Stretching over the continents of Europe and Asia, Istanbul is multi-cultural mecca almost double the population of London. For centuries the city has served as a crossroad between East and West with the fusion of European, Ottoman, and Middle Eastern influences. Cafes in Istanbul are truly where all of these cultures come to light.
As the lifeblood of the city, cafes are more common than bars throughout Istanbul. Each neighborhood takes pride in its distinct collection of cafes and coffeeshops, which make each area unique. When planning a trip to Istanbul, you’ll definitely want to make time to relax at some of these hip cafes scattered across the city.
Coffee culture in Istanbul
Istanbul is a city of sacred tradition, and coffee is without a doubt one of them. Coffee shops and cafes in Istanbul bring together all the different faiths, background and cultures of the city.
Istanbul is famous for its Turkish coffee, a blend that puts Espresso to shame. Turkish coffee is a method of preparing coffee that dates back to the 5th century. It is made by mixing in fine coffee grounds with boiling water. This creates a thin layer of foam at the top of the traditional copper coffee pots.
Coffee is mixed in with a sugar cube and often a side of the gelatin candy, Turkish delight. Since the coffee is so much stronger, usually it comes in a cup that’s about the size of an espresso. You can ask for milk to add into your coffee as well.
Fortune-telling with coffee grounds
You’ll notice when you finish your coffee there is a thick layer of coffee ground “sludge”. You’re not suppose to drink this, however it can be used to tell your fortune. A Turkish tradition is using the coffee grounds at the bottom of your cup to to read about your past, present, and future. Many coffee shops and cafes will actually employ women that can read your fortune for you.
Women in coffee shops
F’Roses, a cute cafe we visited where it happened to be all women.
Back in the Ottoman Empire, coffeehouses were strictly for men, and women had coffee at home. These rigid laws aren’t in place today, but you may notice that men still outnumber women in many coffeeshops and cafes. I noticed this especially in around the Old Town of Istanbul, in and around the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.
In contrast, it was completely mixed in areas like Karakoy and Takism Square. There are even several cafes that are very “Instagram” worthy that were filled with only women. The list of places below all had a decent mix of men and women.
Coffee or tea offering
A shopkeeper or cafe owner may offer you a coffee or tea sometime while you are in Istanbul. This is very on par with Turkish hospitality, and more or less a welcoming gesture. If you have time and feel comfortable, it’s pretty normal to sit down for a friendly tea or coffee. This does not mean you are obligated to buy anything.
It’s simply just for a short chat and to welcome you to Turkey.
10 Best Cafes in Istanbul
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Kybele Hotel & Cafe
Smack dab in the central Istanbul’s is one of the most iconic hotels in the Sultanahmet District. The Turquoise facade with an entryway illuminated with Turkish lamps is hard to miss. However, don’t skip the hidden terrace filled with vibrant Ottoman design. The Kybele Cafe is perfect for relaxing after a morning of site-seeing over a coffee and a late lunch.
The menu offers typical Turkish foods, and a variety of meze, essentially the Turkish version of tapas. My friend and I ate here and were particularly impressed with how low the prices were for being so central. The staff was also very friendly and attentive.
If you happen to be looking for a place to stay central to the major Istanbul attractions, I would definitely recommend staying at the Kybele Hotel.
Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi
If you’re looking for an authentic, no BS Turkish coffee, head to this legendary Turkish coffee supplier. Right in the center of the bustling Grand Bazaar, Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi is an experience in and of itself.
You’ll smell the freshly ground coffee heated with sand from around the corner. Then you’ll spot the line that often wraps around the block. Yes, they’re all waiting just to get a pack of the coffee to-go!
You can get a packet or tin of the pre-wrapped coffee to go, or you can get a small cup and sit or stand next to the vintage-styled coffee corner. Though this place may not be a cafe or coffeeshop in its set-up, it’s definitely an experience worth having in Istanbul. Truly the best coffee I’ve ever had!
Incir Agaci Kahvesi
To escape the crowds of the Grand Bazaar, head North to the Bohemian neighborhood of Balat. The streets are filled with street art, unique shops, and home to one of the most colorful cafes in Istanbul.
There is not a square inch of Incir Agaci Kahvesi that isn’t painted all colors of the rainbow. Even the stairs leading up to it and the nearby courtyard all filled with colorful hanging umbrellas.
This is definitely a hip hangout for the younger population in Istanbul. You can get coffee, cakes, and different variations of Meze here.
A cultural center, cafe, and library all in one. Salt Galata is an Istanbul cafe and gallery located inside the former Ottoman Bank building. As one TripAdvisor wrote, “Salt Galata is a leading place for researchers, youngsters, academics.” It’s a popular hangout spot for university students in the cafes and libraries.
If you need to get a little work done while in Istanbul, this would definitely be the place to spend the afternoon. Otherwise, it’s an underrated and free attraction to check out near the Galata Tower.
Sirin Firin Cafe & Bakery
Both the baked goods and aesthetic are on point at this cafe. Sirin Firin is one of the most popular bakeries in Istanbul, even with vegan and gluten free options so everyone can try. Many of the baked goods sell out by the afternoon, but the cafe is a popular outdoor hangout spot throughout the day.
Sirin Firin definitely captures the European influences in Istanbul. The atmosphere of this area reminded me a lot of the streets in Paris.
Moving South into Karakoy, this is another hip neighborhood full of many bars, concept shops, and cafes. One of the most popular is Dem Karakoy, an indoor cafe with industrial, eclectic decor. They carry a variety of herbal teas, cakes, and of course all types of coffee. They also serve a variety of meze and other dishes for lunch or a light dinner.
Dem Karakoy is the heart of the modern, funky Istanbul filled with students and nightlife.
in the sister neighborhood of Beyoglu is where you’ll find quite possibly the “best coffee in Istanbul”. In all of my research to answer this question, Mandabatmaz coffee shop kept coming up. The cafe doesn’t need much more than a few simple decorations, as the thick, Turkish coffee speaks for itself.
They’ve been making traditional Turkish coffee since the 1960s in Istanbul. The video above shows how they prepared each small cup of coffee for guests from start to finish. You can also buy a packet of coffee to go here to take home with you.
I discovered this place by browsing where all the trendy bloggers go in Istanbul. You won’t find this place on TripAdvisor, but you’ll be sure to find it all over Instagram. It’s a commute of about 25 minutes outside of the central Istanbul (costed us about $10 I believe). However, F’roses is DEFINITELY worth the extra trek.
This Istanbul cafe might as well be an Insta-gram pop-up shop. But, it’s much more than this. It also serves delicious cakes, coffees, and teas, all with some type of rose flavoring. The staff was friendly and it was cool to hang out in a cafe of exclusively women and girls for a change!
The Arnavutköy neighborhood is definitely worth a visit with a couple of cool restaurants, cocktail bars, and even boutiques selling Free People at Wholesale price.
When in Istanbul, you have to experience the city on land and sea. The Bosphorus Strait is a huge part of Istanbul’s charm, and a popular spot to stop for a coffee or bite to eat. One of the best seaside views is found at Bebek Kahve right along the water. Here you can indulge in a full Turkish brunch with a strong coffee before a day of exploring the nearby sites.
Cicek Passage Cafes
The French architecture shines through the Cicek Passage in the Takism Square neighborhood. Also known as the Flower Passage, this Istanbul cafe hotspot was once a popular place to sell flowers. Today you’ll find several cafes and bars here. You can come here for a Turkish coffee and breakfast, or come here in the evening for a late meal and glass of wine.
While the food definitely doesn’t compare to the best places in France, the ambiance is unique and its great for people watching.