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.
Best Street Food Places in Istanbul 2021
In order to find the best street food places in Istanbul in 2021, you have to visit the historical districts like Sultanahmet and Beyoglu (aka Taksim). 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 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.
Street Food Prices in Istanbul 2021
Turkish street food prices in Istanbul start from 5 Turkish 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 15 to 20 Turkish Liras (3 Us dollars).
Recommended Street Food Tours in 2021
You can find recommended street food tours in Istanbul at the bottom of the page. You can join half-day or full-day guided street food tours in Istanbul. There are also private street food tours that you can organize with your family or friends.
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, whose photo you can see above, is located in Sirkeci neighborhood. 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 (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 Beyoglu, and Cigdem Pastanesi in Sultanahmet. These districts where old simit bakeries are located are also the best places to stay in Istanbul.
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 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.
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 view.
10. Islak Hamburger
Another unique Istanbul delicacy is Islak Hamburger (wet burger). 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 the Wet Burger. 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. And I highly recommend you to try this classical street food when you visit Istanbul.
Best Street Food Tours in Istanbul
It is really fun to take a street food tour in Istanbul. Thanks to these tours, you can get off the tourist route and discover the local restaurants in the side streets. Istanbul’s food tours focus on the Historical Peninsula, the oldest place in the city. Full-day tours include Kadikoy on the Asian Side.
1. Half Day Street Food Tour
Half day street food tour in Istanbul lasts 3 hours and is very enjoyable. You can taste things like doner, kebab, baklava and Turkish coffee in 3 hours. If you want to do other things in the afternoon, this option seems ideal for you. You can book the half-day tour from this link.
2. Full Day Food Tour of Two Continents
Full day food tour in Istanbul covers both European and Asian sides and lasts 6 hours. Your local tour guide will first show you around the Spice Bazaar and shopping is done for breakfast. Turkish Breakfast is served in a cozy café and local tastes are experienced. After breakfast, you go to the Asian Side by ferry. On the Asian side, the Kadikoy district, famous for its fish market, is visited. You can book the full-day tour from this link.
3. Private Street Food Tour in Istanbul
Private street food tour in Istanbul is an excellent experience. You can tour with your group of family or friends. Your private guide will introduce you to the most important street food places in Istanbul and ensure you have a unique experience. You will be able to see major tourist sights while walking and enjoying your local food. You can book the private food tour from this link.
Best Street Food Places in Istanbul 2021 by Serhat Engul