The Karakoy Waterfront

ISTANBUL, Turkey (Türkiye) — It’s one of Istanbul’s real treats to sit on the waterfront of Karakoy sipping Turkish tea, Rika, or a cold beer and watching the sun setting over the striking silhouettes of the mosques across the other side of the Golden Horn.

Karakoy Restaurant on the Banks of the Golden Horn
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Filed Under: Turkey / Türkiye

It’s one of Istanbul’s real treats to sit on the waterfront of Karakoy sipping Turkish tea, Rika, or a cold beer and watching the sun setting over the striking silhouettes of the mosques across the other side of the Golden Horn. Ferries dance around on the water, while the hundreds of fishermen along the Galata Bridge compete for the daily catch.

There’s also freshly cooked fish to be had at a series of makeshift fish cafes along the water’s edge. This isn’t luxury dining. In most cases, they’re simply wooden tables and chairs that have been set up outdoors. The “kitchens” are the grill carts set up along the walkway. It’s mostly outdoor seating, although a few are slightly more permanent and are set up under covered tents.

If you’re watching your pennies, you can get the same fish cooked the same way from one of the other grill carts for a fraction of the price. You’re definitely paying a premium for the location. But what a location it is!

Photos of Istanbul’s Karakoy Waterfront

Istanbul fishermen
Fishing, with the silhouette of Süleymaniye Mosque in the background across the Golden Horn. License this image
Fish cart in Istanbul
Cooking fish to go. License this image
Karakoy Restaurant on the Banks of the Golden Horn
The Galata Bridge in the background, with Yeni Cami (the New Mosque) behind it. License this image
Turkish boy at the fish market
At the fish market. License this image
Galata Skyline
The buildings of Karakoy, with the conical Galata Tower at right. License this image
Fish restaurant on the banks of the Golden Horn
Dining with Süleymaniye Mosque in the background. License this image
Karakoy Restaurant on the Banks of the Golden Horn
With the Galata Bridge and Yeni Cami in the background. License this image
Tower and Moon in Karakoy Istanbul
The moon shines through light mist onto a tower in Karakoy, Istanbul. License this image
Customers at the Karakoy Fish Market in Istanbul Turkey
Customers in the early evening at the Karakoy Fish Market in Istanbul next to the Galata Bridge. License this image
Karakoy Fish Market Istanbul
If you dine at one of the makeshift restaurants along the waterfront, you can select your fish, fresh from the market. License this image
Karakoy Fish Market Istanbul
Grilling up fresh seafood at one of the restaurants along the waterfront. License this image
Fish selection at the Karakoy Fish Market in Istanbul
A selection of fresh fish on display at the Karakoy Fish Market in Istanbul near the Galata Bridge. License this image
Karakoy waterfront fishing boats in Istanbul
Fishing boats moored next to the Karakoy Fish Market in Istanbul near the Galata Bridge. In the distance is the Suleymaniye Mosque. License this image
Karakoy Fish Market in Istanbul
Karakoy Fish Market in Istanbul near the Galata Bridge. License this image
Istanbul's Karakoy Fish Market
Tubs of fresh fish and prawns for sale at the Karakoy Fish Market in Istanbul near the Galata Bridge. License this image
Selling fish at the market in Istanbul
A salesman catches a package of fish at the Karakoy Fish Market in Istanbul near the Galata Bridge. License this image

More About Karakoy Waterfront Seafood Markets and Restaurants

  • The Karakoy Waterfront is a notable hub of seafood markets and restaurants in Istanbul, Turkey. Its bustling ambiance is influenced by its strategic location along the Golden Horn waterway.
  • Known for its fresh and high-quality seafood, these markets source their products directly from the local fishermen who operate in the nearby waters of the Bosphorus.
  • The waterfront boasts a wide array of dining options, ranging from street vendors selling fish sandwiches to high-end seafood restaurants.
  • In terms of cuisine, the restaurants at Karakoy Waterfront offer a wide array of seafood dishes, with a special focus on traditional Turkish seafood preparations.
  • The seafood markets are also renowned for their vibrant, lively atmosphere, with vendors displaying a wide variety of seafood, from common types like mackerel and sea bream to more exotic species.
  • The Karakoy Waterfront’s seafood scene is a testament to Istanbul’s rich maritime history and its ongoing relationship with the sea.

The Karakoy Waterfront is a prime destination for seafood lovers in Istanbul, hosting a multitude of markets and restaurants. The markets are characterized by their fresh and diverse offerings, ranging from common fish species to exotic seafood, all sourced from local fishermen. The area’s restaurants, meanwhile, offer a vast selection of dishes that celebrate Turkish seafood cuisine in all its richness and variety.

The waterfront’s location along the Golden Horn adds to its charm and appeal, allowing for a stunning view of Istanbul’s waterside architecture and the city’s iconic landmarks.

What’s Nearby to Karakoy Waterfront

  • The Istanbul Modern, Turkey’s first museum of modern and contemporary art.
  • The Galata Tower, a medieval stone tower offering panoramic views of the city.
  • The Galata Bridge, a notable landmark connecting the districts of Eminönü and Karaköy.
  • The Spice Bazaar, one of the largest bazaars in the city, known for its wide variety of spices, sweets, and other food items.

How to Get to Karakoy Waterfront

The Karakoy Waterfront is located in the Karaköy district of Istanbul, Turkey. The nearest major airport is Istanbul Airport (IST). From there, you can take the Havaist airport shuttle to Taksim Square and then take the T2 tram line to reach the Karaköy stop. The waterfront is within walking distance from the tram stop.

What to Know Before You Go

  • Karakoy is on the northern bank of the Golden Horn adjacent to the Galata Bridge. The closest tram stop is Karaköy on the T1 line. It’s also an easy walk across the bridge from Eminönü stop.
  • To get to these from the Galata Bridge, walk through the fish market. To get to the tea houses, walk a little further past the fish restaurants. If you’re coming from the Galata Tower, head down the hill towards the bridge.
  • Most establishments are cash-only. It’s first come, first served. You might be able to reserve a specific table if you’re there earlier in the day by slipping the waiter a tip.
  • Be clear about what you’re getting and what you’re paying for. That bread, water, or salad might cost extra–some waiters push hard for add-on sales.

Want to Read More About Istanbul?

Istanbul is a city of extraordinary depth and history. If you’re looking to dive deeper, here are some books worth a look. (Some are also available as audiobooks—great for a long flight or train ride.)

Istanbul: Memories and the City, by Orhan Pamuk

In this memoir, the Nobel Prize-winning Turkish author reflects on his childhood and youth in Istanbul, offering a rich portrayal of the city’s history, culture, and ever-changing landscape.

Istanbul: Memories and the City (Paperback)
  • OrhanPamuk (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

The Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain

This classic travelogue follows Mark Twain as he journeys through Europe and the Holy Land, including a visit to Istanbul, which he captures with his trademark wit and humor.

The Innocents Abroad: Original Illustrations
  • Twain, Mark (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Strolling Through Istanbul: The Classic Guide to the City, by Hilary Sumner-Boyd and John Freely

This comprehensive guide and travelogue takes readers on a historical and cultural journey through Istanbul, detailing its most famous landmarks and hidden gems.

Strolling Through Istanbul: The Classic Guide to the City
  • Sumner-Boyd, Hilary (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

The Bridge on the Drina, by Ivo Andrić

This historical novel, by a winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, is set in the Ottoman Empire. It tells the story of the construction of the famous Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge in Višegrad, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the lives of the people who lived around it. While not set in Istanbul specifically, it offers a window into the wider region’s history and Ottoman influence.

The Bridge on the Drina (Phoenix Fiction)
  • Andric, Ivo (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

A Fez of the Heart: Travels Around Turkey in Search of a Hat, by Jeremy Seal

This travelogue follows the author’s journey through Turkey, including a visit to Istanbul, as he explores the country’s history, culture, and politics, all while searching for the once-iconic fez hat.

A Fez of the Heart: Travels around Turkey in Search of a Hat
  • Seal, Jeremy (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

The Birds Have Also Gone, by Yashar Kemal

In this novel, set in Istanbul, the author tells the story of three boys who capture and sell pigeons in the city, offering a unique perspective on the city’s rapidly changing landscape and the challenges faced by its inhabitants.

The Birds Have Also Gone
  • Yaşar Kemal (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

The Towers of Trebizond, by Rose Macaulay

This satirical travelogue (i.e., a novel) follows the narrator as she embarks on an eccentric journey to Istanbul and the ancient city of Trebizond, exploring themes of love, religion, and the clash of cultures.

The Towers of Trebizond: A Novel (FSG Classics)
  • Macaulay, Rose (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

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Travel Advice for Turkey (Turkiye)

You can find the latest U.S. Department of State travel advisories and information for Turkey (Turkiye) (such as entry visa requirements and vaccination requirements) here.

The British and Australian governments offer their own country-specific travel information. You can find the British Government's travel advice for Turkey (Turkiye) here and the Australian Government's here.

Health & Vaccinations

The CDC makes country-specific recommendations for vaccinations and health for travelers. You can find their latest information for Turkey (Turkiye) here.

General Information on Turkey (Turkiye)

The CIA's World Factbook contains a lot of good factual information Turkey (Turkiye) and is updated frequently.

  • Official Name: Republic of Turkey (Türkiye Cumhuriyeti)
  • Location: Southeastern Europe and Southwestern Asia (the Anatolian Peninsula), bordered by eight countries: Greece and Bulgaria to the northwest, Georgia to the northeast, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran to the east, and Iraq and Syria to the south
  • Coastline: Mediterranean Sea to the south, Aegean Sea to the west, and Black Sea to the north
  • Capital: Ankara
  • Largest City: Istanbul
  • Population (2021 estimate): 85 million
  • Ethnic Groups: Predominantly Turkish (70-75%), Kurds (19%), and other minorities (including Arabs, Circassians, and Laz)
  • Official Language: Turkish
  • Religions: Islam (predominantly Sunni), with small Christian and Jewish communities
  • Government: Unitary parliamentary republic
  • President (as of 2021): Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
  • Prime Minister (as of 2021): Not applicable (the position was abolished in 2018)
  • Area: 783,356 square kilometers (302,455 square miles)
  • GDP (2021 estimate): $771 billion (nominal)
  • GDP per capita (2021 estimate): $9,042 (nominal)
  • Currency: Turkish Lira (TRY)
  • Time Zone: GMT+3 (Turkey Time)
  • Internet TLD: .tr
  • Calling Code: +90
  • Major Industries: Textiles, food processing, automotive, electronics, tourism, mining, steel, petroleum, construction, lumber, paper
  • Natural Resources: Coal, iron ore, copper, chromium, antimony, mercury, gold, barite, borate, celestite, emery, feldspar, limestone, magnesite, marble, perlite, pumice, pyrites, clay, hydropower, arable land

Turkey vs Turkiye vs Türkiye

The country's name has traditionally been Anglicized as Turkey, and that's how most of us have always known it. But the country's government has been pushing for adoption of the Turkish-language name, Türkiye. Since that doesn't always work well on Anglicized keyboards, you also often see it rendered as Turkiye. You can find more information on this here.

David Coleman / Photographer

David Coleman

I'm a freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my gear reviews and tips here. More »