- Culinary walks
- Our Story
|2-7 people||Eminonu||~5.5 hours||9:30am|
|-> Fatih||No Sundays|
Quick Bite: In Istanbul’s Old City, two culinary worlds exist side by side: one for tourists and one for locals. Our 5½–hour walk goes beyond the major monuments to these time-honored spots where all of the serious eating is done.
In Istanbul’s Old City, two culinary worlds exist side by side- one for tourists and one for locals. Our “Culinary Secrets of the Old City” walk goes beyond the major monuments to these time-honored spots where all of the serious eating is done.
While tour buses unload groups for a set menu lunch beside the Egyptian Spice Market, we take the backstreets in search of the shops and small restaurants that local Istanbulites will cross town to visit.
We’ll have our breakfast with the shopkeepers in a traditional teahouse and then set off through the atmospheric, lesser-explored market streets around the Egyptian Spice Market, pressing on, deeper into the untouristed Fatih neighborhood. In Kantarcılar, a district that has been selling weights and measures since Ottoman times, we will visit a local confectionary where Turkish delight has been made and sold for four generations and meet the family upholding this tradition. From there we’ll visit an all-but-abandoned caravanserai where the simple pleasure of a cup of tea brings shopkeepers together through the day. We’ll see a couple of hidden historical sites, an Ottoman-era bozacı and, finally, a full lunch of traditional pit-roasted lamb in a very local, family-run place next to the Byzantine aqueduct (with lots of other edible treats along the way). These are the city’s quintessential culinary backstreets.
Fee includes everything consumed on the walk. Some special features:
|Explores the backstreets of the Old City.||Children welcome|
|No pork served on the walk||No alcohol served on the walk|
|Not recommended for vegetarians or gluten-free diets||Some hills and stairs, though punctuated by lots of sitting, 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 protected] 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 protected] 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 protected] to discuss your situation before booking.
Are your walks suitable for vegetarians and pescetarians? We recommend the Hidden Beyoglu walk to vegetarians, as it gives us the most flexibility in terms of substitutions. The Culinary Secrets of the Old City is also possible, although the final meal on this walk is exclusively lamb.
Are your walks suitable for a gluten free diet? Gluten free is difficult in Turkey as many of the dishes as wheat based. We can accommodate a gluten free diet on our Hidden Beyoglu walk, but there may be a few stops gluten free participants may need to opt out of.
Is alcohol served on the walks? No. 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.
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.
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 protected].
Route maps are for planning purposes only. A detailed confirmation email will be sent upon booking with actual meeting point of your walk.
Eating in the labyrinth of alleys of old Istanbul requires some hand-holding, and that’s where my Istanbul-born street-food guide comes in. … Behind me a sixty-something moustachioed man – the neighbourhood tea maker – scurries through the building distributing bitter, two-inch-high glasses of Turkish tea to workers. Nearby, his mate tugs a rope that hauls a tray of brews up and down fifteen flights of stairs on a creaky but ingenious pulley system. Read more
So here some pals and I find ourselves, sipping sour vegetable juices in the belly of a warehouse stacked high with bags of coffee beans and equipped with a small kitchen for brewing tea and coffee. Burly workers get up from a worn table to make space for Nannos, his new charges and his purchases from some choice stalls in the market: olives, cheese, that liquid eye-opener from the pickle vendor and simit, Turkey’s equivalent of a bagel, sprinkled with sesame seeds. Read more
I don’t usually sign up for tours of any kind; I always think I can figure things out on my own. But for a recent trip to Istanbul I felt help was in order. The culture is a mystery to me. So I signed up for a street food tour with a new company,Istanbul Eats, Culinay Backstreets. Today, with a bit of research on the Internet anyone can scope out the best restaurants, markets, and food sources. At least up to a certain point. What about the places that fall through the cracks? The place where the guys who sell fish take their coffee break. Or where spice vendors stop mid-morning for a bowl of lentil soup. Read more
Loot in hand, we stepped into a deserted arcade where we gathered around a makeshift breakfast table covered in newspaper. We tucked into our feast caveman-style, attacking fresh slabs of beyaz peynir (a mild, white cheese) andtulum peynir (a goat’s milk cheese ripened in a goatskin casing) with hunks of sesame-encrusted pretzels. Spicy salamwas wrapped around plump olives and stuffed into still-warm bread. As we ate, chipper old Turkish men brought out cups of Turkish çay and plates of the honey-topped clotted cream I’d watched Bourdain scarf. Read more
Initially created as a food blog named Istanbul Eats in 2009 by two expats, Ansel Mullins and Yigal Schleifer, the website Culinary Backstreets has since transformed into an international portal with destinations in nearly a dozen cities worldwide. In addition to offering candid reviews and tips on Turkish and other global cuisines, Culinary Backstreets also offers culinary tours of eateries off the beaten path for tourists, expats, Istanbulites and any other curious foodie. Read more
Oh right! I have had a doner kebab. If you’ve spent any time in Europe, I’m sure you’ve heard of these doner kebabs as stands selling them have been becoming increasingly popularall over the continent. Who knows, I may have just had a bad experience, but I just couldn’t bring myself to believe that this c heap late night, low quality street food was a true representation of Turkishcuisine. There had to be more to it. Read more
Our delightful guide was a whirlwind of inexhaustible energy, in constant motion, animatedly explaining the details of Turkish cuisine and culture while greeting shop owners with warm hugs, purchasing an assortment of goodies along the way and leading our group … in search of the best eats this corner of Istanbul has to offer. As a Bay Area Tasting Tour guide myself, this feat was all the more impressive as I well know the juggling act required to keep guests and shopkeepers happy while sticking to a schedule. Actually Senem didn’t seem shackled to a schedule (or budget) as she spontaneously added fresh pressed pomegranate juice when we passed a street vendor pumping out the magenta elixir. Read more