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8 reasons why Istanbul is foodie heaven

Published March 30th, 2015

Food! It’s one of the best things about travelling. We’re lucky to live in a country that has so many culinary influences, but Istanbul takes the cake (pun intended). Due to its strategic position, literally straddling the continental borders of Europe and Asia, it has benefited from centuries of spice trading and immigration from all over the world. This has spun an amazement of culinary delights, which will blow your mind. Get ready to nom-nom your way to dizzying tastegasms! Here are my reasons why Istanbul is foodie heaven.

 

Matt (front, right) and fellow kebab aficionados on the Istanbul Kebab Krawl.

1. Kebab crawl

Forget the standard European pub crawl and sign up to one of Culinary Backstreets' Kebab Krawls. A local, tuned-in guide will lead you to secret backstreet eateries that you won’t find in a Lonely Planet guidebook.

 

Saffron on sale at the Spice Bazaar.

2. Spice Bazaar

Camera geeks will lose their loads when they see this ridiculous array of spices from all over the world. Buy a pinch of saffron at Eminönü's Spice Bazaar for the price of your whole week's budget.

 

Add some authentic Turkish delight to your Turkish coffee fix.

3. Turkish coffee

Although it’s not everyone’s cup of tea (or coffee for that matter), grabbing a cup of Turkish java is a must-do before leaving Istanbul.

 

4. Rooftop bars

The hip enclaves to the south of Taksim Square in central Istanbul are brimming with trendy rooftop bars. Sip on your favorite cocktail while watching the sunset over the old town.

 

Cast a line with the experts in Istanbul.

5. Fresh fish

If you’re there during fishing season, head down to the bridge just in front of Eminönü tram stop, on the southern bank of the Golden Horn. Here you’ll see thousands of Turks hanging a line. You can purchase their catch directly from them and have it barbecued right on the footpath! Doesn’t get fresher!

 

Psst... wanna banana? Fresh off the truck...

6. Fruit and veg trucks

Turks don’t like to pay taxes. So to escape the taxman, enterprising produce men sell amazing fresh fruit and veg straight off the back of their utes, making sure to only stay in one place for 10 minutes or so. They’ll beep the horn and locals will flood down from their apartments to top up their fridges.

 

Sweet, flaky, unpronounceable goodness.

7. Bülbül yuvasi

A cousin of baklava, bülbül yuvasi (nightingale's nest) is a flaky, sweet treat filled with pistachios and almonds will fulfill all your dessert fantasies. Good luck with the pronunciation. It’s well worth the embarrassment, I promise!

 

The stunning detail of the stairs to Istanbul's Pandeli restaurant.

8. Pandeli

You’ll find amazing, classic Turkish treasures at Pandeli restaurant, atop a hidden staircase just to the left inside the entrance of the Spice Bazaar. There are heaps of traditional dishes here, especially as the menu hasn’t changed in over a decade. It’s a lunch spot, so spend your morning tantalising your taste buds in the Spice Bazaar before heading upstairs (if you can find them) to satisfy your need for a feed.

 

A mouth-watering meal from Pandeli.

 

Matt Castell

If you could make travel a full-time job would you? I am. I've been called a "jack of all trades" many times over the ten or so years spent wandering the globe. Always looking for new skills to learn, whether it be lion taming or flying helicopters... I'll give it a go! Being a Travel Agent for Student Flights has been the top pick so far though!