Istanbul, Turkey, is a shopper's dream. Whether you're after designer clothing, one-of-a-kind antiques, or fragrant spices, there's something for every shopper in Istanbul. Here's our guide to shopping in Istanbul.
A Guide to Shopping in Istanbul
The Grand Bazaar
No guide to shopping in Istanbul would be compete without mentioning The Grand Bazaar and its maze of covered passageways. While it is certainly a tourist hotspot, with 4,000 shops, there's sure to be something to catch your eye; if anything, go just to witness its charming chaos. This bustling market offers everything from spices to gold jewellery to fake designer duds, so come prepared to haggle (and to ward off any unwanted offers; carpet sellers can be particularly pushy).
A short stroll from Sultanahmet Square, the Grand Bazaar is a convenient spot to do some cheap souvenir shopping on your holiday in Istanbul... but be warned you might get lost in its labyrinth!
The Spice Bazaar
Much smaller than the Grand Bazaar and therefore retaining a lot more of the traditional charm of a bazaar, the Spice Bazaar is great for a wander even if you don't plan on buying anything. Marvel at the colourful mounds of spices, sample a few desserts, and lose yourself in the delicious aromas surrounding you. Just don't be surprised if you end up spending more Turkish lira than you planned to!
Istiklal Street (or İstiklal Avenue) is one of Istanbul's most famous pedestrian avenues, and is visited by up to three million people per day. At 1.4 kilometres long it's fantastic for a casual meander, and offers both local and internationally recognised shops. With thousands of clothing boutiques, music stores, bookshops, cafés, art galleries, and more, there's plenty of good shopping to be found. It's also quite centrally located, so it may even be in walking distance from your Istanbul hotel.
If you're looking for a more local experience, head across the Bosphorus to the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Kadiköy. Here you'll find many of the same spices, teas, and sweets that you'd find in either the Grand Bazaar or the Spice Bazaar, but prices will be much lower. You'll also be shopping alongside more Istanbulites than tourists as you wander through the winding streets. There's much less negotiating here than in the tourist markets, so take the prices at face value.
While Çukurcuma has traditionally been known for its exceptional antique stores, these days the neighbourhood is a trendy mix of cool boutiques and friendly cafés... but yes, those exceptional antique stores are still there. Much calmer than Istiklal Street, the area is perfect for those looking for a unique souvenir to take home: a local designer t-shirt, for example, or an ancient relic from Turkey's past. This area is definitely a must-visit for anyone wanting to get some serious shopping done in Istanbul.
Nişantaşı is often cited as Istanbul's most exclusive neighbourhood, and it's home to many of the world's top designers and elite brands. More specifically, Abdi İpekçi Caddesi is the street where you'll find all of the biggest and flashiest brand names; think the Champs Elysees in Paris or Bond Street in London. While the price tags may not be for everyone's wallet, a walk around this area to take in all the glitz and the glamour is still a fun way to spend a few hours in Istanbul.
Found on the Asian side of Istanbul, this street definitely has more of a local feel to it than some of its counterparts on the European side (which are sometimes filled with more tourists than Istanbulites). Here you'll find all the typical high-street shops and name brands you'll find at home mixed in with more local Turkish designers. As it's only a few blocks from the sea, you can easily spend a few hours wandering up and down the street to do your shopping and then relax by the seaside with a Turkish coffee.
The Book Bazaar
The Book Bazaar in Istanbul, or Sahaflar Çarsısı, is found near the Grand Bazaar. An essential visit for any bibliophile, this is the place to search for used and rare books. With a long history of literary significance - the site dates back hundreds of years and attracted many intellectuals - it's easy to while away a few hours browsing for the perfect book to add to your collection.
Found near the Galata Tower, this cobblestoned street is one of Istanbul's premier spots for boutique shopping. If you're looking for local designers and unique pieces, head to Serdar-ı Ekrem for a few hours and lose yourself in its many trendy shops. Quiet, laid-back, and effortlessly cool, this street might just become your favourite shopping spot in Istanbul.
Still need a few souvenirs from your holiday to Istanbul but don't feel like braving the crowds and the winding streets of the Grand Bazaar? Head to Arasta Bazaar, found near the Blue Mosque. With a terrific blend of merchandise for purchase - think spices, textiles, perfumes, jewellery, tea, and more - you may find this a much more intimate shopping experience than the larger market. Haggling is expected here, so don't be afraid to politely decline the first price offered.
Your Hamam or Spa of Choice
Finally, if you're looking to bring home some beautiful bath products, look no further than your Turkish spa or hamam of choice. As there are many wonderful spa hotels in Istanbul, visiting a traditional hamam may be part of your Istanbul itinerary anyway. What better way to remember the relaxing holiday than to bring home some of the spa's local products? Many spas will offer soaps, oils, and more for purchase. Perfect for a gift... or for recreating your own little spa heaven at home.
From antiques to designer clothing to used books, we hope this guide to shopping in Istanbul covered everything you might be looking for! Now go forth and shop...