Turkey has been a centre of trade and exchanging culture between Europe and Asia. For centuries, it has brought the West and the East together, creating a melting point for art, music and more. It is then little wonder that people from across the globe come to shop for a piece of Turkey and global antiques here.

Istanbul, the heart of Turkey, has managed to retain most of its stunning historical heritage, such as the beautiful minarets and the sprawling markets. Along with this, it has a touch of contemporary malls and the finest luxury brands with the latest designs. We recommend you start your shopping trip with the popular bazaars in the city. Here’s our guide to shopping in Istanbul.

Iconic Bazaars & Markets

From the Greeks to the Ottomans and the Romans, Istanbul has imprints of almost every ruler that’s ruled the country. Its effects can be seen in the local bazaars that house almost everything from clothing to jewellery and even some rare vintage gems. Whether you wish to shop or not, a visit to these markets is a must, simply to take in the vibe of the city and explore the way locals live.

1. Grand Bazaar

It’s not precisely known when the Grand Bazaar came into existence, but it is at least a few decades old. With a massive area covering more than 60 streets featuring around 40,000 shops, this place sells almost everything you will need.

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The most iconic historical bazaar of the city also offers one of the most thrilling shopping experiences, with a wide range of colours, sounds of hawkers, and the delightful smell of local food.

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How To Reach The Grand Bazaar: The Grand Bazaar is located in the Old City area, near the Suleymaniye Mosque in the district of Fatih. You can enter from the Beyazit Mosque in the west and of Nuruosmaniye Mosque in the east. In addition, there is a tram from Sultanahmet and Sirkeci directly to the bazaar.

TImings: It is open Monday to Saturday, from 9am to 7pm.

Ithaka Recommends: Remember to have access to maps, as this large market can be overwhelming to navigate. Take care of your belongings and don’t forget to bargain heavily for all items. Most shops have similar items, so do compare the prices before buying.

2. Spice Bazaar

Started in 1664, the Spice Bazaar has some of the best local and imported spices from Egypt, Africa and India. You can also find some flavourful pastes, dry fruits, herbs and sweets at competitive prices.

It is ideal to take home some exquisite spices from the city, which may not be available in your country. Besides the colourful display of spices and food, you will even find locally designed and handmade clothing, shoes, shawls and more.

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How To Reach The Spice Bazaar: It is a part of the Yeni Camii or the New Mosque complex near Eminonu, where you can reach via tram. You will have to cross a narrow street with cheese and nut vendors before reaching the market. It is close to the Grand Bazaar so you can plan a trip to both venues together.

Timings: It is open every day from 9 am to 7 pm every day, except public holidays.

Ithaka Recommends: Always taste a sample before buying any product, and compare it in different shops. Some stores may have vacuum packing, which will make it easier for you to carry it back home. Don’t forget to haggle for the best price.

3. Sahaflar Bazaar

If you’re a lover of art and literature, you cannot miss the Sahaflar Bazaar. It is one of the oldest markets in the city that sells antique, old and second-hand books.

Since Byzantine times, it has been a paper market in the city. Besides some rare books, you will also find miniature paintings, artworks and other items here.

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How To Reach Sahaflar Bazaar: It is located between gate 7 of Grand Bazaar and the Beyazit Mosque. Take a tram to reach the Grand Bazaar from Sultanahmet; it is walking distance from there.

Timings: It is open between 9 am and 7pm every day, except Sundays.

Ithaka Recommends: Most shopkeepers are quite knowledgeable and it would be great to have a conversation with them about different books and Turkish literature. Don’t forget to bargain.

Other markets that you can check out: Arasta bazaar (Sultanahmet area), Sali market (Kadikoy area), Ulus market (Cayir Sokak near Etiler) and Cumartesi market (Antalaya area).

Budget Shopping On the Streets

If you’ve not found everything you need at the bazaars, the street’s the place to go. It is deal for those looking to own a piece of Turkish fashion at reasonable rates. You will also find earthenware, carpets and other items at a pocket-friendly rate.

4. Istiklal Street

This is one of the main shopping streets in the city and is usually always crowded. From international brands to export goods and local labels, you’ll find them all here.

The street has further small arcades, which house some interesting items as well. Also, take a look at the Beyoglu Balik Pazari for food and the CiCek Pasaji for some amazing historic architecture. The street also has trams that make for a great picture.

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How To Reach Istiklal Street: The street starts near Taksim Square, and goes towards the Galata Tower. You can take a metro or a bus to Taksim Square and walk from there. Alternatively, you can take a tram to Karakoy and then ride the underground funicular to Tunel Square. From there, the street is a short walk.

Timings: It is open from 9am to 6pm on all days, except Sunday.

Ithaka Recommends: Bargaining is a must here. Keep an eye out for musical instruments, clothing and shoes. Take care of your belongings, as this is a busy street.

5. Cukurcuma Street

Need quality antiques? Cukurcuma is the place to go. Lined with picturesque neoclassical houses, simply a walk here would make your day. However, you’re also sure to find amazing boutiques, art galleries, furniture, and even clothing.

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How To Reach Cukurcuma Street: Cukurcuma Street is near Taksim, Siraselviler Street. Take a metro or a bus to Taksim first and then follow the road towards Siraselviler. Once at the street, the market is towards the right at a five-minute walking distance.

Details: It’s open from 9am to 6pm on all days, except Sunday.

Ithaka Recommends: Keep an eye out for interesting paintings and custom t-shirts. Also, for expensive items, some shops may offer to pay airport taxes, so ensure that you check for the same before you buy.

Other streets to check out: Bahariye Street (Kadikoy), Rumeli Street (Harbiye district), and Serdar-I Ekrem Street (Galata).

Indulging In Istanbul

Don’t be stuck in just the budget shops and bazaars – Istanbul has more than 150 shopping malls, housing top international brands. Along with this, there are streets lined with the most exquisite designer boutiques.

6. Bagdat Street

Ranked as one of the best shopping streets in the world, Bagdat has the finest luxury stores lined in its 14-kilometre stretch. Pick up some of the most timeless couture pieces, along with sculptures, paintings and glassware here.

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How To Reach Bagdat Street: Bagdat Street is on the Asian side of the city. Go to Galata Bridge and take a boat to Kadikoy, then take a bus from there to Bagdat Street.

Timings: Most stores open by 10am and are open till 10pm.

Ithaka Recommends: The street has a mix of international and local brands, so we recommend you take a look at the Turkish designer boutiques first to get a feel of the pricing, fashion and trends of the city.

7. Nisantasi Shopping Centre

Want to splurge and treat yourself? The Nisantasi mall is the place to go. Located near a lush-green garden area, the mall houses a number of luxury brands, from Cartier to Louis Vuitton.

In addition, you can pick a few local fabrics such as organic silks and even customised clothing. While you’re here, also check out the Abdi Ipekci Street for designer clothing boutiques such as Arzu Kaprol, Beymen and Decorum.

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How To Reach Nisantasi Shopping Centre: It is located close to Taksim Square. Take a metro or a bus to Taksim and walk towards the garden area; you’ll spot the shopping centre next to it.

Timings: The mall is open from 10am to 10pm on all days.

Ithaka Recommends: Keep an eye out for local celebrities and the top luxury cars of the city when visiting here.

Other luxury stores and malls to check out: Kanyon, Metrocity, Ozdilek, Akmerkez malls and Istinye Park along with Cevahir Istanbul mall in Mecidiyekoy.