7 romantic restaurants in Istanbul for the best date night
The vibrant city of Istanbul is unique in many ways. Perhaps its most interesting feature is that it manages to straddle two continents - Europe and Asia. The maze of stalls at the Grand Bazaar is like no other, and when it comes to impressive architecture, the Hagia Sophia, a domed Byzantine mosque, and the Blue Mosque, with its six sky-high minarets, are worth the trip alone.
For couples looking to inject a little romance into their vacation, the city doesn't disappoint. Scenic strolls with views of the Bosphorus Strait, relaxing moments in a Turkish bath, and above all, picking one or two of the city's fine dining restaurants for a romantic meal.
Many restaurants in Istanbul, especially those along the Bosphorus Strait, offer contemporary Turkish cuisine, but the city also has plenty of options for international cuisine, like French, Thai, Russian, and Japanese. Here, romance is in the eye of the beholder, and if you don't want to go high-end, that's fine too. After all, some of the most famous foods to come out of the country are casual dishes like meze, kebabs, baklava, and Turkish coffee.
Before you embark on a journey through the most romantic restaurants in Istanbul, take a few moments to drop your luggage off at a Bounce bag storage service in Istanbul. You'll be glad you can focus on the food and your date rather than worrying about your suitcases.
Here are all our top picks for delicious food and second-to-none ambiance in Istanbul:
Grace Rooftop Restaurant
Usually, the minute you hear the word "rooftop," you think of romantic evenings sipping a few cocktails, and in Istanbul, Grace Rooftop Restaurant is the place to do just that. Located in the Lady Diana Hotel, this place tops our list for many reasons. The decor is lavish without being over the top, the floor-to-ceiling windows take full advantage of the views, and the eclectic seating arrangements offer many choices for how you want to dine.
At Grace, a romantic dinner involves sampling Ottoman food from a forgotten era. Views of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia and the refined atmosphere will have you thinking you went back in time when paired with this type of Ottoman cuisine from the 14th to 18th century. Everything is beautifully presented, and there are Mediterranean touches thrown in for good measure.
Always make a reservation here, and specify the type of seating you want. If you just want drinks, there are couches and cozier chair groupings for you. For a full meal, you're better off with a more conventional table, but in either case, make sure you get a spot by the window so that you can marvel at the unobstructed top-floor views over the whole city.
Binbirdirek, Lady diana otel, Terzihane Sk. No:15, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul
$$ to $$$
Housed on the first floor of the Ciragan Palace Kempinski Hotel, Tugra Restaurant is true to its name and really looks like a palace. The lavishness found inside, with white tablecloths, intricately painted murals, and luxurious chairs, instantly has you feeling spoiled. The colors are muted, but no detail has been overlooked here. Although the dining room is impressive, the views of the Bosphorus Strait really take it to another level. This is your ideal date night location if you're looking for a fine-dining restaurant with a sophisticated ambiance.
In terms of the menu at Tugra Restaurant, expect all the best Ottoman and Turkish food you can imagine. They have both lunch and dinner hours, so if a romantic lunch suits your plans better, that's an option here. This award-winning restaurant has been featured in the Michelin Guide, and its location by the water and tasty menu means that reservations are always recommended. Luckily, you can make them online. Ask for a table on their waterfront terrace if the weather looks favorable.
In certain seasons, an eight-course tasting menu is available for 2,800 Turkish lira, roughly US$150. If this is available, definitely go with it. Otherwise, off the a la carte menu, opt for the Anatolian cheese platter to start, followed by the lamb shank or beef entrecote casserole.
Ciragan Palace Kempinski Hotel, Ciragan Caddesi 32, Çiragan Cd, 34349 Besiktas/İstanbul
Ayaspaşa Rus Lokantası
About a five-minute walk from the popular Taksim Square, this Russian restaurant is definitely unique and ideal for a romantic dinner. This is one of the city's best places for date night because your romantic meal includes good classical music, Russian delicacies, and coziness you can only get from beautiful chandeliers, dark wood paneling, and a welcoming bar area. This romantic restaurant isn't very big, so it's always a good idea to call ahead to reserve. There are also certain things on the menu that must be ordered three days in advance, so you can do this simultaneously. If you're just two people, you won't meet the minimums for most of them, but you can try the haladets, which is a cold meat jelly if that appeals to your taste buds.
The menu here is surprisingly stacked, which can be uncommon in higher-end romantic restaurants in Istanbul. No matter what you order, you're to have an unforgettable night here. And one of the upsides to Ayaspaşa is that it's really affordable and is an excellent fine dining alternative.
Some of the tastiest dishes here are actually ones you may have already heard of. We recommend the beef stroganoff and the goulash. The more adventurous eater should consider the vareniki, which is a stuffed dumpling, or the duck a l'orange Russian style.
Gümüşsuyu, İnönü Cd. Ankara Palas Apt. D:59/A, 34437 Beyoğlu/İstanbul
When only a terrace with Bosphorus Bridge views will do, head to Banyan Restaurant. The terrace is open on three sides and has a winter fireplace, so it's suitable for all seasons in Istanbul.
With such a beautiful setting and lovely decor, you might expect this Asian restaurant to be more expensive than it is. Although it isn't exactly cheap by most people's standards, it's a great option for anyone wanting the experience of a tasting menu without spending hundreds of dollars. At Banyan Restaurant, the tasting menu (without wine pairings) is less than US$60. The focus is on Asian fusion with lots of Thai spices, but luckily, they clearly indicate the spice level on the menu.
One of the only downsides to dining here is that many of the tables for two are super close to each other. If you don't like your neighbors being able to hear your conversations, this place may not be the best fit.
If you don't go for the tasting menu, select anything from the Banyan signatures menu, and you can't go wrong. The Karnabahar cauliflower steak is ideal for vegetarians, and the 24-hour cooked galbi gui short ribs are always a crowd favorite.
Yıldız, Yıldız Muallim Naci Caddesi &, Salhane Sokak No:3, 34347 Beşiktaş/İstanbul
Sunset Grill & Bar
You may not find the combination of Mediterranean food and Japanese too often, but that's precisely what you get at Sunset Grill. The restaurant sits on a hilltop in Ulus Park, providing amazing views of the water and surroundings. The terrace is the place to be, with warm lighting and lush greenery, so try your best to get a table out here. Overall, the place is large, so it can be easier to get a reservation here than at some of the other smaller places on this list.
Aside from a decadent sushi bar, Sunset Grill also prides itself on having some of the rarest bottles of wine from around the world. The menu is ever-changing, but you can rely on dishes like 30-day dry-aged steaks, grilled lamb loin medallion, and wild mushroom risotto. Your mouth is probably watering already.
Although it might seem odd to come to one of the best romantic restaurants in Istanbul and order sushi, that's exactly what we recommend. Split one of the sushi platters for an enviable selection of items like crunchy shrimp rolls, unagi avocado maki, and spicy tuna rolls. There's an option with 32 pieces and one with 46 pieces, so select based on your hunger level.
Kuruçeşme Mahallesi Ulus Park, Yol Sokağı No:2, 34345 Beşiktaş/İstanbul
This place takes the words "fine dining restaurant" to a whole new level, so when making a list of romantic restaurants in Istanbul, you simply can't leave Mikla Restaurant out. Another award-winning restaurant, prepare for contemporary Turkish cuisine, a rooftop terrace, and some of the most delicious tasting menus around at Mikla.
Mikla Restaurant has the pillars of all the classic fine dining restaurants, including the traditional white tablecloths, but it also skews more modern inside. Various wood tones, leather and metal chairs, and large windows that really take advantage of the view are what to expect here. Without a doubt, this is a good fine dining option, and even a spot at the bar can be romantic.
As to what you're going to eat at Mikla Restaurant, you basically have two choices, each more decadent than the last. To keep costs lower, you can go for the prix fixe three-course a la carte menu or kick things up a notch with a seven-course tasting menu. You'll find many meat and fish options here, with a few vegetarian choices peppered in.
Since there isn't much choice as to which menu to go with, that will depend on your hunger level and your budget. As for individual dishes, don't miss out on the beef rib steak for two - the perfect way to share a meal on date night. Dessert is definitely worth saving room for as well. The rice pudding with hazelnut crumb and apple sorbet is a favorite.
Asmalı Mescit, The Marmara Pera, Meşrutiyet Cd. No:15, 34430 Beyoğlu/İstanbul
Garden 1897 Restaurant
When you want another excellent fine dining alternative to the classically fancy restaurants in Istanbul, Garden 1897 Restaurant is ideal. As you might expect from the name, the restaurant has both a garden and a terrace where you can dine among the plants and get a little sun (if you want it). This little gem inside the Garden House Hotel is definitely more casual and relaxed, but you won't have to sacrifice any of the romance here. Plus, the central location surrounded by the city's history is ideal for an after-dinner stroll.
Dive into a somewhat more approachable Turkish cuisine here with Ottoman influences. If you or your date is a vegetarian, this place has an entire section devoted to this way of eating on the menu. The traditional foods of Turkey are all available here, like kebabs and falafel, plus they have international choices like steak and schnitzel to mix things up a bit.
Stick to either the Anatolian or Ottoman menu because that's what they do best. The chicken shish kebab is a classic for a reason, but if you're feeling more adventurous, the Garden 1897 assortment gives you a little taste of everything.
Küçük Ayasofya Mahallesi, Şht. Mehmet Paşa Sk. No5, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul
You can get lost in all the options when sorting through the romantic restaurants in Istanbul, but this list should at least give you a starting point of the ones to check out. Many of these locations double as some of the best rooftop bars in the city, and if you're starting to despair about your food budget, don't forget that there are plenty of amazing street food options in Istanbul so that you can do a combination of fancy meals and more casual ones. Wherever you end up eating for your romantic date in Istanbul, two things are guaranteed: great food and even better company.