What to buy in Istanbul, the largest shopping centre in the world
How much to buy is just as important as what to buy in Istanbul. It´s just that one always comes back from this city with more suitcases than when one arrived with. This is to keep all the objects acquired during the trip. This is not having planned for. It almost happens by accident.
One cannot understand Istanbul without its bazaars, markets and stalls in general. In fact, for the locals in this city, trade is their main source of income and, certainly, one of their most important means of social interaction.
The best purchases in Istanbul
Some of the most remarkable products to buy in Istanbul are manufactured goods. Turkey is, undoubtedly, one of the leading countries in the production of textile crafts, ceramics, wood and other ornaments in general.
It is also a significant producer of spices, aromatic herbs and all kinds of culinary produce.
For this reason, there are so many district markets, large stalls and weekly markets which, combined, make it the largest shopping centre on the planet.
Carpets are the number one article to buy in Istanbul. Those made and sold in Turkey are some of the most beautiful (and valuable) on the planet. You can also find Persian ones which are, by the way, typically found here.
There are two types of Turkish carpet, knotted-pile and pile (textile). Unquestionably, the former are the most sought after out of the two. This is especially true for those hand-woven (there are also industrial ones, which can be identified by their regular knots, which differ from hand-woven ones).
There are many specialised shops in the city, as well as those located in the Grand Bazaar (link to the corresponding URL). Among these is The Fehmi corner, in the Sultanahmet area.
Tea and coffee sets
The passion Turks have for these beverages can be seen in the beautiful tea and coffee sets which are sold not only in gift shops, but also in the bazaars in the humblest neighbourhoods in the city.
Made of porcelain, tempered glass or glazed ceramics, these sets, which include kettles or coffee pots, glasses, plates, the sugar bowl, and occasionally, spoons are one of the best shopping ideas in Istanbul.
By this we don´t mean lamps such as those in the story of Aladdin, but those which can be found in all the bazaars in the city. There are also those which can be admired in most homes and public establishments.
However overdone they may appear, Turkish lamps are not just an ornament or souvenir. As a rule of thumb, they are made of tin, copper and/or bronze, stained glass, ceramics, semi-precious stones… A good place to find and buy all kinds of lamps is the Tuncer store (Hoca Paşa, Taya Hatun Sk, 1)
Clothes, bags and other accessories
Textiles are another product to buy in Turkey. This does not just concern typical garments imitating quality (including footwear, bags and accessories) which are sold in the bazaar stalls and in the most touristy areas.
The truth is in Turkey there is a growing textile industry which caters to ever more creative designers. Although, they almost always never overlook the confines of traditional Turkish fashion. It is the same which centuries ago created the subtle, silk pashminas and all kinds of garments made in leather.
The most delicate ceramics to buy in Istanbul are those made in the town of Iznik. Millions of tiles produced in this locality are those which cover the interior of the so called Blue Mosque (link to corresponding URL).
In Istanbul one can also acquire beautiful plates, vases, jugs, lamps, tiles and other ceramic articles made in other parts of the country. For example, those sold at the shop Tree of Life Ceramic (Binbirdirek, Binbirdere Meydanı Sk. No:3/A).
This city has traditionally been the Mecca for precious metals and trade in precious stones from all over the world. So, jewels and imitation jewellery are highly recommended products to buy in Istanbul.
This is especially true for those made with gold and silver, as Turkish craftspeople are experts in making filigrees and setting gems.
A good place to go is Newa Jewels a shop which sells artistic pieces (Vezrihan Caddesi No: 49).
The locals in Istanbul, in particular, and Turkey, in general, have a very sweet tooth. They like things exceptionally sweet, which they not only have as a dessert, but at any time of the day. There´s always an excuse for offering the visitor a tray of baklava (link to URL on typical Turkish food) or Turkish delight.
The latter, also known as rahat lokum, are a kind of fruit jelly made from fruit syrup, covered with icing sugar and are rather sickly. Without doubt, they are one of the most popular souvenirs to buy in Istanbul.
And the place to go to buy them is the cake shop Cigdem (Alemdam, Divan Yould Cd. No: 62).
Spices from Turkey
Spices which seem to communicate with visitors by means of the sense of sight and smell are exceptional souvenirs to take home. If they are typically used to cook, you will be able to tell the difference in taste, which are far more powerful than those which come in packets.
The best place to buy them, although you will see them in every market, is the Spices Bazaar. There´s a good reason why it´s called that. They are very cheap, although don´t hesitate to take a little bit of everything you think you are going to use. Dry fruits are also a great idea.
Art and antiques
Istanbul has so much history and it is of great importance from a cultural and political point of view. So, it is easy to deduce that antiques are some of the top products to buy in Istanbul.
The truth is that in neighbourhoods such as Çukurcuma, in the area of Istiklal (link to corresponding URL), there are a myriad of antique shops, experts in restoring valuable historic artefacts, and sometimes prices are a real bargain.
Inspired by these past works and by the undeniable artistic atmosphere one breathes in Istanbul, there are many painters, sculptors, ceramists and new creators who sell their pieces in specialised galleries and, even, in gift shops themselves.
Main bazaars and markets in the city
When talking about where the best place to buy in Istanbul is we should look to the many bazaars, covered and street markets. We shall name some of the main ones:
- The Grand Bazaar: is one of the largest shopping centres in the world with over 4,000 stalls and up to 400,000 visitors daily. Here you can find absolutely everything, at all prices and for all kinds of buyer.
- The Spices Bazaar: also known as the Egyptian Bazaar (link to corresponding URL), is next to the Golden Horn (link to corresponding URL) and its speciality is culinary produce.
- The Eskidji Bazaar (Kocasinan, Sivas Blv. No: 289): is a modern shopping centre specialised in the sale of decorative articles and household goods.
- Kadiköy Market: located on the Asian shore, is one of the main food markets in the city. It takes up several streets in this port district.