5 Best Restaurants in Old Town Istanbul

by Eugenie Tiu Radevska
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A restaurant in Istanbul operating in the evening.

Old Town Istanbul thrives in many aspects. From historical landmarks to the biggest bazaars, it’s a great destination for those seeking to experience some of the best things Türkiye has to offer.

When it comes to food though, you’ll find a series of old and new restaurants with service staff standing outside who’ll do their best to convince you to try their restaurant. And while that is less common in Old Town Istanbul, it’s easy to get convinced by these people especially if you don’t do your research or don’t have any Turkish friends to ask questions to.

Sure I haven’t eaten at all restaurants in Istanbul to say that the list below is accurately the best. But my husband and I have done our research to compile this list. We checked endless restaurant reviews at various review sites, asked our Turkish friends, and ate at the restaurants I’ll include below.

Most of the restaurants in this list are a good value for the money – not expensive and spot on with quality.

1. Zeugma Terrace Steak House

Appetizers at Zeugma Terrace Steak House
Mixed Meze Plate – Humus, Muhamhara, Haydari.
Adana Kebab at Zeugma Terrace Steak House
Zeugma Terrace Steak House offers quality food, service, and an amazing view of Hagia Sophia.
Shish Kebab at Zeugma Terrace Steak House
Shish Kebab at Zeugma Terrace Steak House in Old Town Istanbul.
Lunch time at Zeugma Terrace Steak House with Hagia Sophia view
Zeugma Terrace Steak House offers quality food, service, and an amazing view of Hagia Sophia.

Zeugma Terrace Steak House restaurant doesn’t get the media attention it deserves. To me, this hidden gem is the best restaurant in Old Town Istanbul. The ratings in Google review and Tripadvisor says it all.

There is no need to make a reservation to eat at Zeugma Terrace. But to get there, you need to enter Hotel Zeugma and take the elevator to the sixth floor. 
The food is excellent. They serve everything with fresh ingredients and the quality was on spot. Their service is outstanding too. The staff were friendly and they served the dishes quite quickly too.

I highly recommend their Adana Kebab, and if you don’t feel like eating anything heavy, try their Mixed Meze. Meze means a selection of hot and cold dishes, typically served as an appetizer. The Meze they served us included Haydari (garlic-yogurt dip with some herbs), Muhammara (red pepper spread), Humus (chickpea and tahini dip), and two more but I couldn’t remember what. 

And yes, they have one more thing to offer aside from the stellar reviews and my five-star experience – and that’s the view. The restaurant has glass windows with the view of Hagia Sophia. What more can you ask for? 

2. Bombay Masala Indian Restaurant

Pani Puri at Bombay Masala
Pani Puri and Mixed Platter at Bombay Masala in Old Town Istanbul.
Lamb Curry at Bombay Masala
Lamb Curry at Bombay Masala in Old Town Istanbul
Pani Puri and Mixed Platter at Bombay Masala
Bombay Masala at Old Town Istanbul serves quality Indian food. Their selection is very unique and the food is rich in flavor.

If you want to take a break from Turkish food and want to try something different – I also highly recommend Bombay Masala. This Indian restaurant based in Old Town Istanbul is another place that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

There are a lot of options for vegetarians, vegans, as well as for meat lovers who want to take a break from eating heavy meals.

At Bombay Masala, we ordered Pani Puri (a round hollow puri filled with potatoes and chickpeas served with a tamarind dip), a Mixed Platter (which contains two Samosas, two Paneer Pakoras, two Papars, two onion Bhajis served with some kind of a yogurt dip, Lamb Curry, and some Garlic Naan. 

Each dish has a very rich flavor which we were new to our taste buds, and we loved every single bite we had. 
So yes if you’re into Indian cuisine or are feeling adventurous for the day, Bombay Masala is definitely one of the best restaurants to try in Old Town Istanbul.  

3. Hafiz Mustafa 1864 Beyazıt

Pistachio Princess and Turkish Delight at Hafiz Mustafa
The Pistachio Princess is a must-try dessert at Hafiz Mustafa.
Hafiz Mustafa crowded
Hafiz Mustafa branches in Old Town Istanbul are always full of people.
Turkish Delight at Hafiz Mustafa
Chewy and not overly sweet Turkish Delights at Hafiz Mustafa.

When you arrive in Istanbul, you’ll probably feel overwhelmed seeing the number of shops offering Turkish desserts. And what can make it more confusing is that they all look equally good which can make you think that they all probably taste the same. But they DO NOT.

Hafiz Mustafa 1864 is arguably the most popular Turkish dessert restaurant in Turkiye. There are a lot of branches both in New Town and Old Town Istanbul but the quality of all their desserts is stellar.

While you don’t need to make a reservation to be seated, you’ll find that most of their shops are always full. It takes a while to find available tables and chairs. 

We tried other dessert shops in Istanbul, but so far this is the best. By all means, try Fistikli Prenses (Pistachio Princess), some of their Baklavas with Walnuts, and some of their Turkish delight. Having these desserts together with some Turkish tea or coffee is probably one of the best experiences of visiting Turkiye.

4. Can Restaurant

There were so many restaurants we wanted to try eating at, and Can Restaurant is one of them. Unfortunately, we were not able to visit Can Restaurant because we decided to eat at some of the restaurants mentioned in this list many times. They were just too good and we craved their dishes again and again.

But I’m putting Can Restaurant in this list because it has high ratings at both Google Reviews and Tripadvisor relative to other restaurants in Old Town Istanbul.

Canteen-style restaurants are common in Istanbul, and Can Restaurant is one of them. The restaurant sells a variety of warm dishes, fresh salad, and desserts which you can mix-and-match, and pay depending how many and what dishes you got.

According to the reviews, the dishes were inexpensive and the meals would give you that warm and hearty homemade vibe. And that’s the very reason why we marked this as one of the restaurants we wanted to eat at in Istanbul, but there’s always a next time! 

5. Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi Selim Usta

4.2 out of 5,866 reviews in Google reviews
Location: Google Maps Pin
Address: Alemdar, Divan Yolu Cd. No:12, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye

Beef kebabs at Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi
Whenever I go to Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi, I always forget to take pictures and just eat right away. (Image Source)
Salad served at Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi
Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi serves fast but balanced meals. (Image Source)

Lastly, is Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi. I have three words to describe this place: Fast. Delicious. Affordable. Although their menu is limited to beef kebab, lamb skewers, soup, salad, rice, and semolina dessert, this place is a must visit if you are looking for something simple and hearty to eat. 

We came to this place more than once because of its simplicity and fast service. We ordered some beef kebabs, Corba (lentil soup), fresh salad, and Ayran (salty yogurt). The portion we ordered was enough for two people because they also serve free bread at every table.

Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi is like a semi-healthy fast-food type of restaurant because their selection is quite balanced. And if you check the reviews in Google Reviews and Tripadvisor, you’ll understand why I chose it as one of the best restaurants in Old Town Istanbul. 

Wrapping Up

That’s it! Again, if you are looking for excellent food, good value for money, good service, and a place where you can have a balanced meal (salad, meat, soup, dessert) that will not overwhelm you, then these are your must-visit restaurants in Old Town Istanbul.

Except for Can Restaurant, I’ve eaten at all of these places more than once and I would definitely go back when I visit Turkiye again. 

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