Most of us who know a thing or two about Istanbul have heard of the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market. However, it might surprise you to discover there are a staggering 200 markets (pazar) happening around the city each week.
Istanbul’s markets yield a dizzying array goods. In fact, just about everything your heart desires can be found at one or another. As well as the ubiquitous fruit and vegetables, you can shop for locally and nationally manufactured goods such as leather goods, brass and copper items, produce like honey, dried fruit and nuts, textiles and crafts. And of course, as in markets the world over, you’ll find plenty of vendors selling knock-off fashions and all manner of imported goods from all around the globe.
1 Fatih Market
The market the locals know as Carsamba Pazari is the oldest and the largest in the city. It takes place every Wednesday (Carsamba) between 5am and 9pm and has a whopping 1300 vendors, 4800 stalls and 2500 travelling vendors lining the old Fatih streets. Suffice to say you can find just about anything here - from live animals to clothing to cured meats to fruit and vegetables. Be prepared for chaos, and make sure you don your best haggling face - prices are rock bottom here but you’ll need to work for them (see our post here on how to haggle like a pro). This isn’t a tourist market, so it’s a great place to see what Istanbul life is like away from the tourist traps.
2 Yesilkoy Market
This aptly named market (Yesilkoy translates to “green village”) is located in leafy, upper class Yesilkoy. The Wednesday market sells high quality products in its orderly marketplace, whose 2000 stalls are arrayed over 12,000 metres. As well as being a wonderful place to pick up all manner of produce and flowers, Yesilkoy is a really nice place to visit. Sit at one of the many cafes and watch the world go by. Look out for the great selection of make up: prices are around half of what you’ll pay elsewhere.
3 Besiktas Market
This “small” Saturday market has just 400 stalls, and is the place to go for clothing. You’ll still find the goods you can buy at other markets - like jewellery and textiles, and beautifully presented produce - but clothing is king at this market, which is located in a multi-storey carpark. You’ll find factory seconds, designer knock-offs, crazy hats and unusual underwear. The market opens around dawn and closes at dusk.
4 Kadikoy Market
Open on Tuesdays and Fridays in Kadikoy, on Istanbul’s Asian side, Kadikoy Market has developed far beyond the modest few stalls it offered when it opened in 1969. Today, the market is one of the city’s best known, and has grown so big that a few years ago it was forced to relocate to a larger centre. Today you’ll find it in Fikirtepe, with 4000 stalls. You’ll notice that there seems to be disproportionate number of women shopkeepers here, it’s famous for this fact, and also the number of women shoppers.
5 The Spice Market
No list of Istanbul’s markets is complete without a rundown of the Eminonu Egyptian Spize Bazaar. This market is open every day of the week, and it’s such a fixture in the city that you’re just as likely to see camera-wielding tourists as you are colourful stalls selling all manner of fragrant spices. Wander the labyrinthine alleys and pick up dried fruits and nuts, olives, Turkish delight and heady-smelling coffee.
Although it’s widely considered the city’s “foodie” market, Inebolu isn’t for the fainthearted. The Sunday market is located in Kasimpasa, downtown Beyoglu. The food is out of this world: organic, fresh and at great prices. Look out for freshly made cornbread, fragrant herbs, heady-smelling purees and pastes, eggs, flowers, grains, nuts and olives. The early bird catches the bargains at Inebolu: it opens at dawn and it’s closed by 4pm.
This market is a book lover’s paradise. Once the haunt of 15th century poets who engaged in lofty discussion at the Beyazit tea market, today the area is a leafy enclave hosting 23 bookstores. Breathe in the smell of dusty old volumes, which include textbooks, religious literature and novels local and foreign. You can also find beautiful stationery and calligraphy materials.
The huge Bakirkoy market hugs the Marmara coast and offers just about everything: unusual jewellery, designer clothing, strange pieces of homeware, gorgeous produce and a lot of craft items brought in from neighbouring countries. Sit and eat gozleme and nurse a cup of cay and watch the world go by.
The Tarlabasi Sunday food market snakes around the local streets, and is attended by food-lovers from all walks of life. While the area isn’t the most prepossessing, the stalls loaded with figs, fruit, beautifully coloured jams and pickles, means it’s worth a wander. Prices are low and you’re sure to walk away happy.
10 The Grand Bazaar
The city’s most famous market is known as “grand” for a good reason. More than 500 years after its establishment, Kapali Carsi has become the largest covered market in the world, and Turkey’s number one tourist destination. Five thousand shops line a maze of narrow streets, offering the ultimate Turkish shopping experience. You can find absolutely everything here - textiles, pottery, brass and copper, precious stones, spices, jewellery and clothing are just the beginning. It’s a riot of colour and activity and you need to be prepared for an intense experience - although if you need a breather there are plenty of places to sit and watch the world go by over a cup of tea or coffee. Although it’s become a tourist hub over the last few years, the Grand Bazaar is still an absolute must on any itinerary.
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