This City In Turkey Is Known For Having The Best Breakfast In The Entire World

In the eastern expanses of Turkey lies Van, a city that has transcended its historical and geographical significance to claim the title of preparing the best breakfast in the world. This assertion is not just local pride but a well-earned reputation that draws global foodies on a pilgrimage to eat the most important meal of the day. Van's breakfast culture goes beyond a delicious meal — it's a cherished morning ritual that encapsulates tradition, community, and flavors rich in taste and Turkish history.

The Van breakfast is called "serpme kahvaltı," and it includes up to 30 different dishes — this is no American bacon and eggs or your traditional sweet Italian breakfast. "Serpme" means "sprinkled," that is to say, the spread of dishes, while "kahvaltı" means "before coffee." Fun fact: Van holds the Guinness World Record for the "largest full breakfast attendance," involving nearly 52,000 people on June 1, 2014. Long before this record-breaking breakfast, the historical, cultural, and social significance of serpme kahvalti was served.

In Turkey, it is an old, honored custom to share a leisurely breakfast with loved ones over many hours — not only on days off or weekends but every day from Monday to Sunday. Turkish people eat serpme kahvaltı at home, in restaurants and cafes, or in countryside establishments for a rustic, "farm to table" experience. As breakfast is such a feast, lunch becomes more of an afterthought, and dinner is typically a light affair. Let's dig into Van's world-famous breakfast!

The ingredients of Van's world-beating breakfast

It's hard to imagine where such a big breakfast would begin, but it starts with a hot pot of black tea served at a table — a customary welcome for Turkish people. Check out our guide on being a considerate tourist when visiting Turkey for essential hospitality tips. Turkish tea (çay) is typically brewed using two separate pots: a small one to brew a strong tea and a large one for more boiled water. Now that the tea has been served and everyone's appetite is steaming — bring on the spread.

One of the cornerstones of this breakfast is "Van otlu peynir," a herb cheese not found anywhere else. Made from the milk of sheep grazing on the Anatolian plateaus around Van, this cheese is infused with wild endemic herbs, which gives it a distinctive flavor. Other dairy specialties include "örgü peyniri" (braided cheese), "yoğurt kaymağı" (Turkish yogurt), and "yayık tereyağı" (churned butter). These are accompanied by "kavut," a roasted sweet cereal, and "murtuğa," a pancake-like concoction made from flour, butter, and eggs.

Eggs hold a special place in the Van breakfast, particularly "menemen," a dish made with eggs, tomatoes, and green peppers, and "sahanda yumurta," Turkish-style fried eggs. These dishes provide a comforting balance to the robust flavors of the cheeses and meats. Speaking of meats, breakfast in Van wouldn't be complete without "sucuk" and "kavurma," spicy and richly flavored Turkish sausages and preserved charcuterie meat.

The Van breakfast philosophy

No breakfast spread in Van is complete without bread. From the round sesame seed-covered "simit" to the flaky "börek" filled with cheese, spinach, or meat, an array of bread is an essential part of the meal, serving as the perfect vehicle for countless other spreads. Honey and cream, known as "bal kaymak," is a sweet, decadent treat that perfectly complements the savory elements of the breakfast. A variety of olives, jams made from local fruits, and freshly cut cucumbers and tomatoes add a bit of zing. The Van breakfast ends with a cup of Turkish coffee to aid digestion and "lokum," a Turkish delight. There it is — serpme kahvaltı — the "spread before coffee."

If you're planning on visiting Van in Turkey, the best place to have this breakfast is at Kahvaltıcılar Çarşısı, also known as "Breakfast Street." How is it that this Turkish city became the world's breakfast capital? Located on the ancient Silk Road, Van historically hosted many hungry travelers for breakfast. There is also the milk house culture of the 20th century, which locals claim created this distinctive morning meal. Moreover, Van has a very particular landscape: it towers at an elevation of 5,750 feet next to the largest lake in Turkey, with favorable conditions for local, high-quality agricultural production. Tourism authorities applied to include serpme kahvaltı on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List in hopes of securing a spot for this grand spread at the global breakfast table.