Sightseeing in one of many bazaars in Turkey is to enter a new world, albeit strange, maybe oriental, especially when compared to the modern brand name shopping malls. Turkish bazaars provide locals and tourists with wonderful opportunities to stock up on fresh goods while interacting with one another at popular age-old meeting points. Experiencing the people’s marketplace, known as pazar in Turkish and literally meaning Sunday, means immersing yourself into Turkish life, traditions, culture, and social interactions.
Some foreigners are hesitant to visit for fear of either being ripped off for their ignorance about prices. But this is a big mistake. All are great for a gentle stroll, and bargaining for a good price is an exciting experience. The less flashy and more traditional markets aimed at locals often sell cheaper goods than the tourist shops. In fact, visit a local bazaar rather than a well-known hotspot for a great insight into daily life never mentioned in guidebooks. In this article, we talk about what to buy, famous bazaars, and how to bargain like a local Turk.
Bazaars in Turkey: An Ottoman Tradition
What to buy in a Turkish Bazaar?
As the focus of the community for most towns and cities in the republic of Turkey, shopkeepers sell practically everything. Examples of a typical souvenir include Turkish delight, sweets, baklava, rosewater cologne, figs, ceramics, lokum, copper wares, handmade textiles, fragrant spices, and speciality nuts like pistachios. Also find several vendors of other cloth materials like cashmere and silk in the form of scarves, clothing, and other material goods.
Turkish tea is a popular item, since no-one wants to leave the land of tea without some to take home. Many vendors also sell antiques, metals and metal wear, artwork, T-shirts, bags, and leather goods. Without a doubt, the most popular souvenir sold is the Evil eye known as the Nazar boncugu. Compare it to a talisman that wards off jealousy and negative vibes. Sold in the form of plates, keyrings, and ceramic ornaments, they are timeless souvenirs.
Delicious Turkish Food and Drink
Bazars provide the best of food products and street snacks (this is where locals themselves go!). Try handmade, freshly fried gozleme - a traditional savoury pastry made of hand-rolled dough lightly brushed with butter and eggs, filled with various toppings, sealed, and cooked over a griddle, often accompanied by pickled vegetables and tea. Some local bazaars also sell locally made organic goods like olives, and cheese.
Tasting bites are available and for those who stay in self-catering apartments, you will notice the difference in the fruit and vegetable quality. It is exceptional. Sampling Turkish cuisine and people watching enhances your trip. This wonderful opportunity to chat with down-to-earth Turks over a steaming cup of tea or Turkish coffee in among many stalls could be one highlight of any trip to Turkey. (Read about incredible Turkish foods to try.)
Turkish Carpets and Kilims
Most lists of souvenirs mention carpets and kilims. They are a special niche and while some local, small bazaars don’t sell them, larger ones, especially where tourists visit often do. Carpets are unique because they are hand woven, and some regions command high respect for their quality and design. Each pattern often reflects a cultural story and history. However, original versions are not cheap, to buy an authentic version and not a cheap, factory made copy, always take an expert guide with you.
The Most Famous Bazaar
After visiting the hippodrome, Blue mosque and Hagia Sophia, cruising the Bosphorus strait, learning about the Sultans in the Topkapi palace, well versed travellers will tell you about the lively Grand bazaar in Istanbul, of which one scene in James Bond’s film Sky Fall featured the famous domed rooftop. Sitting near the historical Sultanahmet district known as the old city, its esteemed reputation dates to Constantinople and the Ottoman-empire.
Each stall sits within a group area depending on what they sell. Given the bazaar’s massive size if you are nervous about walking around on your own, most day tours visit there, or sign up for a private walking-tour. Otherwise, our in-depth guide to the Grand Bazaar will help the independent traveller wanting to create their own experience. Also within walking distance is the spice bazaar in Eminonu neighbourhood, which is like this bazaar but on a much smaller scale. This list also includes other markets that will be of interest.
Bargain and Haggle
On your next visit, don’t shy away from local bazaars in Turkey. Instead, embrace Turkish culture and explore historical meeting places that for centuries were the centre of town life around the country. Learn a deal by observing how the vendors and the buyers interact, how their bargaining exchanges work, and what items Turks typically buy. Beyond this cultural immersion, find souvenirs and enjoy tasty culinary delights that leaves an impression on your tastebuds, but don’t forget bargaining is a must do on expensive items but not if buying food or drink. The merchant expects it so will deliberately hike the price at the first instance. Find out 10 tips that will help you bargain like Turkish people.
Other Places to Shop in Istanbul: Naturally being a vast metropolis, Istanbul has many other places to spend your cash, from the well-known Istiklal avenue leading through Beyoglu to Taksim square, to high-end, deluxe stores in the Nisantasi district. From small boutique shops in Galata to small shopping malls in Besiktas, we have listed our favourite places here.
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