Istanbul’s history as a major commercial trade route means that shopping in the city has a long tradition. From its centuries-old bazaars to its contemporary boutiques, Istanbul shopping is as varied as the city itself.
Where to go shopping in Istanbul
Istanbul’s historic Grand Bazaar is synonymous with its shopping landscape. This maze-like building is the largest and oldest covered market in the world. The exact number of stalls in the Grand Bazaar is not known but it’s believed to be over 3000, and some say as many as 5000. The earliest buildings in the bazaar date back to the 15th century, so even if you’re not shopping, the Grand Bazaar is worth exploring for its fascinating architecture.
Another popular shopping destination is the Egyptian Bazaar. This is also known as the spice market, and it’s lined with heaps of fragrant spices and jewel-like dried fruit. If you love literature, Sahaflar Carsisi, a bazaar full of second-hand books that was once an important meeting point for Istanbul’s intellectuals, is another market well worth a visit.
Away from its historic bazaars, visitors will also find an array of modern shopping malls and international department stores in Istanbul.
What to buy
A favourite purchase with travellers in Istanbul is Turkish delight. Known as ‘lokum’ in Turkish, these gelatinous sweet cubes are typically flavoured with rose-water, lemon or pistachio and are best bought fresh by the piece rather than in boxes. Leatherware also makes a great souvenir, while Turkish tea and authentic Turkish rugs are also popular with people shopping in the city.