Taking a food tour of Istanbul is a great way to start your stay in the city. Quickly get to know a local (your guide) and get the inside track on what to eat for the rest of your stay.
Part modern, part ancient, part Eastern, and part Western. These are just some of the complex ingredients that when mixed together, create a city as uniquely captivating as Istanbul.
Istanbul is an exciting clash of cultures spread across two continents, Europe and Asia. Its history and its geography make it not only a facinating place to see, but also an incredible city to taste.
That’s why on a recent trip to Istanbul, taking a food tour was my first order of business. To get the job done, I chose My Local Guide Istanbul’s Taste of Turkey on Two Continents Tour.
Why take a food tour
For first time visitors to Istanbul, the city’s two-continent span, vast network of winding streets, and sheer multitude of food offerings can be overwhelming. My suggestion: the first thing you should do in Istanbul is take a food tour. Here’s why:
Get to know a local
Your tour guide (the local) is not only a great resource on where to eat in Istanbul, but also on the city itself. You’re paying for their tour (and their time) so make it worth it. Ask for insider tips on places to see and things to do, what to be aware of, and even more recommendations on places to eat and drink during you next few days in the city.
Gain culinary confidence
Become familiar with some of the food that the city has to offer so you can be more confident and adventurous as you order and eat for the remainder of your stay.
Get off the beaten path
Food tours will take you to parts of the city you might otherwise not have visited on your own and provide you with experiences you might not have had. Plus, experiencing these hidden gems may encourage you to continue getting off the beaten path after the tour ends.
For more details and photos from my food tour experience, including cinnamon-spiced mussels and sweet and sticky baklava, keep reading.
The Istanbul in Two Continents tour, you guessed it, visits both the European and Asian sides of the city. The tour begins on the European side where you, along with a small group of fellow tour-goers, board a local ferry for a crossing of the Bosphorus River to the Asian side.
Lucky for you, this tour begins right before sun down and what would otherwise be a simple boat ride turns into a sunset cruise.
The crossing won’t take long and before you know it, you’ll be in Asia. Since most of the famous mosques, ancient landmarks, and bazzars are found on the European side, far fewer visitors venture over to the Asian side of Istanbul.
Your first stop on the tour, a pedestrian only market lined with food shops in the Kadıköy district, will make you automatically glad that you made the trip.
Walking through the crowded alleyway, you’ll stop at a variety of open-air shops to sample food. If you find something you like, most shops will be able to vacuum seal a bag so you can travel home with it.
After a quick dinner at a local restaurant you’ll head back to Europe for a sampling of baklava, a staple Turkish dessert made by layering paper-thin sheets of pastry, nuts, and honey. Be warned, it’s delicious, sweet, and sticky.
After throughly stuffing your face, you’ll be ready to sit, relax, digest, socialize, and maybe get a little lightheaded. Luckily the last stop of the night will take you to a local shop where you’ll sip on tea and gather around the nargile (also know as a water pipe or hookah). As you smoke the flavored tobacco amongst the locals and talk with your guide and fellow tour-mates about the day, you’ll think that you’ll never be able to eat again…that is, until tomorrow.
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