For those who want to splurge while away from home, Istanbul is a retail therapy gold mine. Whether you’re looking for designer fashion or traditional items such as antiques, carpets and jewellery, Istanbul’s vibrant shopping landscape has got you covered.
Boasting a remarkable number of bazaars and shopping places that provide a rich variety of specialty items, including those at reduced rates, the city is a haven for shoppers. With regularly sought-out historical options as well as unsung stores scattered all over town, Istanbul invites visitors to go on a spree unlike any other.
Besides being among the city’s primary sightseeing spots, the city’s historical bazaars also bear the title of Istanbul’s most popular shopping locations.
One of the largest and oldest shopping markets in the world, the Grand Bazaar dates back to the 15th century. Just a 10-minute walk away from the iconic Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), the bustling Bazaar has over 4,000 shops overflowing with all sorts of objects, from traditional Turkish carpets, antiques, textiles, jewellery and ceramics, through to fake designer handbags. Be prepared to get lost among its network of passageways for hours, amid colourful lanterns and the enticing smell of Turkish coffee. Keep in mind that eager shopkeepers incessantly call potential customers into their shops, and haggling for the best offer is a necessary ritual while shopping here.
The Spice Bazaar (also known as the Egyptian Market) is an equally historic and popular covered bazaar, which offers a lavish selection of Turkish delicacies, including lokum (Turkish delight), spices, dried fruits and tea. Located in historic Eminönü, the colourful and vibrant bazaar is filled with stalls of fresh food items. Although it’s much smaller in size than the Grand Bazaar, many delicious souvenirs are waiting to be discovered here.
Located in the courtyard between the Grand Bazaar and Beyazid Mosque, the historic Antique Books Market (Sahaflar Market) is sure to stun bibliophiles with its roster of stalls filled with rare books such as Ottoman manuscripts and maps, as well as secondhand and recent books.
The city’s famous pedestrianised street in Beyoğlu, Istiklal Avenue connects Taksim Square with Galatasaray and Tünel Squares. This historic stretch swarms with people day and night, and is packed with many well-known Turkish and international brands. Browse for books at Robinson Crusoe in SALT Beyoğlu, or visit classic Hacı Bekir, one of Istanbul’s longest-standing establishments, to buy some authentic lokum. Although chain stores have mostly unseated their historical counterparts, narrow cross streets alongside the main avenue reveal historical passages and wondrous arcades from the 19th century. Tucked behind the entrance to Atlas Sinema, a famous arcade, is the Atlas Pasaji – which offers fashionable clothing and vintage jewellery finds at modest prices.
Housing the usual list of top international labels, Abdi Ipekçi Street offers an elegant shopping experience right at the heart of the city. This wide street, located within the chic neighbourhood of Nişantaşı, is lined with brands such as Christian Louboutin, Cartier and Prada. Frequently compared to the likes of New York’s famous Fifth Avenue or the Champs-Elysées in Paris, Abdi İpekçi Street is not to be missed for those who are willing to go big in terms of their spending. Find Fey, a spacious boutique shop with beautiful vintage pieces, on the adjoining Mim Kemal Oke street.
Kanyon is a sophisticated open-air shopping mall out in the business district of Levent. An unmistakable iconic structure rising amid the financial plazas, the four-storey shopping center houses select stores such as Harvey Nichols, Max Mara and Vakko. Make sure to visit Souq Dükkan, a local brand with a curated collection of unique homeware, accessories and clothing that is sure to awe avid design lovers.
A more recent addition to the booming shopping mall scene in Istanbul, Zorlu Center is a luxurious fashion destination that is right above the first Bosphorus bridge. Come here to find established brands and local department stores such as Beymen, and to check out large high-end stores with chic window displays.
For those who seek quality antiques, the nostalgic Çukurcuma area is a must-visit. Located right behind the Istiklal Avenue and part of the gentrified Cihangir district, the twisting streets of Çukurcuma are abundant with antiquarian and vintage stores. Shop here for tasteful second-hand clothes with stories to tell, and Ottoman-style collectibles and furniture. Pop into Pied de Poule to spend hours looking through high-end retro clothes and accessories, mostly dating from the 1940s up until the ’80s.
Held every Sunday in the Feriköy district, the vibrant Bomonti Flea Market has around 200 stalls loaded with paraphernalia such as old records, porcelain sets, analogue cameras, typewriters, clothes and books. Open from early morning until late afternoon, this eccentric market entertains vintage-lovers of all ages.
For those who would like to explore the shops on the Asian side of Istanbul, Kadıköy’s Salı Pazarı is jam-packed with juicy fruits, affordable clothes, textiles and kitchen appliances. Open only on Tuesdays, this is the perfect place to shop for everyday items alongside the locals. Take the ferry from Beşiktaş to enjoy the fresh breeze of the Bosphorus during your journey.