Istanbul Food Tour
Culinary Secrets of the Old City
Quick Bite: In Istanbul’s Old City, two culinary worlds exist side by side: one for tourists and one for locals. On this Istanbul Old City food tour, we go beyond the major monuments to 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 to the backstreets in search of the shops and small restaurants that local Istanbulites will cross town to visit. Here is where locals line up to buy ground coffee by the kilo across from a cheese monger whose number is on speed dial of some of Istanbul’s best chefs. Here we enter the world of wholesalers and artisans who all have a hand in feeding the city.
Istanbul’s most enchanting places are where the medieval and the modern meet and this route through the Old City is a delicious glimpse of the life that exists at this juncture.
To kick off our Istanbul Old City food tour, we’ll have 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). Istanbul’s most enchanting places are where the medieval and the modern meet and this route through the Old City is a delicious glimpse of the life that exists at this juncture.
Fee includes everything consumed on the walk. Some special features:
|Explores the backstreets of the Old City.||Children welcome|
|No pork served on the tour||No alcohol served on the tour|
|Meat-heavy tour, not recommended for vegetarians, vegans or gluten-free diets||Some hills and stairs, though punctuated by lots of sitting, it can be strenuous at times.|
- How are you dealing with COVID-19 risk on your walks?
- We have reinforced our commitment to safety with new guidelines to assure maximum safety of our guests on our walks in terms of social distancing and hygiene while maintaining the quality of the experience. For more details on our precautions, read here.
Our routes have been altered during this period of time to ensure the safety of our guests, guides and community. Our cancellation policy is extremely flexible to deal with changes in travel plans.
- 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 Backstreets 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.
- How does the payment process work?
- Once you have made a reservation, we require the full $125 fee to be paid in order to complete the online booking. Our online booking system uses Stripe to process secure payments.
- 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 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?
- 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@example.com.