- Culinary walks
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Until recently, Greek, Armenian and Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) were the languages spoken in most kitchens in Istanbul’s historic district of Beyoğlu. Though the old cosmopolitans who populated the belle époque apartment buildings of Istanbul’s “European Quarter” have largely been replaced by a vibrant blend of rural Anatolians and global bohemians, hidden traces of these unique cultures remain, creating a very unique dining culture – at once rough and refined.
With Beyoğlu’s cosmopolitan history as a backdrop, on this walk we will eat our way through the classic and unknown eateries of the neighborhood, the old and the new, tasting specialties from all over Turkey. Beginning with a full breakfast in a timeless neighborhood lokanta, we’ll visit a pickle-maker and other artisans. Winding our way through the district’s atmospheric side streets, there will be specialties from across the country, ranging from the far Northeast on the Black Sea to the distinct cuisine of Hatay in the Southeast. We’ll visit a hidden Armenian church inside a fish market between samplings at street vendors and fishmongers, followed by a full lunch and, finally, the best Turkish coffee in the city. Depending on the day and what the walk comes across, there will be several other culinary surprises along the way, all of them telling the fascinating tale of what is perhaps Istanbul’s most iconic neighborhood
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your situation before booking.
Are your walks suitable for vegetarians and pescetarians?
We recommend this walk for vegeterians , as it gives us the most flexibility in terms of substitutions.
Is alcohol served on the walk?
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. 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. We recommend this walk for those with some mobility issues.
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 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.
Still have questions? Please email us at email@example.com.
By the time the tour draws to a close, bellies have been stretched by pickled turnip juice; ravioli sprinkled with dried mint, red pepper flakes and ground sumac; and delicately spiced eggplant stuffed with ground beef. By now, the walkers have tasted the history that lives on through a pickle, a working-day lunch or a tiny cup of thick, black coffee. Read more
Halfway through our backstreet tour of the Beyoglu district of Istanbul, Megan has been leading us a merry dance through some of the city’s best kept secrets, places which you won’t find in the guidebooks but that the locals flock to. After an early start, we meet in Cihangir. This once poor, conservative area, off the tourist trail, has transformed, through the process of gentrification, into a trendy neighbourhood, full of artisans and a café culture. Read more
With plates almost emptied, we are allowed into the kitchen, where we meet the staff who speak as much English as we do Turkish. We converse in a language of smiles and “mmm”s, lifting pot lids after being granted approval to our questioning eyebrows, snapping photos as they stir okra stews, custards and curds. Katerina does her best to translate as our questions become more intricate, and I’m sure they are laughing at our in-depth questions about a series of dishes which to them hold all the intrigue of Vegemite on toast. Read more
By the end of the six hour walking tour, we walked in and around Istiklal, taking side streets and coming across cafes and restaurants that tourists like us probably wouldn’t have come across. Throughout the day, I stepped out of my food comfortzone again and again by eating whatever it was we were served. Read more
While discovering the food of any city is of interest to us, there was so much more we learned on these tours – something about the history of the movie business in Istanbul; the location of former hammams; hidden churches; the best views of the old city. But mainly it was about the food. Read more