From kebabs to dürüm to lahmacun and pide, there’s so much delicious food to be had in Istanbul. But being a uniquely located city with shores along the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosphorus Strait, one dish that will probably grace your plate often is fresh fish. The waters around Istanbul are home to over twenty different kinds of fish so you’ll always find several types of fresh fish in season no matter which time of the year you go.
As you can imagine, there’s no shortage of fish restaurants in Istanbul. However, being a hugely popular tourist destination, there’s no shortage of tourist traps either.
If you’d like to steer clear of the touristy restaurants and not pay an arm and a leg for Turkish sea bass, then here are ten excellent fish and seafood restaurants that you can visit in Istanbul.
ISTANBUL FISH RESTAURANTS QUICK LINKS
To help you plan your trip to Istanbul, we’ve put together links to recommended hotels, tours, and other travel-related services here.
Recommended hotels in Beyoglu, one of the best areas to stay for first-time travelers to Istanbul.
- Sightseeing Tour: Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia Small-Group Tour
- Food Tour: Guided Food Tour of Street Food and Markets
- Cooking Class: Istanbul Cooking Classes
ISTANBUL TRAVEL GUIDE
If you’re planning your first trip to Istanbul, then you may want to check out our comprehensive Istanbul travel guide. It’ll tell you everything you need to know – like where to stay, which attractions to visit, how to get around, etc. – to help you make the most of your time in Istanbul.
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HOW TO SPOT A TOURISTY RESTAURANT IN ISTANBUL
In my experience, one of the best ways to spot a touristy restaurant is its location. If it’s located within a few blocks of a popular tourist attraction like Hagia Sophia, then more often than not, it’s a tourist trap. A quick glance at their menu will usually confirm this.
On our last trip in August 2023 for example, we paid around TRY 200 for levrek or Turkish sea bass. At touristy restaurants near Basilica Cistern, prices for sea bass often exceeded TRY 500. This is grilled sea bass we’re talking about. Aside from freshness and weight (which was usually consistent), how different can it be?
Another telltale sign is a restaurant’s menu offerings. If a restaurant in Istanbul offers everything under the sun – from fried calamari to dürüm to pottery kebab – then chances are, it’s a tourist trap.
This is why we often seek out restaurants that specialize in just a few dishes. There’s a better chance they know what they’re doing and you’ll get to try a better version of that dish.
I find that these methods work well not just in Istanbul, but in any city that sees large hordes of tourists.
This article zeroes in on the best fish and seafood restaurants but be sure to check out our full Istanbul restaurant guide as well. For healthy eaters, we also have a guide to restaurants that serve vegan and vegetarian food in Istanbul.
MUST-VISIT FISH & SEAFOOD RESTAURANTS IN ISTANBUL
A quick note on prices – any price listed here is accurate as of August 2023. If you’ve been visiting Turkiye often in the last few years, then you’ll know how quickly prices have been increasing in this country. My wife and I joke that prices in Istanbul go up so often that it almost feels like a running taxi meter.
A few months can mean a difference of a few dozen Turkish lira so you may want to confirm prices before going to any of these restaurants.
1. Ulaş Balıkçılık (Best Seafood Restaurant in Cihangir)
We found this little gem of a seafood restaurant when we stayed in the Cihangir neighborhood of Beyoglu. They offer many different types of freshly caught fish like seabass, sea bream, salmon, anchovies, mackerel, blue fish, and more.
To start, we had this mevsim salata or seasonal salad. They offer a couple of other salads and fish soup as well.
You’ll find a wealth of delicious seafood dishes in Istanbul but one of our favorites is midye dolma. A popular street food in Turkiye, it refers to mussels stuffed with herbed rice, spices, and other ingredients like pine nuts and currants. Definitely a must-try in Istanbul!
I enjoy working my way through a whole grilled fish but sometimes, I prefer fish skewers. They’re easier to eat and when cooked properly, they can be even more satisfying.
What you’re looking at below is a pair of perfectly grilled sea bass skewers. Moist, flakey, and melt-in-your-mouth tender, these were insanely delicious and set us back just TRY 180.
Ulas Balikcilik serves delicious food in a more residential part of Beygolu. In my opinion, it’s definitely one of the best fish restaurants in Istanbul.
You can jump to the location map at the bottom of this article for the restaurant’s exact location.
Address: Firuzağa, Türkgücü Cd. No:27/A, 34420 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Türkiye
Operating Hours: 11AM-12MN, daily
What They Offer: Fried/grilled fish dishes
2. Şen Balıkçılık
Like Istanbul Old City, the area around Istiklal Cadessi is one of the city’s most popular tourist areas, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find hidden gems amongst its many tourist traps. Sen Balikcilik, a fish restaurant just off the main strip, is one of those gems.
Sen Balickilik offers different types of seasonal fish and seafood dishes but they also have a good number of meat dishes, hot and cold starters, fish soup, and salads on their menu. Pictured below is the coban salata or shepherd’s salad. You can think of it as the Turkish version of Moroccan salad.
Istanbul is home to an ocean of fresh fish but one of my favorites is grilled sea bass. Known locally as levrek, I enjoy it for a few reasons. One, it’s delicious. Two, it’s good for your health. Three, it typically isn’t priced per kilo (fixed price). And four, it’s one of the cheaper fishes you can find in Istanbul, with a whole grilled fish going for around TRY 200 at a non-touristy restaurant.
This beautiful specimen at Sen Balikcilik set me back just TRY 180.
You’ll find lots of delicious street food in Istanbul but my personal favorite is balik dürüm or fish wrapped in lavash bread with vegetables and spices. Like balik ekmek (fish sandwich), it’s made with one whole fillet of grilled mackerel so it’s one of the healthier street foods you can find as well.
I’m not a fan of balik ekmek because I find it too bready but I absolutely love balik dürüm. It’s a fun and easy dish to eat so I got this one to go.
I forgot to take a picture of the restaurant’s exterior (sorry about that!) but you can jump to our location map to see where it is. It’s literally a minute away from Istiklal Caddesi so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding it.
Address: Hüseyinağa, Sahne Sk. No:5, 34435 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Türkiye
Operating Hours: 8AM-2AM, daily
What They Offer: Seasonal fish dishes, meat dishes, hot and cold starters
3. Askoroz Balıkçı
Like Sen Balikcilik, Askoroz Balikci is a hidden gem not too far from Istiklal Caddesi. They don’t have as many offerings as Sen Balikcilik but the usual favorites like levrek, blue fish, sea bream, and mackerel are on their menu.
Pictured below is a small plate of salad which you can get in regular or small sizes.
What you’re looking at below is a plate of grilled sea bream which I devoured with mucho gusto.
Like levrek, sea bream is one of the cheaper fishes you can find in Istanbul. At the time, this whole fish cost me just TRY 195.
Askoroz Balikci is located less than a 5-minute walk from Istiklal Caddesi.
Address: Şehit Muhtar, Süslü Saksı Sk. No:15, 34435 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Türkiye
Operating Hours: 11AM-12MN, daily
What They Offer: Fish dishes, Turkish desserts
4. Sokak Lezzeti Tarihi Balık Dürümcü Mehmet Usta
This mouthful of a restaurant is one of the more famous fish restaurants in Karakoy. Unlike the previous restaurants on this list, they offer just one thing on their menu – balik dürüm made with one or two fillets of mackerel.
I went with two fillets and this was arguably the best fish wrap I had in Istanbul.
In August 2023, the regular fish wrap went for TRY 100 while the double wrap cost TRY 190. This was seriously delicious and substantial enough for a full meal.
Sokak Lezzeti Tarihi Balık Dürümcü Mehmet Usta is a popular restaurant but balik dürüm is easy to eat so you can get one to go if the place is full.
Sokak Lezzeti Tarihi Balık Durumcu Mehmet Usta
Address: 75 Derb Rahba Lakdima, Marrakech 40000, Morocco
What They Offer: Fish wrap
5. Kiyi Balik
Kiyi Balik is another balik dürüm shop in Karakoy, this time just a short walk from the ferry port. They make fish wraps that are slightly different from the others I’ve tried thus far in Istanbul. Can you tell what that difference is from looking at this picture?
Unlike other fish wraps I’ve had in Istanbul, Kiyi Balik encrusts their lavash with a Turkish spice blend. It does add a good amount of flavor to the wrap though some people may find it a tad on the salty side.
Kiyi Balik is a humble stall located about a 5-minute walk from Karakoy port.
Address: Azapkapı, 34421 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Türkiye
Operating Hours: 10AM-5AM, daily
What They Offer: Fish wraps
6. Balıkçı Lokantası (Best Fresh Fish in Kadikoy)
On our last trip to Istanbul, we split a month between Beyoglu and Kadikoy. Ulas Balikcilik (#1) was one of the best seafood restaurants we went to in Beyoglu but in Kadikoy, it was definitely Balikci Lokantasi. This local restaurant on the Asian side of Istanbul serves some of the freshest fish at the best prices in Kadikoy.
To start, they served me a basket of bread and this plate of cold appetizers with ezme (Turkish pepper salad) and baba ghanoush (roasted mashed eggplant).
Can you tell what type of fish this is by now? It’s my favorite Turkish levrek, or grilled marinated sea bass. I rarely met levrek I didn’t like in Istanbul and this was one of the best.
It’s important to point out that Balikci Lokantasi doesn’t have a printed menu. Instead, they’ll direct you to the vitrine to show you what fresh food is available on that day.
At first, I was nervous without having a menu with fixed prices to look at, but I took the plunge anyway. I’m happy I did because that beautiful grilled sea bass with a small side salad and a big bottle of water came out to just TRY 200. Definitely one of the best fish meals I had in Istanbul!
When it comes to restaurants, I prefer the Asian side because you’ll find fewer touristy restaurants here. Frequented mostly by locals, Balikci Lokantasi is the perfect example of that.
Address: Rasimpaşa, Teyyareci Sami Sk. No:20 D:B, 34716 Kadıköy/İstanbul, Türkiye
Operating Hours: 12NN-9PM, daily
What They Offer: Fish and seafood dishes
7. Balat Balik Evi (Best Fish Restaurant in Balat)
The Balat neighborhood in Fatih is a charming area that’s become one of the most visited in Istanbul. It’s known for its cobblestone streets, colorful houses, and many vintage shops and cafes.
Receiving so many visitors daily, many of the restaurants in Balat look like they cater mostly to tourists but Balat Balik Evi is an exception. This excellent fish restaurant serves seafood favorites like fried calamari, grilled seabass, fried mussels, and lightly fried anchovies at reasonable prices.
For starters, we shared this big bowl of coban salatasi or shepherd’s salad.
When in Istanbul, it’s never a bad idea to go for grilled seabass. This beautiful specimen was priced at TRY 250 at Balat Balik Evi.
If fish sandwiches are your thing, then you may want to go for balik ekmek or balik dürüm instead. This fish wrap from Balat Balik Evi rivals Sokak Lezzeti (#4) as my favorite balik dürüm shop in Istanbul.
A day in Balat is a must for any first-time visitor to Istanbul. If you’re in the mood for fish, then Balat Balik Evi is the place to go in this neighborhood.
Balat Balik Evi
Address: Balat, Vodina Cd. No: 156, 34087 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye
Operating Hours: 10AM-1AM, daily
What They Offer: Fish and seafood dishes
8. Nevizade Kokoreç
These last three entries aren’t fish restaurants but they’re among our favorite places to have midye dolmas in Istanbul. As described, midye dolmas refer to mussels stuffed with herbed rice, pine nuts, currants, and spices.
You’ll find many of these “kokorec” restaurants in Istanbul. Kokorec refers to an interesting dish of grilled lamb or goat intestines wrapped around seasoned offal. Any restaurant that serves kokorec will almost always serve midye dolmas as well.
You can get midye dolmas per piece. At the time of our visit, stuffed mussels cost TRY 5 each at Nevizade Kokorec, which is a fair price.
Nevizade Kokorec is one of many stalls offering midye dolmas in an area just off Istiklal Cadessi. We chose it based on its positive Google reviews. We weren’t disappointed.
Address: Hüseyinağa, Mah Balık Pazarı, Sahne Sk. No:12/B, 34435 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Türkiye
Operating Hours: 12NN-2AM, daily
What They Offer: Midye dolmas, kokorec
9. Kadikoy Midyecisi
Kadikoy Midyecisi is another poular kokorec/midye dolmas restaurant in Istanbul, this time on the Asian side. They’re pricier than Nevizade Kokorec – offering midye dolmas at TRY 7.50 per piece – but still worth it in our opinion.
You can get midye dolmas per piece at Kadikoy Midyecisi but they also offer them in boxes of 30, 60, or 100 as well.
Address: Caferağa, Sarraf Ali Sk. 22/b, 34710 Kadıköy/İstanbul, Türkiye
Operating Hours: 11AM-4AM, daily
What They Offer: Midye dolmas, kokorec
10. Midyecisi Ahmet
I have mixed feelings about this place. Google “best midye dolmas in istanbul” and Midyeci Ahmet will frequently come up.
While their stuffed mussels are delicious, I’m not sure they’re worth their exorbitant price tag – TRY 10.50 per mussel. I know. Pricey right? That’s over double what most midye restaurants and stalls charge in Istanbul.
But all those locals singing them praises know something we don’t so I suggest trying them for yourself and making your own judgements. It’s a good thing you can buy them per piece.
The self-proclaimed “Lord of Mussels” is a local favorite with many branches throughout Istanbul. This particular branch is located near the Karakoy port.
Address: Multiple branches
Operating Hours: Varies per branch
What They Offer: Midye dolmas, kokorec
To help you navigate to these fish restaurants in Istanbul, I’ve pinned them all on the map below. Click on the link for a live version of the map.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BEST FISH & SEAFOOD RESTAURANTS IN ISTANBUL
As described at the top of this article, there are many delicious dishes to be had in Istanbul but seafood, especially fish, is something you need to enjoy at least once. The best restaurants always serve them fresh which is what we tried to find and compile in this list.
Being such a popular tourist destination, this city can be a landmine of tourist traps so I hope this guide to some of the best fish restaurants in Istanbul leads you to many memorable seafood meals.
Thanks for reading and have an amazing time eating fish and seafood in Istanbul!
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