A row of boats floating beside the Galata Bridge serve inexpensive fish sandwiches to a lively crowd. Don’t leave the city without trying them.

There’s a chaotic scene just to the east of Istanbul’s Galata Bridge: crowds of people press toward three bobbing boats, while dozens of seagulls swarm overhead. In the background, the call to prayer and boat whistles echo across the plaza.

The scene is that of the lunch crowd gathering around boats selling balık ekmek, or fish sandwiches.


The sandwiches are grilled fresh on the boats, then served to diners sitting at squat, wooden tables and chairs. When we were there (which was decidedly the off season) the crowd was overwhelmingly Turkish, and the semi-enclosed dining areas rumbled with loud conversations and running children.

I could not tell what kind of fish was in the sandwich at the time, but based on my later research I believe it was mackerel. As the picture above shows, it comes on a baguette-like roll with onions and lettuce. There are other condiments on the tables.

The entire meal, with drinks, cost less than $20 (USD) for four people. (I believe each person’s meal individually cost between 5 and 8 Turkish lira, though we all paid together and not everyone got the exact same thing).

The food was good, and the experience was excellent; it offered a barebones, low stress way to mingle with locals (again, this was the off season) in a setting where everyone wanted the same thing: a delicious lunch.

If you go: Here’s a map showing the location of the bridge. The boats float near the southeast corner. Order at the register.

Further reading: 

Touring the Bosphorus: A cheap and essential part of any Istanbul visit

Visiting a mosque 101: 8 helpful hints when visiting a mosque

Turkey 101: Helpful tips for your arrival in Istanbul

Three Turkish street foods you need to try

— Jim Dalrymple II


Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Urbanism and travel writer. Also a journalist covering the news.

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