Dating back to 1461, the Grand Bazaar in Beyazit, Istanbul is the world's oldest shopping mall. Enter via one of the impressive stone archways and you are whisked back in time to a bustling street lined with sparkling gold and jewels. The choice is flabbergasting, whatever you desire you will find. Dive into one of the narrower alleys to search for scarves, cotton or wool? silk or cashmere? Ceramics, hand painted tiles and bowls from Iznik, leather goods; bags to die for and jackets that can sometimes raise a smile with their Eastern appeal. Amber, coral or turquoise; necklaces or bracelets? Clothing; modern, or why not buy a fez and a belly dancing costume? Then there are the carpets! Hand knotted silk carpets at prices that once would have bought a starter home, woollen kilims of all sizes and designs. Watches, towels, embroidered items, beads, soap, sweets, toys, games, the shopping list is endless.
Let the traders entertain you with their banter. Barter to try and get the price down. Feeling weary? Try one of the cafes in the heart of the bazaar, for a snack or a perfect Turkish coffee. It is impossible to visit and not be stunned by the history, the colours and the life force of the Grand Bazaar ... and to leave without buying something perfect for you.
At the end of Divan Yolu from Sultanahmet Square. Beyazit/Grand Bazaar stop on the tramway.
Google map: bit.ly/s34H8V
Kadıköy is a bustling district on the Asian side of the city. There is a market and lots of small speciality shops, such as cheese, honey, herbal, gold, antiques and second hand books. This is the place to see the Istanbul of Istanbullus. After browsing for an hour or so sit down at one of the many small restaurants for some meze or fish. Try the "midye dolma", battered mussels. Çıya is a favourite restaurant of locals and visitors if you want to try unusual Turkish food. Keep an eye open for the fortune telling rabbits.
Take the ferry from Eminonu or Karakoy. Walk straight ahead, cross the road and dive into the side streets on your right.
Google map: bit.ly/n0pKUJ
The Grand Baazar in Istanbul, is one of the most magical, colourful and delightful bazaars I have been too. Bustling with tourists, locals and traders, it is bursting with hookah smoking pipes, glass tea sets, and outstanding Persian rugs.
As a tourist you will be a target for the traders who will raise their prices ridiculously high, but even so, welcome you with Turkish hospitality with a glass of Apple Tea which you can sip while mulling over your next purchase.
This Bazaar is a modern souk but is filled with shadows of Ottoman glory, and is an experience not to be missed.
The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey.
Google map: bit.ly/971vwW
Take time out from the whirl of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar by stepping out on to its beautiful rooftop, and admiring the rows of domes from above. Climb the stairs in the courtyard opposite Cebeci Han.
Secondly, a totally authentic and cheap place for late breakfast or lunch in the bazaar is Onur Pilic (meaning "Honour Chicken"). This hole-in-the-wall serves delicious "menemen", scrambled eggs with tomato, cheese and green peppers served with French bread. Even better - ask for slices of chicken from the doner above to be placed on top, add chili flakes and enjoy.
Cebeci Han, Grand Bazaar.
Onur Pilic, Kavaflar Sokak 49, Grand Bazaar.
Google maps: bit.ly/9FKauZ
For a hassle-free, pleasurable and informative shopping trip in Istanbul's bazaars, I highly recommend Istanbul Personal Shopper. They saved us time and money and took us shopping away from the typical tourist stores.
A company run by long-time expat residents of Istanbul, they are known for not accepting commissions from merchants in the bazaars, which is something the majority of tour guides will do.
We recently rented this homely lovely apartment for a five day stay in Istanbul and had a fantastic time. It was pretty cheap considering the size and location. There are two double rooms and another room with two single beds, kitchen, living room/dining room, one little bathroom, a little balcony and all the mod cons you'll need on holiday.
The views from the apartment look straight across the Golden Horn with the Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque visible in the distance.
The area (Beyoglu) was fantastic! Not very touristy (which I thought was great) but still with loads and loads of things to do, see and eat. A young hip crowd, loads of bars, shops, restaurants and very easy transport around the city (or walk to the Grand Bazaar in 30mins). The owner gave us a little personal tour around the area when we arrived showing us good local restaurants, bars, cafe and the best places to eat local delights.
Only one thing that might be a problem - it gets a bit noisy on Friday and Saturday nights due to the numerous restaurants nearby - the locals like to party around here, so probably not great for kids but it didn't bother us much. Other than that - is excellent in almost every way.
As a long weekend break I would highly recommend Istanbul. If the stunning mosques and Ottoman architecture don't fascinate you, there is always the grand bazaar or spice markets. Ferries run up and down the Bospherous, constantly connecting the Dead Sea with the Sea of Marmara. The food is exceptional. Whether you'd like to try a real kebab at the top of Istekal where the stall sells over 10,000 per day, or sit in an outdoor restaurant overlooking the sea drinking very quaffable Turkish wine and eating freshly caught fish, the food will never disappoint. Turks love to dance, and the clubs rival anything in London. In the summer the parties move onto the roof terraces. Locals tend to be warm, friendly and helpful to the point of bending over backwards. I came out here for a weekend earlier last year and now I live here. You can't get a better recommendation than that!
Head towards Rustempasha mosque, away from the Egyptian Bazaar or Spice Market. You'll find twisty streets full of tiny shops, including many selling wooden implements such as paddles for pide ovens, huge sieves, forks and spoons. The spice shops here are half the price of the Egyptian market, too, and if you're lucky you'll see the hamals (market porters) at work, or find a cubbyhole selling cay (tea) inside one of the old han courtyards.
Around Rustempasha mosque, Eminonu
The price of alcohol is very high, with an average bottle of Turkish wine costing about 32 lira or £14.
The imported vodka, whiskey, wine etc is equally exorbitant in price due to high taxes.
Just a word of warning in case people think Istanbul is like one of the resorts!
If you want to buy some tea glasses, head for this shop just behind the Spice Bazaar. There's a wide range and, as it isn't a tourist-oriented shop, you can buy them cheaply and individually (thus avoiding the overpriced sets a few metres away in the Bazaar).
Go out of the exit at the junction of the 2 sections of the Spice Bazaar and turn right.
A pursuit dear to the hearts of many foreign visitors to Istanbul is the hunt for an authentic Turkish carpet. Of course, everyone who has ever sought to nab one has experienced, or at least heard of, woeful tales of deception, misrepresentation, false threading and just too much free tea for the trouble.
That said, a little advice picked up from the experts in the business might be useful.
When looking for carpets, be sure to look around and compare before committing (a little home study before arriving is great too). Try to look for shops with serious tradition (family-owned is a good sign) and an attested reputation; such firms are keen to keep up their business and good name and enjoy repeat business- another good indicator.
Further, you'll be wise to demand Turkish rugs only, with certification. The last few years have seen a proliferation of cheap, mass-produced carpets from Afghanistan and Pakistan passed off as the real thing.
Third, avoid the touts and well-attired persuaders strategically located nearby the prime tourist sites; they are working on commission and not particularly scrupulous.
Now that you know what to look out for, where to go?
The Grand Bazaar is of course the prime place for shoppers (though not the only), teeming with over 4,000 shops of all kinds. Although there are many excellent carpet dealers, one unique and rather hip one is Ethnicon, a small but now quite well known outlet offering unique “fusion” rugs and wall hangings, or "kilims."
The vision of the company was to cater to an emerging market (the modern urban interior of varying degrees of minimalism) while at the same time addressing an acute need: the increasing scarcity of antique carpets coming from Anatolian family collections, which have gone from a flood to a trickle over the past 20 years.
To get around this lack, Ethnicon decided to use what was to be found from damaged antique partial carpets, nomad tent coverings, soft casings, scraps and so on, patching them all together through a 15-step process. The result is alluring rugs and wall decorations that combine old ingredients with modern deco tastes. With widespread media attention, the Ethnicon style has become a brand in its own right.
Ethnicon- Grand Bazaar, Kapalýcarsý Takkeciler Sok. 58-60
Tourists should visit the Kapali Carsi (Grand Bazaar). The shop owners try to catch tourists' attention with calls. It’s a unique experience.
On the other hand, in the Tahtakale market district, workers shout and make jokes with each other. You can find a variety of fantastic objects here.
Ortaköy is an area of Istanbul on the European side of the Bosphorous just under the first bridge.
There are many cafes and little shops in which to poke around but they are a little more expensive than the norm.
Despite this you can sit with a drink, watch the boats glide past, and admire the bridge which is lovely by day or night. Heaven!
Ortaköy is very easy to get to from any central area. Buses or minibuses going up the Bosphorous coast road all pass through it and a taxi from Taksim will cost about 10 lira. Ferries go there and if you cannot get one to Ortaköy then go to Beşiktaş and get a minibus for the remaining 2 km.
If you like strong, flavoursome coffee you'll love Turkish coffee. It is the perfect way to end a meal, particularly when accompanied by some Baklava.
If you want to buy coffee to take home with you I would recommend Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi (Tahmis Caddesi 66, very near the Spice Bazaar). Smells lovely and tastes even better.
The Book Bazaar is in a lovely little courtyard just off Beyazit Square and near the Grand Bazaar.
The stalls and shops sell a mixture of different books from tourist guides, textbooks to bestsellers and magazines. There are also some fantastic places to buy prints, pictures and calligraphy.
The clientele seems to be a mix of students from the nearby university, locals and tourists.
A great place to wander and browse.
Please note that all prices are fixed so no haggling.
Sahaflar Carsisi Sok, Beyazit
Noisy, busy, easy to get lost in, hard to get out of but always fun.
If you enjoy shopping and bargaining you'll love it. If you find bargaining and being approached by people a little uncomfortable then the Grand Bazaar is probably not for you.
Yes, it's very touristy. There are endless shops selling apple tea classes, Turkish coffee cups, belly dancing outfits etc. However you can also buy beautiful jewellery, fine fabrics, good value leather goods and, of course, carpets and kilims.
The shop keepers can be persistent but are always hospitable. Often an invitation into a shop will be accompanied by an offer of apple tea or Turkish coffee. If you don't want to buy anything just politely refuse. If you do, then get set to bargain. Offer about half the asking price, or below, and work from there. Have in your mind what you want to pay and stick to it.
Remember, always be polite. And if you do get exhausted with haggling there are plenty of little cafes to sit down in, have a drink and admire the bargains you've bought.
There are various entry points to the bazaar including Nuruosmaniye Gate, near the Nuruosmaniye Mosque and Beyazit Gate, near the book bazaar and Beyazit Square
The Spice Bazaar or Misir Carsisi (Egyptian Bazaar, because taxes from the sale of Egyptian imports were used to help finance it) is a colourful mix of sights, sounds and smells. Much smaller and more accessible than the Grand Bazaar, it is equally as busy. Traders will tempt you into their shops with a tray of Turkish delight and once inside you can peruse an array of spices, sweets, nuts and teas.
A good place to shop for gifts to take home. Or some apple tea to accompany the tea glasses you buy at the Grand Bazaar.
The streets around the Spice Market, particularly leading up to the Grand Bazaar, are a crowded, vibrant noisy, confusion of people, shops, stalls and carts.
Cami Meydani Sok/Yeni Cami Cadessi; Open: 9.00am-6.00pm closed Sunday
A chocolatiere. They have been making the best profiterole to my knowledge since 1923. The owner claims that he took the original recipe from either Paris or Vienna, and modified it. For anyone who cares for chocolate, it is a real treat.
Enter Istiklal Caddesi, aka Beyoglu, from Taksim. It will be on your right, after the French Consulate and some stores. It is a hole in the wall but any local will be happy to point it
The colours, the smells, the crowds. A vibrant, hyperreal place. Much more exciting than the rather touristy grand bazaar (not to say that's not worth a visit). Actually full of locals doing their everyday shopping. And the sweets are delicious.
Go down the hill from the Grand Bazaar towards the Golden Horn
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