ISTANBUL SHOPPING GUIDE: TURKISH ITEMS TO BRING HOME & WHERE TO BUY
Turkey’s largest city of Istanbul has a lot to offer the serious shopper, from the Grand Bazaar to the reliable spice markets and shopping centres to neighbourhoods full of exciting, sophisticated, contemporary boutiques. Visit Turkey and discover Istanbul like never before with fanciful shopping experiences.
Istanbul, acknowledged throughout history as Byzantium and Constantinople, has been a major center of commerce and trade, a place in which merchants and general folk would rush to often searching for distinguished items. Modern travelers to Istanbul are also bound to experience a truly magnificent shopping experience. The sheer variety of shops, bazaars, goods and insistent shopkeepers is indeed overwhelming.
From legendary Grand Bazaar to stunning historic bazaars, ultra-modern shopping malls, small handmade carpet shops or state of the art designer boutiques in Istanbul. You will surely enjoy shopping with the best that east and west can offer.
Istanbul’s Grand and Spice Bazaars top the to-shop list of most travelers, however good-deal hunters and high-end fashionistas alike will also appreciate the range of shops and contemporary malls. Anything from local designer labels to antiques and musical instruments of yesteryear can be found on a shopping expedition through labyrinthine Istanbul. If you pay attention, you’ll hear “Güle güle kullan” as you leave – a Turkish saying meaning “Use your purchase with joy.”
- WHERE TO BUY?
Your First Stop is GRAND BAZAAR
The Grand Market of Istanbul – the leading place of any Istanbul shopping guide
The Grand Bazaar is the biggest and the ancient covered market in Istanbul with its exquisite beauty and old-world charm. Over 3,000 shops at one place ensure that this shopping destination of Istanbul is an experience of its own. And of all shopping centers in Istanbul, this one is the most colorful. From Turkish knickknacks to Persian carpets, everything is readily available here. The Grand Bazaar is located near Sultanahmet at the Beyazit tram station.
Tip: Be ready to bargain like your life depends on it. The broken-down prices of things will astonish you.
To focus your search and make your shopping experience in Istanbul notable in a good sense, check out the list of suggested gift items reflecting the true spirit of Turkey.
- Hand Painted Ceramic Plates
Turkish ceramics, well-known for their rich colors and elaborate designs, are available for sale in Istanbul in great variation. Originally created to imitate Chinese pottery, Iznik craftsmen in Anatolia quickly developed their own style and patterns. By the 16th century, under Suleyman the Magnificent, this style of pottery was in full swing. Turkish artisans love combining geometric patterns with carnation, roses, hyacinths and above all, tulips. Many different techniques for glazing, firing and creating colors have been discovered over the centuries, allowing for the creation of a multitude of ceramic products. These plates are found throughout the Grand Bazaar, Sultanahmet, Spice Market and Istiklal Caddesi.
- Ottoman Jewelry
The beautiful craftsmanship of jewelry made in Istanbul is world-renowned. Rare gems, pure gold, raw platinum and other valuable products are used to create some of the extraordinary wonders of Turkish jewelry. Locally produced jewelry, inspired by authentic Ottoman pieces, can make a truly unique gift. The recent Turkish TV series, Muhtesem Yuzyil (Magnificent Century), has reinforced the locals’ desire for Ottoman-style jewelry. Turkish jewelry is available at the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market, but the best place for Ottoman jewelry is Eller Sanat Galerisi in Postacilar Sokak, just off Istiklal Caddesi, next to the Dutch Consulate. They are experts in all eras of Anatolian jewelry and their premises very much resemble a museum. You will love it!
- Turkish Coffee Set
Turkish coffee is served in unique cups and saucers that are often gold rimmed. Beautifully decorated cups and saucers are served on a silver tray as a sign of good hospitality in Turkish homes. Turkish coffee cups can be ceramic or copper. When buying a coffee set, it is important to ask if it can be used to drink from or if it is just for decoration. Many people sell decorative sets that may contain paints or metal alloys not approved for foodware. If you want a decorative set, handmade from copper with hand-painted detailing, go to Pasabahce on Istiklal Caddesi.
- Turkish Sweets
Everyone is familiar with Turkish Delight, known as Lokum in Turkish. There are many varieties of Turkish delight available out there, but the key advantage of getting it in Turkey is that you can sample all the different kinds from behind the counter, thus finding the flavours you enjoy most. When mixing and matching from behind the counter, prices can range from rose-flavored Turkish delight, to more elaborate ones with various nuts. Pismaniye, a very popular Turkish sweet largely unknown outside Turkey, is like Turkish cotton candy. Boxed sets of Lokum or Pismaniye range in price between 5TL and 10TL.
One of the best places to buy a variety of Turkish sweets is Koska, a Turkish sweets store with several branches throughout the country.
- Turkish Carpets
Writing on Turkish gifts is not complete without mentioning the famous Turkish carpet locally called kilims.
Kilim is a flat woven carpet rich in colors and intricate geometric patterns. Nothing can complement your home like a good Turkish carpet. Neatly woven carpets with some intrinsic handiworks is what makes Istanbul’s carpets world famous. Almost all major shopping centers in Istanbul offer a good collection of Turkish carpets.
While you might not have the space in your suitcase for a full-size rug, a number of smaller pieces can fit in just nicely.
- Pashminas (Turkish Scarf)
In Istanbul you can find a spoiling choice of scarves of various quality, colors and designs. Of the best quality are reputedly the locally made pashminas, combining cashmere and silk. Their prices vary widely from 10TL for the cheaper ones (but still very beautiful) to the pure silk pashminas selling at 100TL and more. If you don’t know your cashmeres and silks well, then you’re risking being sold something at a higher price with the claim that it is of a better quality. Note, you can buy some cheaper pashminas and they would still retain their perfect condition years afterwards. Pashminas can be bought everywhere in Turkey. The best could be found with street vendors in Sultanahmet, which is the main tourist district of Istanbul.
- Raki (Drink)
The traditional national drink of Turkey, this anise-flavored spirit is also known as Lion’s Milk. It can be drunk straight, but is usually taken with ice and water which turns the clear liquid milky white. It is frequently consumed with fish and seafood meals. The much loved Turkish leader, Kemal Ataturk, was known for his fondness of raki. The most popular brand of Turkish Raki is Yeni Raki.
- Turkish Jams and Honey
No Turkish breakfast is complete without jam and honey. The variety of climates in Turkey allow for a myriad of different fruits to be grown. These fruits are then made into jams and enjoyed all year long. Typical types of jam include apricot, sour cherry, rose, quince and fig.
The Turks are also famous for their flavourful honey, gathered in the forests and fields of Anatolia. Different types of honey are made by having beehives in areas where they pollinate different flowers and trees. You can even find Pine Tree honey! The various types of honey are said to have different health benefits. Honey can be quite expensive, depending on the type, up to 40TL/jar. Honey gift items can be bought at Koska, which is a Turkish sweets store with several branches throughout the country
- Leather Goods
The Turks take great pride in making high quality, affordable leather goods – from coats and jackets to purses and belts. All leather items in Turkey are handmade and, thus, each one is unique. This means that two jackets of the same size might fit slightly differently. Also, if you can’t find something that is just what you’re looking for, you can have an item custom made. Generally, if it’s similar to a product that they are already producing, the extra cost would be minimal, if any at all.
One of the most convenient places to explore goods and prices is the leather section (Kürkcüler Çarşisi) of the Grand Bazaar.
- Sports Clothing
Turks are passionate about football. You can’t walk down a single street in Istanbul without seeing some kind of football stuff. The most popular teams are the red and gold Galatasaray, the navy blue and yellow Fenerbahce, and the black and white Besiktas. The rivalry between these three is intense, especially between Galatasaray and Fenerbahce. You can see many Turks sporting their colors with pride rather often. If you want to follow suit, you can easily outfit yourself with everything, from scarves to hats to towels to jerseys. Prices range from 20TL to 50TL for most items. All teams’ sports jerseys can be bought on the Grand Bazaar.
- Turkish Spices
No Turkish food is a go without a proper mix of spices. Seasoning is paramount in Turkish cuisine, whether you cook chicken, lamb, beef, fish, stews, soups, BBQ or salads. A perfect combination of herbs – to ensure proper Turkish flavour – includes red and black pepper, salt, mint, cumin, and of course, dried spearmint. Having these in your kitchen will inevitably transform any ordinary dish into an incredibly delicious one and sometimes may even help reduce symptoms of muscle spasms, stomach aches or other ailments. All these spices originate from plants, some of which are used completely or only certain parts of, such as flowers, roots, barks, leaves, stems or seeds.
The Egyptian Bazaar, also known as Spice Market, is the second largest covered shopping place in Istanbul. Tourists head to this grand maze looking for authentic spices and dry fruits.
Don’t buy the ingredients before comparing the prices with other shops. You can have the best saffron and dried apricots here. Don’t miss out on dates and cinnamon!
Tip: Before you buy your favourites, taste the dried fruits and smell the spices to check the authenticity.
- Turkish Tea
Turkey is one of the largest tea markets in the world, where black tea is the most popular drink, even more popular than coffee. A special blend natural black tea from the Black Sea region of Turkey is an important part of the local culture. Truly iconic tea such as this is consumed hot, without milk, brewing all day in the traditional double teapots, all over Turkey: in households, shops or at social gatherings.
- Onyx Items
Authentic Onyx is a great treat for the eyes of the beholder, exuding distinction in all its supremacy. Whether in the form of jewelry or kitchen sets, this stone adds a great deal of warmth to the surrounding space, revealing its innate beauty in an atmosphere of regal charisma at home or during a social gathering. A great gift idea, useful for any kind of occasion.
- Ottoman Style Slippers
Traditional Ottoman-style slippers usually come with the gold embroidery, and are characterized by a raised tip. Very lightweight, they are made of velvet and metallic yarn. Exotic as it gets, these slippers will make a perfect gift for Christmas or many other occasions.
All these and many more are some of the perfect items you can bring home from Turkey. WE hope you find the list useful,