The 5 Best Places to Get Dessert in Istanbul

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Turkey is one of the world's top food destinations, for good reason. But it's not just donner and pide that make Turkey great. Turkey has some of the most fabulous desserts you can find anywhere.

Anywhere you go in Turkey, you're bound to get some great desserts. Istanbul, in particular, has some of the finest restaurants and shops, where you can try some outstanding sweets. But what are the best? In this article we take a look at our top 5 favorite dessert places in Istanbul.

Hafiz Mustafa

Hafiz Mustafa is an instituion in Turkey. It's the dessert place that everyone goes to -- for good reason. It has a wide variety of cakes and pastries, but the star of the show is the kunefe.

I found myself returning to Hafiz Mustafa multiple times during my trip to Turkey, because of its reliably excellent desserts.

Kunefe, also known as künefe, kanafeh, or knafeh, is a traditional Middle Eastern dessert originating from the Levant region, particularly popular in Turkey, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. It is a rich, sweet pastry made of thin, shredded filo dough (called kadayif or kataifi) that is layered or wrapped around a filling of sweetened cheese, typically unsalted or slightly sweetened mozzarella or a similar soft cheese. The dessert is then soaked in a sugar-based syrup, usually flavored with lemon juice, orange blossom water, or rose water, and baked until the cheese melts and the pastry turns golden and crispy. The kunefe is typically served hot, right out of the oven, and is often garnished with crushed pistachios or other nuts.

The Kunefe at Hafiz Mustafa in Istanbul

Hafiz Mustafa has all kinds of desserts on offer

Haci Serif

Haci Serif is a dessert chain, with stores throughout Istanbul. It mostly sells chocolates and Turkish Delight, but it also has an amazing dessert called Dondurmali Irmik Helvasi.

It's hard to describe this dessert to Westerners, but it's an absolute treat. It's a granular, buttery sweet pudding over ice cream. I personally enjoyed the cinnamon most, but there are multiple flavors.

People familiar with South Asian desserts may have tried something similar, Suji halwa. In India, Suji halwa or Sheera is a common dessert from semolina toasted in fat, with a sweetener like honey.

The Dondurmali Irmik Helvasi at Haci Serif in Istanbul

Haci Serif in Kadikoy in Istanbul

Turkish Delight at the Egyptian Bazaar

You can find Turkish Delight in lots of places in Instanbul, but my favorite place to get it is in the Egyptian Bazaar. It may not taste any better there than anywhere else, but you just can't find a better place to have a traditional Turkish treat.

Turkish Delight at the Bazaar

Vivaldi Waffle

Istanbul has lots of great places to get waffles. There are chains all over the city, which all offer excellent desserts. These are cheap, quick desserts that are sure to leave you satisfied.

Vivaldi Waffle is on Istikal street near Taksim Square, and it's a great place to get a nice dessert after having a doner near the square. The shop has a quiet little space to eat, and plenty of options for an excellent waffle.

Vivaldi Waffle in Taksim Square

A nutella waffle at Vivaldi Waffle

Pisi (Doughnut) at Ceşme Bazlama

While not strictly a dessert, my favorite treat in Instanbul is pisi. Pisi is a traditional Turkish pastry that is popularly consumed during breakfast or as a snack. It is made from a simple dough of flour, water, salt, and sometimes yeast. The dough is rolled out into small, thin circles and then deep-fried in oil until they puff up and become golden brown.

Cesme Bazlama is one of the best breakfast places in Istanbul -- if not Europe. One of their specialties is pisi, which they hand-make and fry up fresh for customers. They serve it with a homemade hazelnut sauce, which is similar to Nutella.

Pisi with hazelnut sauce is one of the best treats you can have in Europe, and you shouldn't miss it.

Cesme Bazlama has some of the best pisi

About the author: Roger Davies is a writer for Empty Lighthouse Magazine and a business traveler. He has been to more than 150 countries, although he has spent much of the time in the airport. You can reach him at