There is no doubt that breakfast is the favorite meal of the day for many Turks; thus, it should be no surprise that there are a number of traditions that have surfaced over time in Istanbul centered around this special time of day and the morning meal. While some breakfast customs have recently surfaced, others have stood the test of time. Each offers a unique and refreshing way to get a great start to the day.
Have breakfast in a tea garden
For the true experience of nostalgic Istanbul, visit one of the city's classic tea gardens early in the morning with pastries and a newspaper in hand and enjoy the simplicity and spectacular views on offer. The Moda Çay Bahçesi sits atop a cliff with a view of where the Bosporus Strait ends and the Marmara Sea begins at the edge of the beloved neighborhood of Moda in Kadıköy. This tea garden opens at 6 a.m. and is less than a half an hour stroll from the ferry station. There are loads of traditional pastry shops as well as new age bakeries to stop off at along the way. This is because it is entirely acceptable to pick up something for breakfast and then enjoy it while drinking a tea or coffee, albeit not of the filter variety, for a very reasonably priced and relaxing morning routine.
Similarly, the Çengelköy Tarihi Çınaraltı Aile Çay Bahçesi (Çengelköy Historical Çınaraltı Family Tea Garden) is a historical tea garden situated along the Bosporus on the Asian side of the city that is open 24 hours and is a popular stop for Turks and tourists alike. A pleasant and approximately hour-long stroll will take you from Üsküdar to the colorful bohemian neighborhood of Kuzguncuk and on to Çengelköy. This traditional tea garden is situated right on the Bosporus and grants the opportunity to experience the hustle and bustle of the fishing boats arriving and setting out in the morning. There is a pastry shop nearby by the name of Çengelköy Börekçisi that is almost as famous as the tea garden itself, and it is a regular practice to pick up some pastries to enjoy with a tea under the huge sycamore tree this tea garden is famous for.
Experience the Van breakfast
For any Turk, the Van breakfast epitomizes the ultimate morning spread with a wide variety of different cheeses, herbs and dishes made from products brought in directly from eastern Turkey that you may end up craving. Breakfast products such as the famous Van herbed cheese, the kavut helva, murtuğa eggs and the honey and kaymak the region is favored as standouts in this special breakfast spread that is available in all its glory in two different Van breakfast spots in Istanbul. While there are Van breakfast places sprinkled all over the city, the Van Kahvaltı Evi in Cihangir and Moda Van Kahvaltı are by far the two most popular spots specializing in this region's breakfast cuisine in town.
Discover Istanbul's breakfast street
Did you know that Istanbul has an entire neighborhood in Beşiktaş devoted solely to serving up breakfast? Buzzing in the early morning with students and businesspersons gearing up for the day, there are literally dozens of breakfast shops each catering to their own theme lining the street of Çelebi Oğlu, aka Kahvaltıcılar Sokağı, which translates to "breakfast-place street," in an area in the heart of Beşiktaş. While the classic Çakmak and Faruk breakfast houses may have been the first to have started the breakfast street phenomenon, the newcomer Pişi Breakfast & Burger happens to be my personal favorite for its fried dough stuffed with cheese or chocolate as the breakfast bread component. But the great thing about "breakfast street" is that there are so many great options that anyone can easily pick and choose their own new favorite place.
Breakfast in Rumelihisarı
Before there was "breakfast street" and prior to the popularity of Van breakfasts, there was the steadfast tradition of heading to Rumelihisarı, a picturesque neighborhood located in the northernmost point of the city and the narrowest part of the Bosporus for breakfast. With truly spectacular views and the overlooking medieval fortress the neighborhood gets its name from, being in Rumelihisarı and enjoying the classic breakfast spreads steadfast cafes such as Rumeli Kale Cafe have to offer, does indeed feel special. The bread and cheeses seem to taste better and the crisp breeze of the Bosporus is nothing but rejuvenating. Reaching Rumelihisarı takes about an hour's walk from Beşiktaş, the closest main ferry and transportation hub, but the breakfast places open early, with Kale opening its doors at 5 a.m., making for a wonderful early morning adventure.
Breakfast in a park or palace
Istanbul has a number of stunning protected parks and groves with spectacular views that house former palaces that have been transformed into cafes serving up simple but classic meals including a full breakfast. On the Asian side, there is Hıdiv Kasrı, aka Khedive Palace, which is located in Çubuklu Korusu in Beykoz that serves up a basic breakfast weekdays and brunch on weekends. On the European side of the city, there is the impressive Emirgan Korusu, a park that houses three different palaces, including the Sarı Köşk, which has the best views and thus the best breakfast. There is also the Kırkahvesi in Yıldız Park, though not palatial, couldn't be any more central and also dishes up a traditional Turkish breakfast. The services provided at these historical landmarks are offered by Beltur, so you know you are getting the right value at a great price; however, these spots are much more about the lush gardens and greenery they have to offer than about the actual food. A wonderful and affordable way to start the day during the week, but extremely crowded on weekends, check out these breakfast opportunities in some of Istanbul's most beautiful parks.