Visiting historical masterpieces like Hagia Sophia and taking a Bosphorus cruise are some of the must-do activities in Istanbul. While you explore historical places, you can also discover the best Turkish street food in Istanbul and turn your culture trip into a gourmet tour.
Istanbul boasts hundreds of dishes and rich food culture. Therefore, this amazing city offers delicious local food you definitely have to try. In this sense, I’ve listed the best street food places in Istanbul, Turkey.
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Best Street Food Places in Istanbul 2023
Sultanahmet is Istanbul’s most touristic district and includes neighborhoods such as Sirkeci and Eminonu nearby. Beyoglu is the modern side of Istanbul and includes places like Taksim Square, Istiklal Street, Galata and Karakoy.
While visiting these neighborhoods, you can easily get off the tourist routes and find restaurants where locals eat. In this article, you can find street food in Istiklal Street, the heart of Beyoglu, and in Sirkeci and Eminonu, which are local food places near Sultanahmet.
Turkish street food prices in Istanbul start from 5 liras to 10 liras. Of course, the cheapest options are sweet corn, bagel and chestnut. Baked potatoes, rice and mussels have a medium price. Turkish street food made of meat is the most expensive. While Kokorec, Kofte, and Doner are more expensive options, they are also the tastiest.
It is generally safe to consume street food in Istanbul. But if you see products made from meat very cheap, think twice. Sandwiches containing fish, meat or chicken cost no less than 60 Turkish Liras (3 US dollars).
If you take a food tour during your visit to Istanbul, you can get to know the city’s food culture and enjoy Turkish cuisine. You can reserve your place on the food tour I recommend by clicking the link here.
1. Balik Ekmek
Balik Ekmek (fish sandwich) can be found in many parts of Istanbul. However, when the locals think of fish sandwich, Eminonu is the first place that comes to mind. It is a great pleasure to eat fish sandwiches by the fish boats that stand alongside the sea in Eminonu. You can sit on the stools on the street and watch the Galata Tower while eating your fish sandwich.
There are a lot of fish sandwich shops near Galata Bridge, which connects Karakoy and Eminonu. If you want to sit in a proper place while eating, you can find a number of fish restaurants that offer tables under Galata Bridge and taste delicious mackerel. Galata Bridge is located within walking distance to Taksim and Sultanahmet, Istanbul’s most popular tourist destinations.
Alternatively, you can have Balik Ekmek by the Bosphorus at shabby but delicious restaurants. Some of the places you may want to visit are Nimet Abla Balik Ekmek and Taka Balik Ekmek, famous for its grilled anchovy, at Yenikoy (further up the Bosphorus).
2. Midye Dolma
Midye Dolma is mussels stuffed with herbed rice, currants, and pine nuts and it’s one of the most popular street food in Istanbul.
You can always find street stalls to try this delicious food, but you can alternatively find some established shops too. Especially, Mercan Kokorec and Sampiyon Kokorec are the two places that I highly recommend.
Mercan Kokorec and Sampiyon Kokorec are two famous chains, located in tourist centers. You can find these shops in Beyoglu Fish Market (near Taksim Square) or Kadikoy Fish Market (on the Asian Side).
Lastly, Tarihi Karakoy Midyecisi is another place that can satisfy you. You will definitely enjoy the stuffed mussel at this established shop which dates back to 1921. Karakoy is very close to Galata Bridge and can be reached from both Sultanahmet and Taksim.
Kokorec is a favorite choice among giblet lovers and there are two types of kokorec you can try, which are Istanbul and Izmir style.
The most famous place where you can find kokorec is Cengelkoy Kokoreccisi at Cengelkoy, a nostalgic neighborhood on the Asian Side of Istanbul. This shop has only one branch and its kokorec becomes more delicious thanks to a special thyme and pepper sauce.
Additionally, Mercan Kokorec and Sampiyon Kokorec on Istiklal Street (in Beyoglu Fish Market) are some other options you can go for in Istanbul. Most of the tourists coming to Istanbul stay around Taksim Square. Istiklal Street, which is within walking distance from Taksim Square, is a good place to experience the must-eat street food in Istanbul.
If you are on the Asian side of Istanbul, Gunes Kokorec in Uskudar or Meshur Kokorecci Adem Usta in Kadikoy are the best options. Moreover, Gala Kokorec that boasts 14 branches is another place where you can eat some great kokorec.
Gala Kokorec is located in Sirkeci (opposite the iconic Post Office Building). Gala Kokorec, which is within walking distance from Sultanahmet, is the right address to taste the best street food in Sultanahmet.
Pilav is a cheap street food that can be found all over Istanbul day or night. The best places to eat pilaf in Istanbul are in the back streets of the old districts. Meshur Tahtakale Pilavcisi (near Spice Bazaar) is one of such hidden gems. It’s a small place where you can try pilaf with chicken.
Another shop you might want to try is Meshur Unkapani Pilavcisi (near Ataturk Bridge in the Old City). It’s a place where ayran (Turkish yoghurt drink) meets pilaf and we can guarantee you will like this combination.
If you are looking for a different alternative, Tarihi Kalkanoglu Pilavicisi sounds like a good option. Here, you can try pilaf with fried meat or beans. You should also note that pilaf at this place is cooked with butter and broth. You can find branches of “Tarihi Kalkanoglu Pilavcisi” in Beyoglu (near Madame Tussauds Istanbul) and Kadikoy (on the Asian Side of Istanbul).
Another great choice on the Asian side is surely Pilavcioglu (near Kadikoy Fish Market) where you can find soup, sautéed meat, and sautéed chicken in addition to pilaf.
Pilav is one of the most satisfying and healthy options among Turkish street food. If you are looking for a cheap street food in Istanbul, small rice restaurants are the right option for you.
Simit is an important part of daily life in Istanbul. You can see many people having breakfast with simit on the streets of Istanbul and on the city’s nostalgic ferries. By the way, Turkish tea goes really well with simit. Most street bagel vendors put cheese inside the bagel, and it’s a yummy duo. If you like dessert, you can order your bagel mixed with Nutella.
It’s possible to come across a famous bagel shop at any neighborhood in Istanbul. Some of the famous bagel shops in Istanbul are Tarihi Karakoy Galata Simitcisi in Karakoy, Tarihi Harbiye Firini in Sisli, Tarihi Bogazkesen Firini in Cihangir, and Cigdem Pastanesi in Sultanahmet.
These districts where old simit bakeries are located are also the best places to stay in Istanbul. Staying in these historical districts of Istanbul offers you endless delicious food options.
6. Kofte Ekmek
Kofte Ekmek is the most practical and delicious street food you can eat in Istanbul. You can see the meatball sandwich sellers on the match days of the local football teams. Especially the meatball vendor next to Besiktas Vodafone Arena Stadium is famous.
They are present on the shores of the Bosphorus or wherever crowds gather. Kofte Ekmek is an important part of social life in Istanbul. Famous food blogger Mark Wiens’ Istanbul tour also begins with Kofte Ekmek. What a mouth-watering start to a street food video!
Those staying in Beyoglu can try Kofteci Huseyin, which is within walking distance from Taksim Square. Those staying in Sultanahmet should visit Hocapasa Street near Sirkeci Tram Station. In Hocapasa, two meatball places named Rumeli Koftecisi and Filibe Koftecisi are next to each other. Both are delicious.
In addition, in Besiktas, where luxury hotels are located, Sohretler Besiktas Köftecisi is very famous. Those staying on the Asian side can try the Express Inegol Koftecisi near fish market in Kadikoy. This is a cheap meatball shop and is filled with locals all day long.
As an insider, I can say that Kofte Ekmek has a special place in the lives of Istanbulites. There is a terrific smell from the grills of meatball sandwich vendors. Therefore, Istanbulites can never resist this yummy Turkish street food.
Misir is another important item of street food culture in Istanbul. It’s consumed as boiled, grilled or in a glass, which has become popular recently, but no matter how it’s consumed, people love eating sweet corn on streets in Istanbul.
If you feel hungry while visiting shops in Spice Bazaar or if you want to snack at Sultanahmet, corn sounds like a good option to choose. Moreover, many corn stalls in the squares of Kadikoy, Uskudar, Eminonu, and Besiktas are waiting for you to try corn in Istanbul.
8. Doner Kebab
Doner Kebab is by far the most popular street food in Istanbul. The most delicious doner shops are found in historical places. In districts such as Sultanahmet, Eminonu, Besiktas and Uskudar, I suggest you to choose the crowded local restaurants where you cannot even find a place to sit.
Donerci Sahin Usta near the Grand Bazaar and Asim Usta (aka Karadeniz Doner) in Besiktas are some of the places where you can have a quick and amazing meal in Istanbul. Another spot to visit is Zumrut Doner nearby Spice Bazaar.
You must have noticed that street food in Istanbul is identified with certain districts. The common feature of these places is that they are close to ferry piers. These spots are bustling with locals during rush hours.
Istanbulites know that the best street food places in Istanbul are near the ferries. For this reason, you can find local delicacies in Karakoy, Eminonu, Besiktas on the European Side of Istanbul, and in Kadikoy and Uskudar on the Asian Side.
Kumpir is one of the symbols of Ortakoy (a district located on the Bosphorus) and, naturally, there are tons of shops you can try this delicious snack there.
Kumpir (baked potato) is cooked in a special oven, filled with butter and goat cheese, as well as any toppings you prefer. Some of the items you can include in your baked potato are Russian salad, bulghur salad, mushroom, red cabbage with yogurt, and sliced olives.
You can just order your kumpir at one of the various shops in Ortakoy, sit on a bench and enjoy the Bosphorus and Ortakoy Mosque view. After eating in Ortakoy, you can walk to Bebek and drink coffee like Istanbulites.
10. Islak Hamburger
Islak Hamburger is one of the other special tastes of Istanbul.. You can find many shops that sell Islak Hamburger at “Siraselviler Street” in Beyoglu. Islak Hamburger is an indispensable street food of Istanbul’s nightlife and is sold around Taksim Square.
A steamed burger is topped with a special sauce, which makes the burger wet. A lot of butter is used to make this burger and the burger meat is spicy. Therefore, it’s a unique type of burger that is worth trying.
If you are staying in Taksim, one of the most popular accommodation places in Istanbul, you should definitely try this wet burger at Kizilkayalar. Because Islak Hamburger is the best street food in Taksim Square.
Kestane (roasted chestnuts) used to be the symbol of winter but it’s common to see a street vendor selling this delicious snack any day of the year these days. You can come across one of such street sellers at touristic spots like Taksim, Eminonu, and Sultanahmet.
Kestane is a practical street food that you can consume standing up during sightseeing. And I highly recommend you to try this classical street food when you visit Istanbul.
Pide is an oval shaped flat bread and can be filled with cheese, ground beef, eggs and sausage according to your choice. Although it looks a bit like pizza, it is a unique flavor with its spices.
In ordet to eat Pide in Istanbul, you can go to Sirkeci (very close to Sultanahmet), where Hocapasha Restaurants are located. For example, Hocapasa Pidecisi is delicious.
On the other hand, there is a wonderful place called Pide Sun in Kadikoy, which is the famous food spot on the Asian side of Istanbul. You can find this delicious restaurant inside the Kadikoy Fish Market.
Lahmacun is one of the most popular street foods among Istanbulites. For this reason, there are several lahmacun restaurants in every district of the city.
Lahmacun is made according to different recipes in different parts of Turkey. Cities famous for their kebab dishes such as Antep, Urfa and Adana each have their own style of lahmacun.
You can have delicious lahmacun at Hamdi Restaurant next to Spice Bazaar. On the other hand, Munhasir Doner & Kebab serves delicious lahmacun near Taksim Square.
However, you can find more options for lahmacun in Kadikoy on the Asian side. For example, Borsam Tasfirin and the famous Ciya Sofrasi are the prominent ones.
Gozleme is essentially Turkish flat bread stuffed with spinach, potatoes or meat. However, it is not as common as other street foods as it is a bit difficult to prepare.
In the Old City, you can find a place that makes delicious Gozleme when you walk the gentle slope that goes down next to Hagia Sophia (following the tram tracks).
The restaurant called Otantik Anadolu Yemekleri, which has a few branches in places like Beyoglu and Kadikoy in Istanbul, is also very good at this type of traditional food.
15. Cag Kebap
Cag Kebap is a kind of Turkish kebab ideal for lamb lovers. This kebab is a dish unique to Erzurum, one of the provinces in the east of Turkey. Although Cag Kebap looks like Doner Kebab at first glance, it is a more oily and juicy version.
I have praised “Hocapasa Restaurants” in many articles on this blog. Because this alleyway full of restaurants in the Sirkeci neighborhood is where most of the street food in Istanbul is represented.
Sehzade Cag Kebap on Hocapasa Street (near Sirkeci Tram Station) is one of the most famous restaurants specializing in this dish. You can easily reach this restaurant from both Taksim and Sultanahmet.
Mark Wiens’ food videos in Istanbul are great in terms of giving visual support to this article. This specific video of the famous food blogger starts at the restaurant I mentioned, and frankly, when I see this video, I immediately want to eat Cag Kebab.
In this article, I tried to introduce you to the most famous street foods of Istanbul. As someone who was born and raised in Istanbul, I love these dishes and I tried to reflect this passion to you.
Of course, what Istanbul offers to its visitors is not limited to the ones in this article. But for those visiting the city for the first time, these dishes are great for an introduction to Turkish Cuisine.
You may need to dive a little deeper to turn your Istanbul visit into a gourmet tour. For this, you can also review my other article called self-guided food tour in Istanbul.
Written by Serhat Engul