I have little to add to the helpful and thorough reviews written by other travelers. I would just like to mention that a Turkish friend toos us there, as it is always ideal that local people who can help you discover the hidden areas. In our case, we were in a taxi and we had the typical apple tea while enjoying the panoramic views. It is quite touristy yet interesting.
We went on the recommendation of a friend who had been living in Istanbul for 5 years. He said they served the best meatballs (beef) in the city. And he was right. They are incredible. They are served with a bean salad and lentil soup ... If you can have both. Alternatively there is a dish of lamb skewers. As in many places in the old part of Istanbul, they do not serve alcohol, the best alternative is Ayran (salty yoghurt).
On the Golden Horn side of the Galata Bridge, I found one of the things I always look for during my travels: a cheap, authentic meal with the locals. If you're looking for a nice lunch, skip the restaurants on the bridge itself, which are pushy and really expensive, and wander over to the two or three brightly-colored boats docked just to the left of the bridge. The boats sell grilled-fish sandwiches for 3 lira each and there are stools set up around the boats where you can crowd in and eat. The sandwiches are delicious and the fish is fresh and smokey, and it's served with a little parsley and onion. Lots of people are walking around the stools selling drinks, but, if you have taste 1, head over the the little buggy with the plastic cups full of pink fruit punch looking stuff. Well, it's olive juice...and the pink color comes from the pickled beets soaking in it. Absolutely repugnant on it's own, but when you mix it with the smokey fish sandwich, it actually tastes great! Anyways, Istanbul can be tricky food-wise. It has a lot of over-priced, low-quality tourist joints and a lot of delicious-looking but imposing local places. The Galata Bridge Boat restaurants, though, are approachable, cheap, and tasty as hell. Recommended 100%.
The banks of the Bosphorus and Golden Horn are lined with food stalls where both tourists and villagers alike can enjoy a freshly caught fish, some tomatoes and grilled asparagus or a perhaps even try a plate of "sharma" (spicy rice wrapped in palm leaves). Turkish food is delicious, healthy, Mediterranean and very spicy. There are a variety of vegetables, fish, pizzas and rice dishes. Eating here is a great option if you want to try and save money while visiting Istanbul. Everything is really delicious!
One of the most special and most charming things that you can do in Istanbul is to have Turkish tea at Binbirek Cistern. Included in the admission price to the Cisterna is a drink. The truth is that it's a great idea, although not every day to have a drink in a Century building! The atmosphere is very evocative, the humidity invades everything, you can hear the water dripping through the channels, a reddish light wrapped around the columns and jazz music playing in the background. This is a must if you are going to Istanbul! A truly secret place, unknown to most, and for me it was one of the most magical moments of the trip.
In good weather, Sultanahmet, Istanbul's oldest district, becomes a diverse outdoor dining room. The restaurant terraces are full of people, to the point that you have to walk dodging tables and diners. The nicest thing is that the terraces are decorated, not only with tiny lights and plants, but with beautiful carpets laid on the pavements.
The streets of Sultanahmet are transformed in the afternoon, when people invade restaurants and assemble on its lovely terraces. The Rumeli Café is a restaurant that at first glance seems like the rest, then, when you sit at the table, you realize that it is a more elegant and traditional than the rest, frequented much more by people from Istanbul rather by tourists. The restaurant serves amazing traditional dishes from Turkey, but with a modern twist. The Rumeli Café is housed in a charming restored Ottoman house with a lot of atmosphere.
The tea shop can be found in the center of Istanbul. It is located in the medrese of the mosque next to the Grand Bazaar on the corner of Yeniçeriler Street and Bileyciler Street. The courtyard was built in the seventeenth century by Corlulu Ali Pasa, the son-in-law of Mustafa II and Grand Vizier of Ahmet III.
Its name means pearl white and is one of the best restaurants in the Galata Bridge. They are very persistent and there is a lot of competition, about 20 restaurants attached to each other, the good part is that you can negotiate, we did and received a 20% discount and complimentary tea. It served very good fish and had spectacular views at sunset
This restaurant, located on the famous Nevizade Sokak, is a good place to taste authentic Turkish mezes. To avoid any confusion with the names and ingredients, at the beginning of the meal, they bring you a massive-and succulent-looking tray with all the mezes available. The stuffed peppers, the Sharmas (spicy rice wrapped in grape leaves), fish marinated in olive oil, spinach with yogurt. Really everything is delicious in this restaurant, the people are very friendly, and it's always busy. One tip: don't miss the impromptu concerts of Turkish music they hold every now and then on the top floor of the restaurant.
Authentic restaurant with spectacular food. It is a restaurant with several floors where you sit on the floor, barefoot and with cushions, in an area that has amazing charm. If you go to the Beyoglu area, you really can't miss it. It is my favorite restaurant, not only in Istanbul (which isn't that easy to find, part of the charm, I guess).
Although we had to try Turkish coffee, which I did once and only once, I prefer Turkish tea, especially with apple. Turkish coffee is strong and somewhat thick. If you like strong coffee, you'll be in heaven. In my stay in Istanbul, I went "home" to ny apple tea. In many places, they treat you to tea just for reading the restaurant menu.
A romantic dinner in Istanbul in an old restored wooden restaurant that's actually a museum (it has several works by the Turkish Impressionist painter Rami Uluer). Candles, mirrors, small tables, music, terrace and views over the Blue Mosque. To top it off, delicious Turkish cuisine, the best dolmas I've ever eaten and sis kebab to be repeated. After dinner walk down to the square to see the sound and light show of the Blue Mosque -what more could you want?
Lokum is popularly known as "Turkish Delight" since, in the nineteenth century, an Englishman sent several boxes to England. They're a kind of square jelly, flavored with rosewater or lemon in different colors and some have fillers like walnut, pistachio and hazelnuts, finally they are dusted with icing sugar so they don't stick together. These Turkish delicacies are available anywhere, in bazaars, bakeries, etc. Most tourists buy boxes as they're easier to travel with, but recognize that the best quality and best taste are sold by weight so the boxes are a kind of substitute.
In the heart of Sultanahmet, near the walls of the Topkapi Palace is this restaurant-teteria. It's very cozy and central with very competitive prices (0.50 euros for Turkish tea, shisha 3.5), you can also dine at a good price. The best is that it's quiet, has an intimate atmosphere and is open until 1 o'clock. The worst is the poor quality snuff in the shisha.
After passing day and night by the door and listening to the insistent "promoter", the fourth day we decided to dine there for not having to hear more! And it was a very wise decision! At the very heart of Sultanahmet, can see Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque from a crystal terrace, unless, if as happened to us, the fog prevents you from it! Their menu has a variety of dishes, meat and fish and Ottoman specialties. We opted for the latter and it was one of our best dinners in Istanbul. Meats are baked in sauce, one with mushrooms and the other one with cheese and tomato, delicious! The service is exquisite, all the staff speak Spanish and they love Spaniards, a huge percentage of their customers, but for more detailed discussions and explanations, it is better to speak in English. Except for the view that for climatic reasons we could not enjoy, the rest was a 10 out of 10! While not as cheap as the kebab restaurants, it is not very expensive and is worth it.
In Istanbul you can't stop seeing folk dancing and belly dancing and wonder who play the beautiful young Turkish. I was invited to the luxury Krevansaray Restaurant at the Hilton Hotel. There, while enjoying great food, you get to know the different types of folk dances and couples dances of male prowess, with different items like swords, knives and daggers, fire, etc. There are people of all nationalities, grouped at large tables that make it very attractive. Belly dancing is performed by 3 young dancing wonders (see the photos attached) perform dances such as the Thousand and One Nights.