Istanbul is an incredible city with a wealth of culinary delights. One of the most popular cuisines in this diverse city is seafood. There are many restaurants to choose from, but these 12 have been ranked as some of the best by locals and visitors alike. If you’re visiting Istanbul and love seafood, then this blog post will give you an idea of where to go for your next meal!
Let’s answer some questions that we get asked a lot before listing the best fish & seafood restaurants in Istanbul.
What are the popular local fishes in Istanbul?
Ask your waiter what fish is in season. Depending on the season, cooking style may change as well.
This cousin of the tuna is a fierce predator. Especially during its season, it is one of the most affordable fish in Istanbul. Because of the strong, harsh flavor and oily texture, it isn’t a taste that is accepted by all but most locals in Istanbul find Bonito fish absolutely delicious.
Bluefish are voracious feeders and fierce fighters, earning them the name “predator of the Bosphorus” among fishermen. Bluefish has a rich, full flavor and coarse, moist meat with edible skin. The larger the fish, the more pronounced its taste and the more expensive the bill.
Sea Bream (Çipura)
Mediterranean sea bream is widely considered to be one of the tastiest of all fish by chefs because it has a wonderfully clean taste and satisfyingly meaty texture. Even the farmed sea bream tastes good if cooked properly.
Mackerel is a strong flavored, fatty fish that tastes similar to salmon. The famous “fish sandwiches” sold all around Istanbul are usually made with Norwegian mackerel. As mackerel is a strong-flavored fish, these sandwiches are served with fresh onions, parsley, and a squeeze of lemon.
Sea Bass (Levrek)
Sea Bass is a great choice for people who dislike the strong fishy taste of other fishes. It has a mild sweet flavor, high-fat content, and full meat-like consistency that’s easy to enjoy even by those with seafood aversion.
Red Mullet (Tekir or Barbun)
Red mullet is often called a white fish, but it has a stronger taste than most other white fish. It is usually lightly fried and served as a whole fish. It is small and you will be served 5-6 of them to make it a filling meal!
Anchovies may not be the star of the menus at Istanbul fish restaurants but it is by far the most popular fish cooked in Turkish homes.
Forget what canned anchovies taste like back home and instead try fried (fresh) anchovies in Istanbul so that you will have a new favorite fish to ask for. I personally do not mind the head, tail or the bones of fried anchovies and eat it as a whole.
Turbot is a highly prized species that belongs to the flatfish category. It’s usually regarded as the best fish in this group, with great flavor and firm, white meat; all things considered, it would be hard not to like this popular seafood.
This elegant and tasty fish is a delicacy in Istanbul. It’s one of the most expensive types on market, but definitely worth it!
Swordfish is generally considered to be one of the meatiest fish, and it has a subtle sweet flavor. Even after cooking, this texture remains intact while maintaining its moistness. It is usually skewered, cooked, and served as shish kebab.
Grey Mullet (Kefal)
Grey mullet has a distinctive, earthy, nutty flavor and is quite popular in Turkey. It is not considered a treat or an elegant fish but would be a great choice for a quick and reasonably priced lunch or dinner. The fisherman you will see on Galata Bridge usually ends up catching this common grey mullet.
What is the pricing like in seafood restaurants in Istanbul?
The price of fish in Istanbul can range from being very pricey to practically a steal. There’s no set pricing available on menus (except for farmed fishes and small fishes like anchovies, grey mullet, red mullet, whiting), so you’ll need to confirm the price with your waiter before ordering the fish. This is important so that you won’t get an unwanted surprise when the bill comes.
List of best fish restaurants in Istanbul:
1. Balıkçı Kahraman
This fish restaurant is situated in the very north of Istanbul with a view of the Black sea. The staff is so friendly that you’re more like family than customers, and they don’t bother to fill your plate up with hot and cold starters before letting you taste their exquisite fish selections.
The fish I love to eat the most at Kahraman is Turbot. This cold water dweller has been a delicacy of Turkish cuisine and if you are in Istanbul, make sure that this salty-water seafood delight is on your list!
Kahraman has and serves every available fish in the season, but they specialize in one type of fish: Turbots. They’re delicious when they’re in season – around January and February, which means it’s the perfect time to seek out some good-sized ones because they taste much better when they’re fatty and fresh.
It’s hard to find a table for the weekend, but if you do, it could be worth your while. You may get lucky and see some Turkish celebrities sitting next to you!
This restaurant is one of the most expensive fish restaurants in Istanbul, and a medium-size turbot can cost around 150-300USD alone.
Location of Balıkçı Kahraman:
2. Bebek Balıkçısı
This restaurant is best for those who love a good view. Perched right on the water’s edge, this fish and seafood heaven offers fresh catches of the day from all over Turkey as well as some imports to keep things interesting!
This restaurant’s refreshing and clean ambiance makes you feel like it would be a wonderful place to spend an evening with friends. The service was prompt and caring but not too pushy, which I always appreciate in restaurants; they seemed genuinely happy that we were there. There is something for everyone on the menu here!
They have some of the freshest fish in Istanbul, but their sea bass is by far one of my favorite dishes. Another great thing about Bebek Balıkçısı is their mixed seafood grills which offer variety in every bite. It will be hard not to enjoy yourself here because everything tastes so delicious with a side dish like rice pilaf or green salad.
Location of Bebek Balıkçısı:
3. Sur Balık Haliç
The hustle and bustle of Istanbul is a contrast to the serenity of this restaurant located right on the Golden Horn. The local seafood dishes are served fresh while you can enjoy your fantastic view on their 4th-floor balcony overlooking both sides of Golden Horn with wine in hand with your partner.
The best time to come and eat at Sur Balık is in the evening when it’s not as hot during the summer months. The food is quite pricey but worth every penny – I would say that this seafood restaurant ranks among the best in Istanbul because of their fresh fish and perfect seafood cooking methods.
The meze menu is seasonally rotating, but one dish that always remains finger-licking delicious on their diverse and satisfying meze options is “basil marinated wild sea-bass.”
You can ask your waiter about the local fish that’s in season, but you’ll find their sole fish, grilled sea bass, and grilled calamari on any given day will be equally delicious.
Location of Sur Balık Haliç:
4. Balıkçı Sabahattin
One of the most important factors in choosing a restaurant is proximity, so it’s no wonder that Balikci Sabahattin ranks as one of our favorite restaurants on this list. With plenty of delicious options for seafood lovers and being just 20-30 minutes on foot from your hotel in Sultanahmet, you’re sure to have an amazing time at this fish restaurant.
Being right near where you are staying is important because there will never be any problems getting back without worrying about the traffic. (Istanbul is infamous for its traffic jam)
The restaurant’s menu is packed with fresh local seafood and fish. Stuff mussels, jumbo shrimps, crab salad, or sea bass are just a few of the many options to please anyone who walks through their doors. You can’t leave without ordering one (or more) of their Turkish wines that match your dish–they’re so good you’ll be tempted to order another bottle for dessert too!
Location of Balıkçı Sabahattin:
5. Eleos Restaurant
This is a Greek Tavern where you can really feel the Aegean air, with its white walls, blue-white checkered tablecloths, and wooden chairs. The smell of delicious food emanates from all over this restaurant as one feels peace settle within them; it’s no wonder that locals flock to this restaurant in the heart of Istanbul!
Some of their legendary appetizers are Saganaki, roasted lobster, grilled squid, grilled octopus, and shrimp stew. These delicious dishes are all so unusual! But there’s one that really takes the cake. It’s the roasted lobster, and it tastes amazing, to say the least. You can’t help but want more of this dish – once you’ve tasted its cotton-soft taste in your mouth, it’ll be hard not to crave more every day.
Eleos tavern is an unmissable place for seafood lovers. The view and the service are incredibly good, but it also has a very high quality of taste to match that excellence in other aspects.
Location of Eleos Restaurant:
6. Kıyı Restaurant
Another wonderful fish restaurant in Istanbul is Kıyı Restaurant. The unique thing about this place is that it’s right near the water with the best views of the Bosphorus!
The menu offers dishes like grilled octopus, lobster salad, sea bass tartare, fish soup, fried shrimp, or grilled turbot. You can also try their freshly shucked oysters which are quite good at this establishment if you’re feeling adventurous. If not, there’s always fried mussels and stuffed mussels (local’s favorite) for anyone who prefers them to other shellfish – they taste crispy on the outside but creamy on the inside, making them perfect for dipping with your favorite sauces.
This great seafood restaurant has all these options plus a great variety of local and fresh fish with an amazing view of the Bosphorus, so I would recommend coming here during sunset when the city lights start to illuminate, and a cool breeze starts to come through.
Location of Kıyı Restaurant:
7. Tarihi Ali Baba
Look no further if you’re looking for a place to satisfy your seafood cravings and get some bang-for-your buck. At Tarihi Ali Baba, the service is quick, the fish fresh as can be, but what really sets this restaurant apart is its prices – among the most affordable on this list of best fish restaurants in Istanbul.
Their fish ravioli and fish soup are a must-try. Sea bream in salt is a great main course, and there is plenty of fresh mezes and cold appetizers you can order.
Location of Tarihi Ali Baba:
8. Tarihi Karaköy Balıkçısı
With its delicious seafood and great service, Tarihi Karaköy Balıkçısı is one of the best fish & seafood restaurants in Istanbul that are near to areas with a vibrant nightlife.
The restaurant is well-known for its fresh grilled fishes like sea bass or salmon – they’re so juicy you’ll wish the plate was bigger! You get the best variety here in terms of presentation as well as taste–you’ll want them all on your table, but at least one dish per person will do just fine! The best part about this place, though has got to be their wide selection of mezes.
Istanbul’s nightlife may not stop when it’s time to eat dinner; however, there are many neighborhoods where you can find the best fish restaurants with delicious food and great service.
Location of Tarihi Karaköy Balıkçısı:
9. Del Mare Restaurant Istanbul
Del Mare is the perfect combination of modern presentation and traditional flavors. With Antakya salted goat yogurt or Konya double roasted tahini, this restaurant has a menu that will make you appreciate local Turkish dishes along with seafood and fresh fish.
Their fish and seafood are distinctive according to the seasons; they supply it daily, fresh in its most natural form from different regions like Babakale, Iskenderun, and Canakkale.
Del Mare’s turbot tandoori is one of the most assertive dishes on their menu, slow-cooked for a period of fifty minutes over a light grill fire so that it stays juicy and crispy. Linguine pasta hand-made with carefully selected mussels from Çanakkale is also a great choice for all wine lovers.
The sea bass from The Black Sea region is one of the most popular fish in Turkish cuisine. The special soup made from its head and bones, which has been prepared for centuries, will also be available to all guests visiting the Asian side Del Mare Restaurant year-round.
Location of Del Mare Restaurant:
10. Agora 1890
You can experience the real Turkish tavern culture from the pre-Republican Era and delight in 60 different appetizers prepared by Chef Ahmet Arı at Agora 1890. The restaurant is now a meeting point of culture as it was back in the 19th century!
Among the favorite flavors of Agora 1890; fried liver, almond-flavored zucchini, fish pastrami, and tarama (tarama or taramosalata is a Greek meze made from tarama, the salted and cured roe of the cod, carp, or grey mullet bottarga).
Agora 1890, which was the scene of 286 famous Turkish movies and many poems and songs, is a restaurant that opened in Çıfıtçı Çarşısı by Greek captain Asteri Dulidis.
Location of Agora 1890:
11. Adem Baba Restaurant
Adem Baba is an excellent fish restaurant in Istanbul and is old and well-established. In 1994, two fisherman brothers set up their business at Bebek Bay on a small boat intending to allow locals to enjoy eating fresh seafood before they moved on to opening a restaurant. One can find everything from fried mussels, kippers, or squid stuffed with breadcrumbs, but one thing that should not be missing is these delicious fish meatballs!
They also serve fried and stuffed mussels and fried calamari along with fresh local fish.
Location of Adem Baba Restaurant:
12. Cibalikapı Balıkçısı Haliç
This great seafood restaurant, located right next to the historical Cibalikapı in Istanbul’s old neighborhood of Cibali, is a shabby but clean and spacious place with wooden floors, tables, and chairs. The panorama stretching from Hasköy to the historical Galata Tower all the way down past Topkapi Palace can be seen through one large window on an old building that lies just across this bustling street as well.
Their marinated sea bass, artichoke dessert, and parmesan mussels are worth a mention. This is the only place that I’ve seen making the artichoke dessert, and its taste is beyond words.
If you’re looking for a relaxing evening and want to have the best meal of your trip, head over to Cibalikapı Balıkçısı. They offer some incredible fish dishes that are sure not to disappoint!
Location of Cibalikapı Balıkçısı Haliç:
We hope you have enjoyed our roundup of the best seafood restaurants in Istanbul. Whether your visit to this amazing city is short or long, we want to help make it memorable with a delicious dish from one of these establishments.
If you are a foodie and want to experience more delicious Turkish food in this vibrant city, come with us on our food tour! You will not only get an insider’s perspective of the culture but also taste some amazing dishes from all over Turkey.
More of the best restaurants & food in Istanbul
- The 7 Best Mussels in Istanbul | Ultimate Guide to Mussels in Istanbul
- 14 Best Restaurants in Sultanahmet
- 12 Absolute Best Seafood Restaurants in Istanbul
- 18 Best Restaurants in Taksim & Beyoğlu That You Must Try
- Best Bosphorus Restaurants in Istanbul: Top 9 Right Now
- The Best Lahmacun in Istanbul: 6 Outstanding Lahmacun Places