WHERE TO SHOP
Istanbul is a shopping paradise. Major tourist attractions like the Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Spice Market combine historical sightseeing with shopping - buying a Turkish carpet, complete with smooth sales-patter chat and multiple cups of tea from the carpet merchant, is one of the country's quintessential tourism experiences.
Turkey has a long history of handicrafts, and Istanbul is one of the best places to see the full range of products on offer. There's something for everyone here, from its famous textiles and ceramics to engraved metalware, wooden backgammon boards, and colorful felt slippers.
Those looking for a more modern shopping experience will find all of the usual international brands, as well as Turkish brand names, along the major shopping thoroughfares.
The most well-known shopping destination in Turkey requires no introduction. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul has been in operation since the mid-15th century. It's essentially the medieval equivalent of a modern shopping mall.
Because the bazaar is a major shopping destination as well as one of the city's top tourist attractions, it's a good idea to plan on spending at least a couple of hours here!
Main entrance off Beyazıt Square, Yeniçeriler Caddesi, Beyazıt
Egyptian Spice Bazaar
The building housing the Egyptian Spice Bazaar, which faces the Eminönü ferry docks, dates from the 17th century and was built with tax revenues from Ottoman-ruled Egypt.
This is a one-stop shop for foodies who want to bring a taste of Turkey home with them. Over 80 shops sell spices, dried fruit, nuts, specialty Turkish foods, dried flower and herb teas, and the local sweet treats such as helva (tahini sweets) and lokum (Turkish delight).
Off Ragıp Gümüşpala Caddesi, Eminönü
The Arasta Bazaar is conveniently located in the heart of the old city, just behind the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Mosque).
Originally, this shopping arcade was part of the mosque complex and would have generated revenue for the mosque. Today, the shops here are primarily focused on the tourism industry, with a focus on ceramics and textiles.
The Arasta Bazaar is a more laid-back and easier alternative for Turkish handicrafts shopping than the Grand Bazaar because it is smaller, less crowded, and open-air. It's one of the best places to visit, like the Grand Bazaar, to get your shopping bearings and see what kind of crafts are on offer.
If you're looking for ceramics, especially hand painted Iznik tiles (both traditional and contemporary designs), this is the place to go. There are several shops in the area that sell a wide variety of ceramics.
Küçük Aya Sofya Caddesi, Sultanahmet
Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir
One of the top things to do in Istanbul for sweet tooths is to visit the confectionary shops and guzzle your weight in lokum (Turkish delight). Unsurprisingly, there are a plethora of tempting shops where you can do just that, but lokum and other traditional Turkish candies also make excellent gifts for friends and family back home.
Since 1777, this historic lokum and sweet maker has been in operation. The shop received the Ottoman sultan's official stamp of approval in the 19th century when it was appointed Chief Confectioner to the Palace. And if it's good enough for the Sultan, it's good enough for you.
Kadköy's market is a vibrant, buzzing commercial hub that operates Monday through Friday and is one of Istanbul's top spots for local produce.
With a plethora of stalls selling fresh seafood, herbs, vegetables, and fruit, as well as shops specializing in products you can pack to take home, it's just as much fun to browse as it is to shop.
This is also a great place to find soaps and skincare products made from olive oil, herbal oils, and ointments, as well as traditional hammam (Turkish bath) scrubbing brushes and exfoliating sponges.
The market is located on Istanbul's Asian side, directly behind the Kadköy ferry terminal. The ferry is the most scenic way to get here, but you can also take the metro.
Hamidiye Caddesi, Sirkeci
This long, mostly pedestrianized street, which runs across the hill through the Beyolu district and up to Taksim Square, was once Istanbul's vibrant modern heart.
Most of the smaller and quirkier shopping boutiques have been pushed out and replaced by international high-street brands and fast-food outlets, but it's still a good place to stroll among the shoppers.
The arcade passages inside the neoclassical buildings that line sections of Istiklal are some of the most interesting points along its length. The most well-known is içek Pasaj (Flower Passage), where small shops sell shawls, colorful ceramics, and lamps, and restaurants and cafés offer atmospheric dining among late-nineteenth-century architecture.
İstiklal Caddesi, Beyoğlu