Previously known as a ‘throat comfort,’ real Turkish delight or lokum has a chewy texture and is sweet but not as sweet as it’s made to be in occidental markets. This treat has delighted people for centuries, even featuring in high literature such as C.S. Lewis’ ‘The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.’ Fun fact, the name of the lion, Arslan, is the Turkish word for lion.
If you’re curious as to what it is about these sweets that have captured the hearts of many for centuries, you really, really need to try some of the best Turkish Delights in Istanbul, so keep on reading.
The best Turkish delight in Istanbul is hard to find – but not impossible. This article will highlight 10 of my favorite places to get delicious and authentic Turkish delight. Some of these are family-owned businesses that have been producing authentic Turkish delights for more than 100 years. Some are located near tourist attractions, while others offer free tastings on site.
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The Best Turkish Delight Shops in Istanbul:
1. Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir
The oldest producer of Turkish delight, if not the oldest business in Turkey, this confectionary started life in 1777. Five generations later, the recipes for the sensuous splendor that is their Turkish delight are housed in their original shop in Eminönü. Perhaps it’s the preserved features of the historic building, or perhaps it’s the way the Turkish delights are designed to look a little bit like a chessboard; this place has that surreal, romantic vibe.
The glamorous, opulent vibe, however, is highly complimented by the friendly, welcoming staff. If Julia Roberts’ character in Pretty Woman walked in here, she would be welcomed in the most cordial manner.
The chocolates are laid behind the glass as though they are on the set of Chocolat. If you want to feel posh, take a seat and enjoy the Cinderella vibes of this boutique treasure.
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2. Hafız Mustafa
The golden standard of Turkish delights, anyone who doesn’t know this shop cannot claim to be a connoisseur of the chewy treats. Founded in 1864 by Hacı İsmail Hakkı Bey, this shop is named after his son. Hafız Mustafa inherited his father’s vocation after winning 11 medals in Europe in the fields of pastry and confectionery.
Although you can grab a gift, it would be far more advisable to sit and ponder which items on the menu you want to try. This traditional place may have seen the world change, but their traditions of using the highest quality raw materials have not.
Refusing to jump on the glucose trend, they prefer sugar beets. They also color their food with natural fruit extracts instead of those additives that may cause hyperactivity in some. If you’re looking for a treat but don’t want any nasty gunk, you can’t miss out.
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3. Şekerci Cafer Erol
Turkish coffee is supposed to be sipped, not drowned, and this spot is just the same. Whether you grab and go or whether you find a table upstairs to pair your dessert with the perfect coffee, this is a place where you’ll need to take your time to decide on what you want. Simply because this is a rare spot where you can find everything sweet, and we do mean everything.
They have everything from the warm embraces of the salep to traditional Turkish desserts you’ve ever read about. There are also French-styled cakes. Further, you can find something in every color. If you’re only eating purple-colored foods, for example, there’s a treat for you. That includes the Turkish delights.
Founded in 1807, Şekerci Cafer Erol has that ‘fortune teller’ feel. They do love to decorate and are huge fans of various festivals. If you’re ever in Istanbul during the festive season, missing out on here would be like forgetting to visit the Blue Mosque. A dreamy, wonderful of desserts.
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4. Hicipoğlu Şekerleme
If you want an ‘American dream’ story to pitch to Hollywood, ask the 6th generation owners of this spot to tell you their history. Approximately 260 years ago, Mustafa Efendi grabbed a saddlebag and made his way to Istanbul from his small village in İnebolu. His helva impressed Sultan Mahmut I so much that the king had to meet the man who created a ‘festival in his mouth.’ Since that day, each generation has continued the tradition of creating such colorful wonders that this shop could be described as a party or a festival for your tastebuds.
Perhaps one of the oldest confectionery shops, they do describe themselves as a museum. Unlike a museum, however, there is nothing pretentious or dusty about this place. Though the owner, Mr. Cemal, maybe getting a little older, his youthful passion is undeniably contagious.
Taste of Two Continents Tour
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If you walk around Istanbul asking for the ‘Koska’ shop, you may be directed to their colorful shops in Istiklal street or Karaköy. Koska is one of the biggest Turkish delight producers in the world, and you’ll also find their products not only in Turkish supermarkets but exported around the world.
Their little boxes of Turkish delights have picturesque paintings of the Ottoman Empire or its home, Istanbul. Koska is a global brand that is pioneering halva, marzipan, and jams and their uncountable collections of a variety of products like lokum, honey, molasses, hazelnut butter with cocoa, and so on forth. This is a name you can trust.
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6. Altan Şekerleme
A shop that would be right at home in Dickensian England, this place houses rows and rows of colorful sweets. Some Turkish delights are even placed to resemble the kind of house that the witch lived in Hansel & Gretel. We wouldn’t be surprised if a gingerbread man ran out of this fairy-tale shop. What’s more is that this magical shop is located on a narrow, cobbled street. You may wonder if you’re dreaming or if this shop actually exists.
Their creativity knows no bounds: alongside traditional flavors, you will find orange-flavored, fig-flavored, and even cinnamon raisin-flavored Turkish delights. Made with ingredients your grandma would recognize, this place isn’t a fan of artificial colors or flavors, and this is the stuff of legends.
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7. Cemilzade 1883
Hard to miss with their neon green signs, this place has set up their packets in such a way that’ll make the most hardened person say “awwww” in a high-pitched voice. You’ll find candy in a little plastic, a see-through box with golden cone hats. The square gift boxes are decorated with a sheer, almost-translucent gold-colored bow – unless you want the picturesque gift boxes with red or even blue bows. Some of the candies rest on plates with a cherubic angel overlooking them – that’s if they don’t have those Turkish evil eye gems.
See-through sweets, rock candies, fascinating jams like almond-fig, a variety of chocolates, including ones with Turkish delights, and even a soft ‘ezme’ all exist to complement the extraordinary Turkish delights. This is the Audrey Hepburn of souvenirs.
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8. Meşhur Safranbolu Lokumcusu
The elegant design of this shop may leave you feeling like a sultan. The pleasures inside, however, will forever ruin any other type of Turkish delights for you. This shop houses a euphoric array of candy that would make a perfect gift for that friend who couldn’t make it to Istanbul.
A touch of that Ottoman exoticness, this place is already in the hands of the second generation. This recipe has been passed down since the 90s, proving that not everything that came out of that decade is cringeworthy. A favorite of the locals, this is a little off the beaten path for tourists. However, they do boast that they do same-day delivery if you order before a certain time. You may wish to double-check if your hotel can accept these treats on your behalf because they really do make the best gifts.
9. Malatya Pazarı
If you do visit the Spice Market, you must stop by this stall. With cute lamps hanging from this ceiling, this candy and spice store is one of the few authentic shops in the Spice market that is not touristy.
Though this brand is highly prized as a kuru yemiş (“dry foods” aka nuts/trailmix) producer, their Turkish delights are not to be ignored. They have rows and rows of colorful ‘walnut sausages’ (cevizli sucuk), candied chestnuts, helvas, and an incredible variety of local desserts. However, suppose you’re not up to trying the local treats. In that case, this shop also has French croquants, a variety of honey, molasses, nutty atoms, spreadable nut/seed butter, chocolate spreads, saffron, spices, and olive oils.
It’s not just the tempting pişmaniyes on display, but everything about this store has an idealistic touch to it. Further, a brand from the 1800s is trusted and loved by the locals. You may be pişman (regretful) if you don’t stop by.
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10. Divan Pastanesi
Born over sixty years ago, this patisserie has lived long enough to witness many changes in The Republic of Turkey. Divan has even adapted to the times by combing experts’ hands with state-of-the-art machinery in their 15,000 square metered production facility. Despite their Willy-Wonka-esque factory, they haven’t changed the attention to quality, taste, and hygiene. Producing tons of desserts, five of them being Turkish delight, Divan has become a trusted name in the dessert industry to the point that they have several branches in Istanbul and have even started exporting to Europe, the USA, and the Middle East.
Though each generation adds their own creations, the experience and craftsmanship Divan offers is a lesson for each generation to learn from. Their secret recipe combined with excellent customer service is prestige defined, and each bite is a little touch of happiness.
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Istanbul is a city of many cultures and cuisines. With such diversity, it comes as no surprise that you can find some absolutely delicious Turkish delight in the best shops throughout the city. We’ve listed out our favorite Turkish delight shops for you so that next time your craving something sweet or if you want to learn more about the culture behind this iconic dessert, we have all the information at your fingertips!
If you’re looking for an immersive experience with Turkish food and cuisine, visit our tour pages, where we offer food tours of traditional dishes like baklava and börek along with other favorite delights from around Turkey. Join us soon and get ready to taste foods unlike anything else you might be used to!
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