Whether you are an aspiring chef or terrified of the kitchen, a foodie, or an eat-whatever-comes-to-me, you would enjoy visiting Istanbul’s fish markets (balık pazarı in Turkish), which are a cultural heritage to this ancient city and Turkey.
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The fish markets in Istanbul are novelesque. The glossy fish, colors, lights, and sometimes-mustachioed merchants are a painting waiting for an adroit artist to capture. Tourists fondly remember the sly cats, shyly waiting in a corner for one of the salespersons to serve it some extras. The dance these cute cats embody when trying to both be noticeable and not be-in-the-way could be on the stage.
The fish markets of Istanbul will emblazon themselves in your memory and spark your creativity.
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Istanbul has five major fish markets that offer an unmatched variety and quality of fresh seafood and fish. These five locations are among some of the best places in Istanbul if you want to unleash your inner poissonnier chef:
1. Beşiktaş Fish Market
On a cold, rainy day, you have a craving for delicious & fresh seafood that’ll warm your soul. You could put on your wellington boots and trudge through an open market. Alternatively, you can make your way towards the famous fish market in Beşiktaş.
This market has a modern roof but no walls. Integrated perfectly with the streets, it is a world of the most scrumptious contradictions. Inside yet outside. A modern roof in the old part of the city. This mix of new and old is very much the essence of Istanbul. Further, the shimmering lights illuminating each shiny fish and every forest-green vegetable, the views here so majestic that they fit well in the municipality that is famous for its spellbinding views.
If you prefer not to put your hands on fish, it may be an idea to try one of the seafood and fish restaurants scattered around Beşiktaş Fish Market.
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2. Kadıköy Fish Market
On the Anatolian side of Istanbul, Kadıköy has an inescapable nostalgic vibe. The Tuesday market is a must-see for tourists, but the fish market is something else.
Whatever recipe you have in mind, in addition to fresh fish from the Black Sea, the Marmara Sea, and Mediterranian Sea, this dreamy market also hosts an assorted collection of shops that sell honey, cheese, pickles, olives, greenies, and whatever else your recipe desires. If you want to live like a local, stop by.
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3. Kumkapı Fish Market
Although the Turks may describe the architecture of the newly built Kumkapı Fish Market as ‘modern,’ there is still a hint of that 70s Istanbul vibe that you may have seen in the heydays of Turkish Hollywood (Yeşilçam aka “Green Pine”). The old and authentic Kumkapı Fish Market, which stood for a long time, has been recently destroyed, and a new modern fish market is built at the exact location.
Chefs will venture to this new fish market from all corners of Istanbul to see the diverse seafood that’s not always available elsewhere. From octopus to various mussels and oysters to crustaceans to squid, you may even see patrons traveling from across the country to satisfy their seafood desires.
Local seafood restaurants nearby offer astonishingly beautiful, picturesque views of the Marmara Sea and catch of the day. There’s something meditative about the sounds of the seagulls nearby. Pick whichever fresh seafood you want and have them cook for you. This isn’t one of those places that’ll just fry up a fish; spices are added to offer a little flavor.
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4. Beyoğlu Fish Market
On the European side, close to Madame Tussauds, Taksim square, and Istiklal street, you’ll find a collection of shops and restaurants specializing in seafood in a narrow alleyway. The entrance hosts a beautiful, ornamental arch that crowns this spot as a fish bazaar. In fact, famous Turkish chef, Arda Türkmen has a blog post on how much he loves Çiçek Pasajı (Flower passage) and its atmosphere.
These streets would inspire both a chef and a novelist in the Orhan Pamuk vein. You’ll find the kind of shops that have been supplying restaurants for decades. Whether you’re a fish and coke, shrimp and rakı, or a beer and mussels kind of person, you’ll find everything you desire here. Moreover, this secretive place transforms in the night into a lively, welcoming spot where you can share the merriment with tourists and locals alike.
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5. Üsküdar Balıkçılar Çarşısı
Hidden on the Asian side of Istanbul, this fish market is well-known to the locals selling fresh fish. If you’ve ever eaten fish at a quality restaurant in Üsküdar, the chef was likely inspired to buy from here. A touch pricier than other markets, it’s definitely worth the extra cost. Everything is exceptional in its freshness, and you may discover new species of fish here.
The local vendors are an invaluable gift to those who aren’t too sure what they’re doing in the kitchen. Aside from ‘cleaning,’ i.e., gutting the fish, they can also talk a good game about which fish is the most appropriate selection for you.
This market is best made as a “day out” where you browse various groceries such as bread, vegetables, cakes, spices, and even cheese in the local shops. You can help yourself with some fast food or even purchase some gold alongside your fish if you’re feeling quirky. This place will give you an understanding of the Istanbul lifestyle.
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The fish markets in Istanbul not only offer the freshest seafood, but they also have great seafood restaurants nearby and offer a wide variety of other goods like fruit and vegetables. We recommend that you visit one while in Istanbul to get the full Turkish daily life experience!
If you are looking for a new culinary experience while visiting this beautiful city, then come on one of our food tours. You will get an introduction to Turkish cuisine and learn about the culture that surrounds it all. Contact us today to book your tour so we can show you some of these fantastic restaurants in person and help answer any questions you may have along the way.
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