Istanbul residents take great pride in the flavorful fish and seafood from the Bosphorus, often criticizing fish from other regions as lacking in taste. The fish that swim in the currents between the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea acquire a stronger flavor due to the cold currents. Starting in the late autumn, Istanbul becomes a paradise for fish lovers with an abundance of delicious dishes available. The best seafood restaurants in Istanbul are mostly located near Bosphorus as well.
Popular seafood dishes in Istanbul include meze platters featuring raw or marinated fish, grilled fish or seafood, and various fish and seafood stews. Some of the most popular types of fish and seafood found in Istanbul include mackerel, anchovies, sea bass, and squid. Additionally, there are many seafood restaurants and fish markets located throughout the city, particularly in the neighborhoods near Bosphorus.
Additionally, you can also find street vendors selling seafood sandwiches and other seafood dishes in these areas. This list focuses on fish restaurants near the Bosphorus that offer a high-end seafood experience in Istanbul. It does not include street food vendors.
Experiencing seafood in Istanbul is a must for any food lover visiting the city.
One of the essential component of a good seafood restaurant is Meze. Even if a fish restaurant serves high-quality seafood, if their meze is not up to par, it is less likely for customers to return. Meze is a traditional Turkish and Middle Eastern culinary concept, referring to a variety of small dishes or appetizers that are served before a main course.
These dishes are typically served cold and often include a variety of flavors and textures. Meze can include dips, salads, marinated vegetables, and various seafood, meat, and vegetarian dishes. They are usually served with bread and can be accompanied by drinks like Raki (detailed explanation down below), wine, beer or other traditional drinks.
The idea behind Meze is to share a variety of small dishes among a group of people, creating a relaxed, social atmosphere. The dishes are usually brought to the table as they are ready and are meant to be eaten slowly and shared. Some of the most popular Meze include Hummus, Baba Ghanoush, Dolma (stuffed vine leaves), Tzatziki, and various seafood dishes like marinated fish, octopus, and mussels.
Raki, also known as “lion’s milk,” is a traditional Turkish spirit made from grapes and is often enjoyed with seafood in Istanbul. It is a clear spirit that turns cloudy when mixed with water, which is typically served with seafood dishes in Istanbul.
The combination of the strong anise flavor of the Raki with the delicate flavors of seafood creates a unique and enjoyable experience. It is common to find seafood restaurants in Istanbul that serve Raki as an accompaniment to their dishes, and it is also a common drink to have while enjoying a seafood meze platter.
Raki is considered a traditional drink in Turkey and is often paired with seafood in the coastal regions, Istanbul being one of them. It is also a popular choice among locals and tourists alike. I have found a commercial on YouTube for the brand Yeni Raki that includes English subtitles. It depicts the culture and traditional gestures associated with Raki in Istanbul.
You can watch it to gain a better understanding of how Raki is consumed and enjoyed in the community.
Other Seafood Specialities
To fully appreciate the delicious fish and seafood of Istanbul, it is important to be aware of what is in season and when to eat it, as well as ensure that the fish is prepared properly. A good fish restaurant can help guide diners in selecting the best quality fish, pairing it with the appropriate cooking technique, and preparing it to perfection.
One of the specialties of Istanbul is lakerda, a traditional dish that dates back to Byzantium. Lakerda may resemble salted fish at first glance, but its unique buttery texture and preparation technique set it apart. Made from a large bonito fish called torik, caught before the southwest winds hit, that has enough fat and is firm, lakerda’s concentrated flavor is intensified. The traditional way to enjoy it is with olive oil and onion rings, paired with Turkish raki.
The 10 Best Seafood Restaurants in Istanbul
Embark on a culinary journey through the heart of Istanbul with the top 10 best seafood restaurants. From historic establishments to modern gems, this guide promises an unforgettable seafood experience in this vibrant city.
Lacivert Fish Restaurant is a well-known seafood restaurant located in Istanbul, Turkey. The restaurant is situated on the Bosphorus shoreline in the district of Beykoz (Asian Side of Istanbul) and offers a beautiful view of the 2nd Bosphorus bridge (Also known as Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge).
The restaurant is specialized in fish and seafood dishes, with a focus on traditional Turkish seafood recipes. The menu features a variety of fish and seafood options, including grilled fish, seafood meze platters, and fish stews. It is also known for its selection of raki, a traditional Turkish spirit made from grapes, which is often served with seafood dishes. The restaurant also offers a traditional atmosphere with a calm and elegant setting. Lacivert is considered one of the best seafood restaurants in Istanbul and it is a popular spot among locals and tourists.
Eleos Seafood Restaurant is a high-end seafood restaurant located in Beyoğlu. The restaurant is known for its elegant atmosphere and its use of fresh, high-quality ingredients. The menu at Eleos Seafood Restaurant features a wide variety of seafood dishes, including grilled fish, seafood meze platters, and fish stews. The restaurant also has a focus on using traditional Turkish seafood recipes, and it is known for its authentic flavors and presentation.
In Istanbul, it is important for a fish restaurant to be located near the Bosphorus or to have a great view of the Bosphorus, as many people desire to enjoy the view while dining. As a result, tables with Bosphorus views tend to fill up quickly, so when making a reservation, it is important to request a table with a great view. Eleos restaurant is situated on an upper hill in Beyoglu and boasts an unforgettable seafood experience with its great Bosphorus view. The restaurant is listed as a “Recommended Restaurant” in the Michelin Guide Istanbul.
8. Park Fora
The restaurant, located in Kuruçeşme’s Cemil Topuzlu Park by the sea, has been serving seafood since 1996. It offers a variety of cold and hot mezes from both Turkish and international cuisines and boasts to be the best fish and seafood restaurant in Turkey. At Park Fora, you can enjoy fish prepared in a variety of ways – grilled, meunière, steamed, and tandoori. The restaurant prides itself on using only the freshest, in-season seafood, with the lobster dishes being particularly popular.
They also have a unique selection of wines. The restaurant is listed as a “Recommended” in the Michelin Guide Istanbul.
7. Kıyı Restaurant
Kıyı Restaurant in Istanbul is a traditional establishment known for its seafood. It is highly recommended by renowned Turkish food critic Vedat Milor, who counts it among the best seafood restaurants in Istanbul. According to Vedat Milor, Kıyı is among the restaurants that invest the most in acquiring the finest fish from auctions.
At Kıyı, you can expect to find consistently high-quality, unadulterated seafood. If you are looking for the purest and most consistent seafood experience, Kıyı is the place to go. Lakerda, a traditional dish that dates back to Byzantium, can be found in Kıyı Restaurant, which has been serving seafood for more than 50 years.
6. Tarihi Karaköy Balık Lokantası
Tarihi Karaköy Balık Lokantası Grifin, was established in 1923 by Hüsamettin Doğan on the ground floor of the Griffin House in Karaköy. Hüsamettin Bey had a Greek partner. Tarihi Karaköy Balık Lokantası is still going strong and serving delicious food as it celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
The restaurant was featured in a full-page article in the New York Times in 2006 and the Herald Tribune in the same year. Fish varieties are announced on the blackboard in the traditional way. After the meal, it’s a custom to have halva. The restaurant only serves lunch and does not serve alcohol.
There is an incredible terrace on the top floor where you can see the panoramic view of the 3000-year-old peninsula. During the right season, it is highly recommended to try their signature dishes of paper sea bass and fish soup.
5. Balıkçı Sabahattin
Balikci Sabahattin is a well-established restaurant located in a charming, multistory wooden building in Sultanahmet. It is decorated with ceramic plates, vintage copperware, slightly worn carpets, and crisp embroidered curtains. The location is convenient to popular tourist attractions such as the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace. The restaurant offers also an all-inclusive fixed-price meal. The meal begins with glasses of raki, followed by a variety of typical meze dishes, hot appetizers, and grilled fish, and ends with a sweet.
They have been featured in many domestic and international magazines, guides, and newspapers, so they host many foreign guests. Being located in a difficult-to-reach area, and without a sea view, it is not easy for a fish restaurant to be so popular. It is definitely one of the best fish restaurants in Istanbul, characterized by its simple design.
Palukçu in the neighborhood of Sehremini is truly a local fish restaurant. This place is not only a fish restaurant but also a fisherman. When you pass by, you can see the fish on the counter. Both sea fish and farmed sea bass and bream are available. Fish prices are reasonable. If you wish, after choosing your fish, you can have it cooked. The atmosphere is quite rustic but charming.
Palukçu’s level is better than many of the expensive fish restaurants in the Bosphorus. Do you want it grilled or sautéed? You choose. If you’re going to fry the fish, you can also choose the oil. You can choose sunflower oil or olive oil. According to Turkish food critic Vedat Milor, Palukçu is more successful in thin corn flour fried than on a grill.
If you’re searching for an unpretentious and charming spot that serves delicious fish at an affordable price, Palukçu is the place to visit.
AQUA, located inside the historic Four Seasons Bosphorus Ottoman palace, is a stylish seafood restaurant in Istanbul that offers delicious fish and seafood dishes while providing beautiful views of the Bosphorus.
The restaurant is known for its outstanding service, unique menu, and live performances that add to the overall dining experience. Dining at Aqua is an opportunity to take in the vibrant atmosphere of Istanbul and the unparalleled views of the Bosphorus.
AQUA offers a unique twist on the traditional dish of lakerda by incorporating celery slices, artichoke and a flavorful sauce made with purple basil. The dish is presented in a way that makes it hard to recognize what it is, but upon tasting it, the combination of the strong flavors of the ingredients with lakerda is perfectly balanced and surprises the palate.
The restaurant offers a wide variety of delicious ingredients like turbot, caviar and shrimp, paired with unexpected side dishes, for a truly fine-dining experience that will be unforgettable. The restaurant is listed as “Recommended” in the Michelin Guide Istanbul.
2. Balıkçı Kahraman
This family-run restaurant, named after its Black Sea Region-born owner, is a cozy spot known for its delicious seafood and mezes. Serving seafood since the late 90s, it is a favorite among those who value taste over appearance. The decoration is simple, but the seafood and mezes are top-notch, with grilled turbot being a specialty. The restaurant is popular among local celebrities, politicians, and successful businessmen.
The place is a bit steep: in Rumelikavağı. So the traffic in Istanbul can make the journey there take up a significant portion of the evening. If it’s tomato season, the tomato salad is a must-try. The restaurant is well-known for its Turbot dish.
According to renowned food critic Vedat Milor, the standout dishes at the restaurant are Lakerda and Hamsili corn bread. If you’re searching for some of the most delicious Turbot you’ve ever tasted, come here and you’ll never need to look elsewhere. This restaurant is also listed as a “Recommended Restaurant” in the Michelin Guide Istanbul.
Sur Balık restaurant has multiple locations, with branches in Sarayburnu, Cihangir and Haliç in Istanbul. Among these locations, Arnavutköy is considered to have the best location and view.The restaurant offers an unbeatable combination of great taste and reasonable prices, making it a more affordable option compared to other seafood restaurants like Lacivert and AQUA. If you’re looking for a place to try delicious Meze and seafood, Sur Balik is the perfect choice. It has a bold menu consisting of various seafood dishes and is praised by seafood lovers.
It’s important to note that when it comes to seafood restaurants in Istanbul, it’s hard to declare one as the clear winner, as small differences play a key role, such as location and view. However, Surbalik restaurant excels in all categories and is a deserving winner.
Bonus: Çiçek Pasajı Taverns
Location: İstiklal Caddesi /Beyoğlu
Cicek Pasaji (Turkish: Çiçek Pasajı), also known as the Flower Passage, is a historic arcade located in the Beyoglu district of Istanbul, Turkey. It was built in 1876 and is one of the oldest shopping arcades in Istanbul.
The arcade is famous for its ornate Ottoman architecture, with intricate tilework and colorful frescoes decorating the walls and ceiling. Cicek Pasaji was originally built as a market for flowers and plants. However, over time it has evolved to include a variety of shops and restaurants, many of which have been operating for generations.
Nowadays, you can find a wide range of products such as souvenirs, jewelry, textiles, and traditional Turkish sweets. The passage is also home to some of the oldest and most famous meyhanes (taverns) of Istanbul, where you can taste delicious Turkish cuisine and enjoy live music.
Çiçek Pasajı is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike, and it is considered as one of the must-see places in Istanbul, particularly for its historical and architectural significance. Çiçek Pasajı is a place with a spectacular architectural design, it is still one of the most elegant buildings on Beyoğlu and Istiklal Street.
Meyhane (Tavern) Culture
Istanbul is known for its seafood taverns, or “meyhanes,” throughout the city that offer a variety of seafood dishes. A meyhane is a traditional Turkish tavern or restaurant that specializes in serving alcoholic beverages, particularly rakı, and meze, which is a variety of small dishes that are typically served as appetizers.
Meyhanes are known for their lively atmosphere and often feature live music or other entertainment. They are popular social spaces for friends and family to gather, drink and enjoy good food. They are also common places for business meetings and negotiations. Meyhanes have a long history in Turkey, dating back to Ottoman times, and they continue to be a staple of Turkish culture and cuisine today.
I am including a video for you to get a sense of what it’s like to be in a meyhane. The main difference between a traditional seafood restaurant and a meyhane is that meyhanes usually have live music playing and guests often sing and dance. You can experience this lively atmosphere in a historical location like Çiçek Pasajı, which has several meyhanes. The seafood in these restaurants is also quite good.
Istanbul is a paradise for seafood lovers. Variety of restaurants and markets that offer the freshest and most delicious seafood dishes. From traditional to modern, there is something for everyone’s taste and budget.
I hope this guide has helped you discover some of the best seafood restaurants in Istanbul.
FAQs about the Best Seafood Restaurants in Istanbul
The best time to visit seafood restaurants in Istanbul is during the summer months when the weather is warm. You can enjoy a meal by the Bosphorus Strait with a refreshing breeze.
It depends on the restaurant, but seafood restaurants in Istanbul can be expensive. Especially those that offer a stunning view of the Bosphorus Strait. I suggest that you check the prices online beforehand to avoid any unexpected surprises at the restaurant.
Yes, there are many halal seafood restaurants in Istanbul, and some restaurants even offer a halal certification. In Istanbul, fish is generally considered halal. But some Muslims may have concerns about consuming shrimp and other types of seafood. However, if you have such concerns, you can simply avoid ordering them.
Grilled sea bass is one of the most popular seafood dishes in Istanbul. But in General, it depends on the Season. So ask your Waiter what they recommend for the day.
Yes, some seafood restaurants in Istanbul offer vegetarian or vegan seafood options. For example stuffed vine leaves with seaweed filling. Typically, most mezes in Istanbul are vegetarian, so if you prefer not to have fish, you can opt for several meze plates.