Istanbul is a unique city where East meets West, Europe is connected to Asia by a bridge and the Middle East is just a short boat ride away. Nowhere is the cultural convergence of Turkey more evident than in their diverse and vibrant markets. The Grand Bazaar in the center of the old city and the spice market on the banks of the Bosphorous offer a glimpse into the past and the opportunity to travel without leaving the country.
Construction of the Grand Bazaar started in 1455 and continued to grow as it first housed the textile trade, then included space for the slave trade within the area. As more shop owners set up their businesses an entire quarter dedicated to commerce was born. In the seventeenth century the area became the hub of Mediterranean trade, further proof of the power of the Ottoman Empire. It seems as if the history is still present within the vaulted chambers of the historic market, the diversity of vendors is incredible and the whole area has a wonderful old world charm.
Tea cups and tea sets for sale in the Grand Bazaar
While the history of the Grand Bazaar is amazing, the array of products for sale is mind boggling. You can purchase everything from diamond rings to dining wear and just about anything in between. I could have spent hours wandering through the “streets” of the Bazaar chatting with the vendors, trying on scarves and drinking tea with the carpet sales people as they try to convince me to part with the majority of my savings for a Turkish rug. A visit to Istanbul just wouldn’t be complete without a visit to this unique and enormous old school shopping mall.
Below is just a quick glance at what to buy where within the Grand Bazaar:
- Jewellers and gold bracelets along Kalpakcılar Caddesi
- Gold bracelets along Kuyumcular Carsısı
- Furniture along Divrikli Caddesi
- Carpets along Sahaflar Caddesi
- Leather goods along Perdahçılar Caddesi
- Leather and casual clothes at the Bit Pazari
Stuffed apricots and figs are just a couple of the delicacies on offer at the Spice Bazaar
The Spice Bazaar, sometimes referred to as the Egyptian Bazaar as it was first established to trade spices from Egypt over 350 years ago. It is one of the largest markets in Turkey and offers a wonderfully colorful array of spices and delicious treats. This is where to shop for Iranian saffron, fresh spices, dried fruit and nuts. However, the selection doesn’t stop there, you can also find amazing cheeses and cured meats as well as a wide variety of Turkish delight in every flavor.
A colorful display of olives and peppers set amongst the lovely cafes and gourmet shops at City’s
City’s in Nişantaşı
For a modern take on the market, head to Nişantaşı and visit City’s, which is a behemoth mall that describes itself as a “lifestyle center.” On the top floor of the mall is where the gourmet market is located, you can pick from fresh produce or beautifully decorated cakes and pastries. Then, once your done with your shopping treat yourself to a coffee or glass of champagne at many of the trendy restaurants and cafes. The gorgeous selection of glassware and fancy gourmet products for your kitchen is fun to peruse as well.
WHEN YOU GO:
Bring Cash in Turkish lira, at most of Istanbul’s markets cash is king. Some stalls will take credit card, but often the best rate will be offered to you by paying in cash with Turkish lira.
Taste before buying, this goes for spices and treats. It is common for vendors to offer samples, but don’t be afraid to ask to make sure you are getting a superior product.
Shop where locals do, even if the Spice Market and Grand Bazaar are very touristy it’s obvious where the locals spend their money and often they favor a certain vendor for a reason.
Bargain, most shops will offer an opening price and you offer a counter price. Don’t be afraid to start low, they will give you a counter offer.