Hello everybody! Recently I just noticed that a lot of people managed to find their way to my blog, because they are looking for Istanbul’s shopping guidelines. Therefore, I would like to share with you guys the latest information regarding the shopping areas and what to buy in Istanbul.
1st of all, what do you want to buy? Trinkets? Shawls? Bag of spices? Aladdin Genie Lamp? A handsome Turkish Guy? Then, ask yourself, “Do I need it?” (Lol, cross that. I just watched Confession of a Shopaholic yesterday :p ) OMG So many questions, so little answers! After you finally get it clear, take a deep breath and let’s start with one of the most famous area for tourist in Istanbul:
THE GRAND BAZAAR (Kapalı Çarşı)
The Grand Bazaar is actually a very cool place indeed! What’s funny is that,even the locals don’t really shop here. Some, has never been there! There are approximately around 4000 shops and 61 covered streets inside the Grand Bazaar. It is safe to say that the Grand Bazaar is actually more like a labyrinth. Oh, don’t worry, you will find your way out, but you will most probably drowned inside, along with all the things they got to offer!
No matter what, everything inside is sold at a tourist price. Therefore, shop smart, your magic word of the day is ‘BARGAIN’. Let me give you an example, if they say 100TL, cut it down half. Make sure you start your bargain with at least 50% of the price they offer. And don’t stray far from it.
Another thing and this is important, please for the love of God, do not show your eagerness or desperateness of wanting whatever it is that you are bargaining for. Of course show your interest but don’t show that they got you in their hands, because there’re lots of other similar shops inside, that might offer a better rate. Hey, if you show them who’s boss, maybe they will bow down to you and voila! You will get to buy the stuff you want at your price. Simple, right? Just please try not to exaggerate it with ridiculous price okay? Below are some examples of the prices:
- Shawl – 12TL above (depends qualities and the materials. The normal shawls are sold at this price actually, but you will mostly find them around 15 -25TL) But of course, if you asked for Satin shawl, then of course the price will starts at 70TL. Let’s not talk abou the shawl with the Swarovski stone on it! Gorgeous but deadly for your pocket!
- Iznik Tiles / Porcelains – I mean those embossed bowls and mugs or cups. Depending on the size, the small one starts from 10TL and increases with its sizes. And if you buy one of these at Grand Bazaar, please refrain yourselves from using them for food, because it contains melamine and it’s not safe to be used as dishware. That’s why they’re cheap, unless you but one from Chez Galip in Cappadocia, one cup is around 90$ USD then crown that one to be your mug of the year!
- Glass Lamp – Now, this one is beautiful. Truth to be told, it looks like Egyptian/Moroccan Lamp? No matter what, they are definitely an eye catcher. There are many types, some are design for the floor, side table, chandelier, and they even have the candle holders! Pretty, pretty, pretty! And their prices too, are depending on their sizes. For a bedside table lamp, normally the price starts from 40TL, and if it’s for the ceiling, let’s say with a 7 pieces of lamp hanging from it, then it will cost you at least 250TL and above. And yes, the more lamp pieces it has, the more expensive it will be. But one good thing about it? You can ask for a mix color! If you’re feeling fancy, you can opt to choose 7 different colors and make a rainbow out of it! All that matters, money, money, money…
- Turkish Tea Set – Well, this one too, depends on the design, for a standard Turkish tea set with minimal design it will be around 25TL – 30TL per box. There are a total of 6 cups and plates inside every box. And if you see something bling bling, that’s not the Turkish tea set, that’s the Turkish Coffee set, and yes, it does shine bright like a diamond :D. So, ka-ching!
- Leather Coat – Okay, this one I really need to advise. I do not suggest you to buy leather coat in the Grand Bazaar. Most are either fakes, or they will have expensive prices. But then again, if you know about leather, be my guest.
- Carpet – This is another crucial items. Same with the leather coat, Grand Bazaar is not the best place to buy these. You can find a more trustworthy place than the Grand Bazaar itself to buy a Carpet. You don’t want to pay a lot to get cheated don’t you? But, if you are an expert in Turkish Carpets, so again, be my guest.
- Nuts – You better buy them at Tahtakale or Spice Bazaar. Where are these places? I will explain them later. Next!
- Spices – Nope, again, buy them at Spice Bazaar, there will be more choices around there.
- T–Shirt – Yup, you can buy them, but again, bargain! Starting price for 2015 is 15TL per piece. But if you ask around, they will probably tell you 25TL per piece as an opening price.
- Magnets & Keychain – Aha, you can buy these. The normal fridge magnets will be around 3-4TL per piece, 4 pieces for 10TL. Keychains are normally around 1TL per piece. A lot of people asked me before, “what is that blue eye thingy attached to most keychains?” That is called Nazar Bonju. The Evil Eye Bead.
About Nazar Bonju / Evil Eye Bead
Is a widely spread superstitious in Turkey whereby they believe that the Evil Eye Bead could guard them from an evil aura or intentions from others. It is said that the Evil Eye Bead originates from the myth about Medusa, whereby her eyes are known to be blue in color. Whenever people will stare straight into her eyes they will immediately turns into stone and ironically that’s how Medusa was killed, by staring straight into her own reflection on a shield of a warrior who was battling with her and Medusa then turned into stone. People then took upon the concept of this myth and that’s how you got the Evil Eye Bead. There is also rumor about it being originated from the Eye of Horus from the Ancient Egyptian mythology.
How to get to the Grand Bazaar? Just hop on the tramvay and get out at the Beyazit, Kapali Carsi station. There is another tourist attraction adjacent to the Grand Bazaar, it’s the main entrance of the Istanbul University which was built in 1453 by Sultan Mehmed II during the Ottoman Empire. So, go and march straight to that big entrance and don’t forget to take a selfie!
Ok, Spice Bazaar, also known as the Egyptian Bazaar. Another one of the famous tourist attracations located in Eminonu just next to the New Mosque, Eminonu (Yeni Camii). Well, just as the name suggest, this place is full with spices. But of course, there’re other things are being sold here. But mostly you will find spice and Turkish Delight / Lokum.
If you want to buy lokum here, especially those by kilogram, please do a little bit of bargaining. Not so much, but still try your luck. Trust me, the standard ready-packed Turkish Delight is around 10-15TL depending on the flavour. But if you want something a little bit different, then go ahead and try those that are lined up neatly. There are so many types to choose from (not to mention more modern and trendy flavour) and what’s more important, a lot of them are made with 100% honey instead of sugar.
But just beware of the price. The sarting price for lokum made with honey are roughly around 80TL/kg. Normally I will just buy around 200g just for myself and it takes quite a while to finish it and you don’t have to worry much since this thing doesn’t get spoiled easily. Spice Bazaar is actually not that big compared to the Grand Bazaar. Adjacent to the Spice Bazaar, there are shops selling various kind of cheese, dry meats, pickles and also fish. Even though the Spice Bazaar is relatively small from the Grand Bazaar, there is an interesting place just right behind it. Want to know more? Read below!
Psstt.. Do you want to know? Tahtakale is one of the cheapest place in Istanbul. Located just right behind the Spice Bazaar, Tahtakale is a place where most Turks will come and shop. From coffee to Turkish Delight, nuts, kitchenware birthday party’s decorations, decorated boxes, cheap chocolates sold in bulk, clothes, jackets, dumb bell and even a hoe! (No, not that kind of hoe, the garden hoe!)
So how to get there? Let’s say if you enter the Spice Bazaar from its main door, just walk straight until you will reach the end and get out from that door in the end and you will start to smell that beautiful coffee smell, and you will be at the Tahtakale area. If you are a coffee lover, make sure you buy that Mehmet Efendi Coffee from its stand here, it’s extremely cheap compared to those sold in the Sultanahmet area. Anyway, if you decided to go to Tahtakale, you do not have to bargain that much. This is because everything sold here mostly are sold at a very cheap rate compared to other places.
Ok, now this is another interesting spot for shopping. If Tahtakale is situated right behind the Spice Bazaar, Mahmutpasa is located right behind the Grand Bazaar, adjacent to Tahtakale. Over here you can find a lot of textiles. If you wish to buy the Turkish robe worn by the ladies here, you can find them here. If you come to this area from the Grand Bazaar, just walk straight down and you will reach the Eminonu, the place where the Spice Bazaar is located. In conclusion, Grand Bazaar is situated on the higher ground, and when you exit from the Grand Bazaar and walk downhill you will reach Eminonu. My advice is, don’t go the other way around unless your favorite sport is hiking!
Just a reminder, all items sold in the Grand Bazaar are not that easy to get in other parts of Istanbul, except in those tourist areas along the tramvay line from the Grand Bazaar station, passing the Cemberlitas, Sultanahmet, Gulhane, Sirkeci and finally Eminonu. So if you would like to buy touristic souvenir, just buy them from those area, don’t tire yourself lol.
Ok, I think this is enough for now. If you like this article, just follow my blog for more interesting posts about Istanbul. Till then, görüşürüz!