldest taverns at Kumkapi and this place was opened in 1936. The founder and the former owner Mr. Boris passed away in 1996, but its food quality is still maintained.
The place is open from 06:30 to 22:30 every day and you can have breakfast here at any time of the day. You can have your egg in any way you like and kaymak (creamy dairy product made of cow milk) is produced in the shop. As its white cheese is really good too, taverns in the area buy cheese from Boris’in Yeri.
In its menu, important items of Turkish breakfast such as kavurma (fried or sautéed meat), sucuk (Turkish sausage), and salami as well as delicious sweet options like tahini, pekmez (condensed fruit syrup), and halva are worth trying.
This place is famous for its dairy products. Therefore, milky desserts like tavuk gogsu (Turkish milk pudding made with shredded chicken) and ekmek kadayifi (bread pudding) are highly recommended.
9. Guvenc Konyali
Guvenc Konyali has four branches in Istanbul. It includes a classical Konya delicacy, gumbo soup and other local food like etli ekmek (a pizza-like food) and tandir (roasted lamb). They are so good that they are as delicious as the ones in Konya. The most famous branch of Guven Konyali is the one at Sirkeci.
Konya is a city located in the very center of Turkey. Konya, the homeland of the world-famous philosopher and poet Rumi, is also one of the important cities representing Turkish cuisine. Guvenc Konyali, as its name suggests, comes from this city with a deep-rooted history.
10. Balikci Sabahattin
Balikci Sabahattin seafood restaurant is an old family business. As the fame of the restaurant spread, the restaurant moved to an old building constructed in 1927 after it was renovated by Armada Hotel at Cankurtaran.
Balikci Sabahattin knows both the sea and the seafood very well and in its special menu, you can have mussel pilaf, crunchy fried zucchini, and roasted anglerfish.
Balikci Sabahattin is known not only as the best fish restaurant of Sultanahmet but also in the Old City of Istanbul. Lonely Planet also recommends this seafood restaurant. Sabahattin is only a few minutes walk from the Four Seasons, the most popular 5-star hotel in Sultanahmet.
11. Donerci Sahin Usta
Donerci Sahin Usta is located at Beyazit and you can come across a long queue in front of the shop, especially at lunchtime. The shop was opened in 1979 and it is nearby Grand Bazaar too. Therefore, if you happen to be nearby the shop, you should definitely try Donerci Sahin Usta.
Donerci Sahin Usta has been in service for 40 years and its regulars never neglect to have doner there as it’s so good. Many people try to find this small restaurant with a map around the Grand Bazaar, as it is recommended in many international travel guides.
Sahin Usta (Chef Sahin) claims that he is the inventor of doner in pita in Turkey. After working in various shops before, he opened his small shop at Beyazit. Although he lost his life in 2010, the taste of doner in his shop is still marvelous.
Best Restaurants in Sultanahmet by Serhat Engul