Istanbul is a vibrant city where Europe and Asia meet, creating an exciting blend of heritage and history. The city is known for its rich culture, fantastic cuisine, and exotic markets, making it a real treasure trove to explore. Wander the famous Grand Bazaar, a dizzying assault on the senses. Or venture off the beaten path to some lesser-known neighborhood markets and shop like a local.
Whether you’re in search of authentic souvenirs, antiques, or fresh food for a picnic, there’s a Turkish market for every interest. Visiting the lively Istanbul markets promises an immersive experience to learn about and enjoy the city’s culture and its everyday commercial hustle and bustle. Shopping in markets is second nature to Istanbul’s residents and is always a colorful experience.
Snag amazing bargains on goods such as leather, spices, and textiles, chat with vendors, and indulge in the gastronomic flavors of the city. Take a deep dive into Turkish culture with a visit to some of the best markets in Istanbul.
The Spice Bazaar
Also referred to as the Egyptian Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar is a culinary and historic wonder and one of the best places to visit in Istanbul. It was originally named after the wide array of imports from Cairo sold by vendors throughout the years.
Located in the historic Eminönü quarter of the Fatih neighborhood of the city, this buzzing market dates back to the 17th century within the New Mosque complex. It’s also one of the largest and most popular markets to visit. Wander through the narrow market lanes, marveling at the sights and scents of traditional spices, textiles, and other Turkish epicurean delights.
Discover stalls filled with a spectrum of colors, creating intriguing scenes for any photography enthusiast. Peruse popular spices and herbs such as sumac, cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, chicory, and rosehip. You’ll also find dried fruits and vegetables, nuts, cheeses, and coffee, as well as great mounds of nougat and vats of green henna.
Make sure to sample some Turkish delight or “lokum,” a chewy confection usually with rosewater flavoring and pistachios inside, and covered with powdered sugar. Enjoy the sweet treat while meandering through the market.
It’s not all about food though, the market is also host to vendors selling trinkets, souvenirs, antiques, jewelry, and textiles such as scarves and Turkish towels. The Spice Bazaar is one of the most fascinating Istanbul markets to visit.
The Grand Bazaar
Head to the most famous and celebrated market in the entire city of Istanbul, the Grand Bazaar, or Kapali Çarşı. This city landmark, located in the Fatih district, is one of the oldest covered markets in the world, dating back to the 15th century. Then, merchants traveling the trade routes would gather here, the market growing bigger and bigger. The original covered structure is still intact, at the core.
Discover over 60 alleyways lined with more than 4,000 stalls selling all types of Turkish goods. The maze-like bazaar is separated into various sections selling jewelry, antiques, foods, textiles, and more, although some areas overspill into others. You’ll see why Istanbul is one of the best shopping cities in Europe.
Feel like you’ve stepped back in time to the Ottoman era as you stroll the main bazaar lanes and smaller side alleyways. Admire hand-woven carpets and beautifully patterned textiles like towels and blankets. Let bright and intricate Turkish lamps dazzle you, and enjoy perusing expertly hand-painted ceramics. You’ll find leather jackets, purses, copperware, bolts of silk, antiques, chess sets, and even bridal gowns.
Perhaps one of the biggest selections of products you’ll see is jewelry. Silver and gold shops abound with sparkling gems for purchase. If you’re interested in finding pieces with gemstones mined in Turkey, keep an eye out for Zultanite, a rare gem that appears to be “color changing.”
You are expected to bargain over the prices in any market; this is part of Turkish culture and to Turks, an enjoyable exchange. Decide what you think an item is worth and make an offer. Never offer the asking price! Don’t be afraid to walk away; if there’s still room for negotiation, the vendor will come after you.
Sahaflar Çarşısı (Beyazit Book Bazaar)
Literature lovers will swoon over a visit to the Beyazit Book Bazaar, located in Istanbul’s Fatih district, nearby to the Grand Bazaar’s gate number 7 and the Sultan Beyazit Mosque.
History runs deep here. It’s said that this market location was where the first book was printed in Turkey, as well as where a book and paper market from the Byzantine era previously stood. A statue of scholar Ibrahim Muteferrika stands in the courtyard, paying homage to the man who opened the first Ottoman printing house in the early 1700s.
Browse the extensive collection of new, secondhand, international, and illustrated books, as well as rare, ancient texts. Religious and specialist works, in addition to historical maps can also be found at the book bazaar. Spend time looking through the literature offerings and you might just unearth a true literary treasure.
Venture over the Bosphorus to Istanbul’s Asian side where you’ll uncover the incredible Kadıköy Market, a haven for foodies. It’s grown in popularity since its beginnings in the late 1960s and offers an expansive selection of items, from dried herbs to olive oil and fresh seafood.
Kadıköy has also become the focus of many food tours in the city, thanks to its diverse and high-quality items. From appetizers and cheese to pickles and coffee, it’s possible to find some real culinary gems during your market visit.
Browse stalls selling olives of all kinds, more cheese varieties than you could count, and a bounty of vibrant flowers. Snack on honeycomb, roasted nuts, or “pide,” a boat-shaped bread typically baked in a wood-fired oven and topped with cheeses, meats, and vegetables.
Make sure to leave room for dessert; you’ll want to try items like the famed Kup Griye at Baylan Pastanesi, a traditional sweet that blends biscuits and almonds with vanilla and caramel. The market is a great experience in discovering the depth and variety of Turkish cuisine.
Çarşamba Pazarı (Fatih Market)
Every Wednesday, the historic neighborhood of Fatih transforms into a bustling outdoor market. This market is a favorite of locals, where vendors sell anything from food items to clothing and accessories. Find bargains on purses, makeup, perfume, sunglasses, and shoes, in addition to mountains of fresh fruit and vegetables, cheeses, olives, and pickles.
Browse stalls on the main lanes as well as narrow alleyways; the market sprawls across numerous streets. Combine your market meandering with a visit to the nearby Sultan Fatih Mosque, an iconic Ottoman landmark in Istanbul, with impressive interiors.
Remember to dress modestly if you want to peek inside. This area is crammed with restaurants and cafés, too, making for a pleasant day of sightseeing and sampling Turkish cuisine.
Ulus Pazarı Market
Referred to as “society market”, this weekly market is famed for its clothing. You’ll find it open all day on Thursdays in the fashionable riverside suburb of Ortaköy, in a space with room for almost 1,000 vendors.
You’ll find brand names such as Gap and Ralph Lauren, as well as many others, some authentic, some fake; you’ll be able to spot the fakes by the lower prices. You’ll need to use your own judgment as to whether to buy fake goods but in reality, they’re everywhere in Turkey.
You’ll also find great textiles, leather, and coats. Most items are surplus and may have minor defects, allowing them to be sold at incredibly discounted prices. This market is a fantastic place to find a bargain.
Check another culinary market off your Istanbul checklist with a visit to the Inebolu Pazarı, or Village Market, located in the Kasimpaşa district on the city’s European side. Enjoy the traditional Sunday bazaar experience here, where you’ll unearth Turkish culinary treasures, particularly from the Black Sea coastal region.
This market is a favorite among local residents and restaurant chefs, and once you set foot amongst the buzzing lanes lined with food vendors, you’ll discover why. Taste samples from friendly vendors before you buy, as the locals do.
This is the ideal spot to put together a picnic lunch. Choose from a wide array of flavored bread, fresh and dried fruits and vegetables like figs, beans, or mushrooms, süzme yogurts, artisan goat cheeses, and honey and jams, all hailing from small villages along the Black Sea.
Every Sunday near Taksim Square, at the heart of Istanbul, the Tarlabaşi Pazari offers seasonal produce at fantastic prices. A visit to this market will give you the authentic Turkish market experience as you jostle with locals to buy plump avocados, walnuts, hazelnuts, and lamb chestnuts, mouth-watering figs, and juicy tomatoes.
In addition to produce, it’s possible to purchase a variety of other goods, from household items to clothing. You’ll get a real feel for weekend shopping like a local as well as a chance to take interesting photos, and enjoy people-watching in this buzzing scene.
Beşiktaş Fish Bazaar
Stop by the architecturally impressive fish market, located in the district of Beşiktaş, on the European side of the Bosphorus. The triangular-shaped awning of the Beşiktaş Balık Pazarı provides cover to the vendors who sell their fresh catches daily in this revitalized neighborhood. With seafood as a main staple in Turkish culture and cuisine, visiting a fish market is a must while exploring Istanbul.
Get a glimpse into the everyday world of seafood slinging within this cavernous space filled to the brim with fresh fish, mussels, lobsters, and more. Be sure to arrive hungry, as the market and surrounding restaurants are a seafood lover’s haven.
Look for authentic tavernas, or meyhane for some of the best fish dishes. Try the classic grilled fish sandwich, and afterward, soak up the views from the waterfront, watching boats buzz up and down, and back and forth to the Asian side, on the busy Bosphorus.
Feriköy Antika Pazarı (Flea market)
Another enjoyable Sunday market on the European side of the city is the Ferikoy Antika Pazari, found in the Osmanbey district, near Taksim. Embrace the vibrant atmosphere at this social gathering place as you browse for antique treasures. Books, jewelry, unique vintage souvenirs, records, old photographs, camera equipment, housewares, and much more are sold at approximately 200 covered stalls.
There’s food, too, this being Istanbul. Don’t leave without stopping for the famous gozleme, a savory or sweet-filled dough served warm. Choose from cheese, potatoes, vegetables, and meat fillings for savory, or go sweet with hazelnut or homemade jam spreads. Pair this tasty comfort food with traditional Turkish tea or pomegranate juice for the ultimate experience.
Karaköy Balık Pazarı
Situated on the Bosphorus, the Karaköy Balık Pazarı is a fish market on the European side of Istanbul. Here, you’ll find high-quality seafood, a buzzing atmosphere, and great people watching. Wander this market and get an authentic peek into the everyday life of fishmongers and their customers in Istanbul.
Feast on tasty fish sandwiches at local waterside cafés and tea houses near the market while taking in the view of the fishermen on the Galata Bridge and Istanbul’s distinctive skyline, pierced by minarets.
Enjoy the slower-paced and more organized Arasta Bazaar, a street market situated behind the Blue Mosque, one of Istanbul’s most well-known landmarks. Here, you’ll find little shops selling traditional Turkish items such as authentic carpets, textiles, and glassware.
Pick out your favorite patterned Hammam towel, gaze at intricate Turkish lanterns, or choose an ornate, hand-crafted pottery piece or tile to bring home. Collections of exotic spices, jewelry, and teas can also be purchased. This is a fantastic place to shop for souvenirs without the crowds and chaos of the Grand Bazaar. You should still expect to haggle, though.
There’s more to see while you’re at the Arasta Bazaar. Uncover the secret beneath the bazaar; the Great Palace Mosaic Museum. Marvel at Byzantine-era mosaics dating back to the 6th century. These remarkably intact mosaics once adorned the courtyard floors of Constantinople’s Great’s Palace. Mythological scenes and images of hunting are just some of the intricate pieces you’ll see.
Whether you’re on the hunt for authentic souvenirs or interested in tasting traditional Turkish foods and immersing yourself in the country’s rich culture, a visit to Istanbul’s famous bazaars won’t disappoint. A luxury cruise to Istanbul is a fantastic way to experience the buzz and variety of the city’s many markets.
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