Do not expect to go home with any loose change when shopping in Istanbul. The vast range of bazaars, malls and famous streets host thousands of bargains and luxury stores of which the happy sellers help to empty your purse. Whether buying souvenirs in bazaars, or clothes in cosmopolitan boutique stalls, travellers always find what they want in this vast metropolis. Covering two continents, Istanbul hosts millions of visitors every year, who usually go home with something in their suitcase.
So, bearing in mind, the overwhelming choice sometimes leads to shopper’s frustration, we’ve listed the best places to go but before we start let us talk about the famous haggling or bartering as it is more commonly known. Some stalls accept haggling, but in others, it is socially unacceptable. Bargain over prices on expensive items like carpets, jewellery, or souvenirs. If the stall owner does not attach price tags, they accept haggling. However, when visiting brand name merchant stores, the price on the label is what to pay. Read more about this Ottoman practice in our article about how Turks haggle.
Guide to Shopping in Istanbul
1: Buying Souvenirs
Given Istanbul is Turkey’s number one tourist destination, souvenir stores line most central streets, from the touristy old city Sultanahmet district to trendy Beyoglu, often called the new part, although its history stems back decades. So, as you sightsee around significant landmarks, look at entrances and exits for small stores. Many museums also have their gift stalls. Popular wares to buy include items with the Turkish flag on, like cups, keyrings, notebooks or the Evil eye, known as Nazar Boncugu. Jewellery is also popular with foreigners because of the better quality than in their home country. Otherwise, vendors sell carpets, kilims and rugs that easily fit in suitcases, alongside Turkish delight, tea, and coffee. More information about buying souvenirs in Turkey.
2: The Grand Bazaar
Speaking of souvenirs, we must mention the Grand Bazaar and the smaller version of the Spice Bazaar. Both popular places sell souvenirs but are also tourist attractions because they date back to the Ottoman period. This chance to practise your haggling skills takes you around a maze including courtyards with artisan shops, and fantastic architecture from years gone by. One reason the Grand earns admiration is that as one of the world’s largest and oldest market, it offers nostalgia among a modern lifestyle. Stalls are grouped together according to what they sell, and this adheres to an age-old tradition from Constantinople.
3: Lively Istiklal Avenue
Crossing over the Golden-horn bridge, stroll further uphill to arrive at Istiklal Avenue, Turkey’s longest and busiest street that on a typical day sees millions of passers-by. Leading up to the Taksim Square monument, shops line both sides but do not ignore the back roads because they throw out beautiful gems. For example, the Cukurcuma neighbourhood is famous for its antique shops. If shopping makes you thirsty, choose from many pubs for a lunchtime pint. Likewise, if the walking distance wears you out, jump on the iconic red tram. (Guide to navigating Istiklal Avenue.)
4: Notable Streets and Avenues
Head to Nisantasi in the Sisli district to find Abdi Ipekci street, and be amazed at the opulent ambience surrounding it. Known as the most expensive place to shop in Turkey, many a traveller has compared it to Rodeo Drive. Small cafes dot the side streets, where shoppers pause for tea and lunch, before continuing to the upscale luxury shops that sell items worth more than most of us earn in a year. Otherwise, cross the Bosphorus strait to the Asian side and try Bagdat avenue stretching for 14 kilometres from Kadikoy to Maltepe. Most of it sits in high-end neighbourhoods, so don’t expect to find a bargain.
5: Best Shopping Malls in Istanbul
Istanbul fully embraced with open arms; the concept of modern malls and certain ones would even outrank those seen in America. There is an enormous choice, but an excellent place to start is the Zorlu centre in Besiktas. Open seven days a week from 10 am to 10 pm, Zorlu covers 105,000 square metres and is home to 205 stores like Louis Vuitton, GAP, Tommy Hilfiger, Mango and much more. Zorlu also promotes gourmet concepts, through eateries and restaurants, and offers an extraordinary cinema experience for film lovers with eight halls with a capacity of 1,212 seats.
Istinye Park in the Sariyer district also earns much fame. Opening in 2007, 270 thousand square metres features 280 stores, of which 147 are clothing and a wide choice of restaurants from world cuisine. The car park alone has the capacity for up to 3,600 vehicles, and many locals say Istinye is the best of luxury shopping in Turkey. It has won awards including Expansion & Renovation and Best Shopping Mall in Europe. Other big malls featuring food and entertainment include Mall of Istanbul, Forum, and Kanyon.
6: Other Bazaars and Markets
If upmarket and luxury is not your idea of fun, or for low-key spending, other bazaars besides the Grand and Spice await. This is where to find traditional Turkey and Turkish cuisine in the form of street food. No matter which neighbourhood they sit in, bazaars are the community’s beating heart and will still be a timeless tradition in years to come.
Also of Interest
Our Blog about Turkey: As well as talking about shopping in Istanbul, our countrywide blog covers other destinations for travel and living here. We are Property Turkey and have offices in towns and cities from the North to the South; hence, we have put our expert local knowledge to fair use. From the Mediterranean coast to the green plateau mountains, we discuss where to go, what to do and how to make the most out of your time in Turkey.
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