Istanbul is a shopper’s paradise, and it’s not just about Turkish delight and fezes aplenty - though we never tire of these either! There are myriad markets every day of the week, each with its own unique flavor. Here are a few of our favorites.
Saturday Bazaar in Beşiktaş
Every Saturday, the Beşiktaş bazaar sets up shop in a multi-story car park turned two-story treasure trove where locals come for everything wearable and some edibles too. At the front you’ll find heaps upon heaps of fresh fruits and vegetables. Wade through those to find what locals shop here for: all sorts of weird wearable treasures, grouped vaguely by category: factory seconds, unusual jewels at irresistible prices, tasseled colorful bohemian headgear, all manner of shoes, bags, and home textiles. Located in and around Nüzhetiye Caddesi, Beşiktaş.
Midweek Market in Fatih
Heading to the Fatih Çarşamba (Wednesday) market is not for the faint-hearted or the tired-footed. It’s an energetic place where crowds of shoppers go head-to-head with unruly and relentless sellers. Yet for a cultural experience, it’s as real as it gets. Mountains of miscellaneous foodstuffs like eggs and cured meats, unidentifiable gadgets, oodles of fabrics, insanely high stilettos, branded clothing of all sorts - and everything sold at prices to move. Locals abound and tourists are nearly absent, so as a negotiating tactic it’s good to keep the camera phone hidden and your resolve to pay no more than bargain-basement prices. Located in and around Kirmasti, Fatih.
Booksellers’ Market in Beyazit
Of all the amazing variety of products and produce you’ll find at Turkish street markets, what you don’t often find is books. Yet here in Beyazit, the old booksellers' market is a haven of old tomes. If you crave the smooth hand of hardbacks or the musty scent of old volumes, you’ll love this place. It’s a verdant spot located between the Grand Bazaar and the Beyazit Mosque, under a canopy of chestnut and acacia trees. Since the 15th century, this market was a meeting point for prominent poets, academics and authors who have made Istanbul one of the world’s great literary cities. You’ll find stationery, calligraphy materials, textbooks, novels and foreign literature, and holy books, and much more. Older gentlemen stand in small groups, sipping tea, chatting, and peddling bibelots, watches, badges, and old coins, making it also a lovely place to people-watch. Located in Çadircilar Caddesi, Beyazit.
Spice Bazaar in Eminönü
A short walk from the legendary Grand Bazaar, the 17th-century Eminönü spice bazaar is open seven days a week and is a must-see stop on any Istanbul itinerary. Yes, it’s full of tourists. Yes, it’s busy and crazy. And yes, it’s totally worth a visit. Since 1664, it’s been a gastronomic paradise for Turkish staples like dried fruits and nuts, spices, olives, Turkish delight, oils and essences of excellent quality. The exquisite scents of coffee, tea, spices and sweets mix in the air and create an exotically unforgettable atmosphere. Check out any map for easy reference.
The One and Only: Grand Bazaar in Sultanahmet
Constructed in 1461, the Grand Bazaar boasts an astonishing 5,000 shops and is one of the largest covered markets in the world. For centuries, it was a vibrant center of the international and local trade that flowed through the Ottoman Empire. Now it is the place to come to see exquisite textiles, pottery, spices, jewelry, and lanterns from across the country all in one place. Any map will lead the way there, and you can enter or exit through 22 ancient gateways. Keep in mind, though, that the Bazaar is closed Sundays. Those overeager souvenir sellers have to rest their voices sometimes!
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