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Istanbul’s Bazaar Quarter is one of the world’s biggest open-air commercial centers, crowned by the planet’s largest covered market, the Grand Bazaar. It is not only a sprawling marketplace specializing in everything from knitting yarn to knockoff purses, but a historic center of small craftsmen who still carry on their tradition in the atmospheric caravanserais — Ottoman-era trading posts — that dot this area. With all of the shopping, people rarely open their eyes to the culinary treasures of this area, which are well-protected by the merchants and craftsmen who dine here everyday.
Starting in Sirkeci, end point of the fabled Orient Express, we’ll explore the historic caravanserais, meet some traditional craftsmen in their tiny workshops and eat in those hidden-gem restaurants, which, like the merchants themselves, reflect the regional diversity of Turkey. We’ll start the day with a full breakfast celebrating the best of the dairy highlands in Eastern Anatolia, followed by an unusual wedding soup from Konya. Then we’ll make our way through the garment district to a cluster of Ottoman-era hans (traders’ inns), home to a guild of traditional craftsmen in their tiny workshops. There we will have an unforgettable, freshly baked pide before grazing our way in, out and around the Grand Bazaar, taking in a perfect kebab, a bite of Edirne-style liver, and a spread of seasonal, vegetarian mezes. We will drink tea and Turkish coffee in out-of-the-way places, while the sweet notes on this route begin with kadayıf, an Arabian-influenced love letter from the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep, and end with a delicious milk-soaked cake that made its way from Albania to the Istanbul. It’s Istanbul’s Bazaar Quarter as it’s never been seen — or tasted — before.
Note: This walk does include some hills and stairs. Though punctuated by plenty of stops, it can be strenuous at times.
What is included in the fee?
In addition to your Culinary Backstreets guide, all food consumed on the walk – almost a dozen different edible specialties – are included in the price.
Why is the Culinary Backstreet tour more expensive than some other walking tours?
Our approach is different than most tour companies. Each of our culinary walks is the outcome of considerable research. We work with academics in the field and our own team of experienced professionals – both guides and local journalists. Our ongoing publishing of articles, from restaurant reviews to features about the intersection of food and culture, constantly feeds new material into the culinary walks, so they evolve and constantly improve. Though costly, we believe that this is how to create the quality experiences we strive for.
We practice honest tourism and would never accept a free lunch or any sort of commission. On the contrary, we are proud to know that the money spent during the culinary walk goes to support businesses that we believe in, helping to preserve the social and cultural fabric of the cities we love so dearly.
What is the payment process?
We require a $50 per person deposit to complete the online booking. Then, we accept the remaining $75 per person in cash (USD, Euro, or Turkish lira) on the day of the walk. If at any time you want to pay for your balance electronically, please just click ‘view booking’ on your confirmation email and there is an option to ‘pay balance’.
What is your cancellation policy?
100% will be refunded if given 1 week notice prior to walk and 50% will be refunded if given 72 hours notice or more.
Are your walks public or private? How many people are on them?
Our walks are 2-7 people and are open to the public. If you would like to do a private walk, we may be able to arrange one for an additional fee. Please contact us at email@example.com for more information.
Can I get a discount if I join more than one walk?
Yes, we offer a 10% discount to those who join more than one walk. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to join multiple walks.
Are your walks suitable for people with food allergies?
This can vary based on a number of factors, including the food item in question. Please email us at email@example.com to discuss your situation before booking.
Are your walks suitable for vegetarians and pescetarians?
We do not generally recommend this walk for vegeterians; we would steer them towards the Hidden Beyoglu walk.
Is alcohol served on the walks?
Is the food offered on the walks halal?
This is difficult to answer. In Turkey the halal certification process is relatively new, so though many butchers are halal they may not be certified and though many restaurants use halal products they may not advertise or even recognize it. Because of this, we cannot confidently say that all of the food is halal.
How physically demanding are the walks?
The walks are all about 2KM (1.25 miles) of fairly flat terrain. This walk does involved climbing hills and stairs and should be considered when making the reservation. The streets and sidewalks of Istanbul can be a bit unpredictable so we recommend good walking shoes. All our walks include numerous breaks along the way.
Can children join the walks?
Of course! But please note that Istanbul’s streets – narrow, uneven and often lacking a sidewalk – can be challenging with a stroller.
We offer a 50% discount to children 12 years old and younger. We do not charge for children 6 and under.
Do you offer walks during Ramazan?
We do not offer this walk during Ramazan and many local holidays.
Can you pick me up from my hotel? How will I return, once the tour is over?
Our tour prices don’t include transportation. If you book a tour, you’re responsible for arriving to the pre-arranged meeting spot on your own.
Once the tour is over, we will help you get an authorized, safe taxi to your hotel, or provide directions on public transportation, if you’re interested in that.
How much food will I get to try?
This is really up to you. We generally make between 9 and 12 eating stops on our walk and try to include some breaks from eating along the way. The price includes as much food as you’re open to trying. We offer a suggested portion size at each stop and you can take our recommendation if you’d like. Our walks often involve street food and sharing food.
“Culinary walks led by locals in the know who have been able to develop close relationships with the traditional food-makers found along the walk’s route are one of thebest and easiest ways to learn about a city’s authentic cuisine and also about how its culinary culture shaped its soul,” says Yigal Schleifer, co-founder of CulinaryBackstreets.com. Read more
Tantalise my taste buds I saw and learnt more about Turkish food and produce and food culture in these three days then I did on all of my previous trips toIstanbul. At each stop along the way we were offered delectable tidbits including freshly baked borek… freshly baked pide eaten on top of rooftops overlooking the bosphorus, elegantly spiced kebabs and selections of mezes…Read more
In the company of yet another family of five, I tasted savory baklavas with feta cheese, spinach, parsley, and ground meat at Süllüoglu’ s, where they soften the filo sheets in boiling water before layering them. In a small lokanta, we tried spicy lentil soup, Turkey’ s favorite entrée, and chickpea pilav with chicken,Istanbul’ s well-known street food. At delicatessen shop Namli Gurme, we ate dolma, grape leaves stuffed with pepper, onion, tomatoes, and pine nuts. We had katmer, an ancient pastry from Anatolia filled with pistachios and clotted cream, at a sidewalk café. At Higipolu’ s, a long-time Turkish Delight shop, we were taught how the sugary lokum had been prepared for centuries. Read more
This tour was amazing. It was guided by Benoit Hanquet, who is an insightful and bright guy. This tour isn’t just about food -because food, as you know, is a cultural result- and the best of it is that you get to understand (a bit, yes) what Istanbul is all about. This was a fantastic experience and I have alreadyrecommended it to everyone that want to go to Istanbul. You can’t miss it. ps: because Istanbul can be a bit overwhelming at first sight, I booked this tour for my first day in Istanbul and I think that was the best thing I could have done, because the city was much more “nicer” after the tour than before it. Read more