"Sand Gate") is an old Ottoman Greek
and Armenian fishermen's district near
of Marmara shore due south of Istanbul's
The Kumkapı district is
centered on a small plaza where six
streets meet. It's surrounded by seafood
and restaurants line many of the streets
radiating from the plaza.
Restaurants are open all year, but
in the warmer months (usually
October) tables are set outside, and
every night is a lively, sometimes
scene with smiling customers, scurrying waiters
and itinerant peddlars and entertainers.
can reach it by taking a taxi, or the Bağcılar-Kabataş tram to the Beyazıt-Kapalıçarşı (Grand Bazaar) stop, then walking downhill along Tiyatro Caddesi (map) for 10 minutes (800 meters/yards).
A night in Kumkapı can
be lots of fun, but there is a longstanding
and intractable problem of cheating on
the restaurant bills.
bringing you items you never ordered
and charging for them; charging for
items you never ordered and never received;
overcharging for items (especially
fish); recommending the most expensive
items (such as out-of-season fish);
faulty addition (always in the restaurant's
A true Turkish dinner with lots of
friends inevitably results in a l-o-n-g
bill scribbled in cryptic Waiter Runic that
lends itself handily to cheating. Stories
abound of foreign visitors being presented
bills for meals that would've cost
a Turk TL50.
A multilingual fish chart, with prices, makes it easier to choose what you want and not be cheated on the main-course price....
That having been said, there have
been efforts to clean up the problem,
as some restaurateurs have come to
realize that a reputation for poor
business practices can last for years
and drive tourists out of the area.
While I recommend that foreigners
go to Kumkapı with a Turkish
is more in touch with local customs
and prices, I realize that this is
not always possible. If it's not possible
for you, heed
I'm sure there are plenty of Kumkapı
restaurants where all this is not necessary,
where the service is good and honest
and the fish first-rate, and I wish
I could tell you which ones they are,
but I don't dine there often enough
to stay up-to-date on this constantly-changing picture.
My friend and colleague
Mr Ersan Atsür of Orion-Tour recommends
the Okyanus and the Akvaryum,
so you might give those preference.
Also consider walking under the railroad tracks and across the shore highway (map) to the waterfront Kumkapı Fish Market (Balık Pazarı), where simpler but still quite pleasant restaurants are lined along the shore just behind the fishmonger shops. Here you get a view of the harbor and, at the right hour, of the sunset. Prices are similar to those at restaurants around the plaza in Kumkapı.
(The Balık-Ekmek fish sandwiches here at the fish market are cheap and perhaps the best in the city.)
In all probability
you'll have a fine Kumkapı fish dinner at
a decent price, but do
be active in the defense
of your interests. The more active
you are, the more pleasant (and inexpensive)
your evening is likely to be.
—by Tom Brosnahan