Shopping in Istanbul's most historical bazaars

Alara Benlier | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Who said that you can't shop and witness history at the same time? Get ready to start shopping while witnessing some great history in İstanbul!  In here, you can check out the modern boutiques in the streets of the traditional and historic bazaars and find treasures for every budget. If you want to explore one of the oldest markets in the world while shopping, here is your guide!

© iStock/chris-mueller

The first stop should be the magnificent Grand Bazaar in Beyazıt, İstanbul. The Grand Bazaar, aka Kapalıçarşı in Turkish, is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the entire world. This gorgeous bazaar was built after the Conquest of Istanbul around an old Byzantine building, which became the part of Old Bedesten. Throughout the centuries, the bazaar got bigger and bigger. Today, this exquisite bazaar includes over 3000 shops, 17 inns, 61 streets, four fountains, ten wells, two mosques, several cafes and restaurants, and 22 gates. 

Keep in mind that, trying to see this humongous bazaar in one day is not possible; but because of that, do not rush from one shop to another. If you have limited time, you can check the gates depending on what you want to buy and see. For example, if you're going to shop for jewelry, you have to enter through the Beyazıt Gate and walk till the Nuruosmaniye Gate. There are also lots of traditions when it comes to shopping here. You have to chat and definitely bargain with the sellers. If you don't like the price, don't worry; there are dozens of stores that sell similar products. You also have to accept the tea offers to enjoy the best shopping experience. Being said that, you can buy jewelry, antiques, carpets and kilims, bathrobes, peştemals, towels, blankets from southeast Anatolia, scarves, stockings, gloves, and other ethnic goodies, all handmade and featuring Turkish motifs.

© iStock/Tolerance

Spice Market- aka the Egyptian Bazaar, or Mısır Çarşısı - is located behind the New Mosque at Eminönü, just at the entrance of the world-famous Golden Horn. The name of the bazaar comes from the actual Egyptians, who used to sell their spices here! In the old days, the Bazaar specialized on selling spices and herbs, medicinal plants and drugs, but today, you can also shop dry fruits and nutsteas, oils and essences, sweets, honeycombs, and of course, spices. The Spice Market has 86 shops inside, plus there is a plant and a food market on the outside. You can shop here daily between 09:00-19.00- except during public or religious holidays. 

© iStock/oykuozgu

Sahaflar Çarşısı is a famous second-hand book bazaar located in the old courtyard between Beyazid Mosque and the Grand Bazaar. Sahaflar Çarşısı is one of the oldest markets in Istanbul. It was built on the same site as the book and paper market of the Byzantines, where booksellers settled their shops in the 18th century! In here, you can find second-hand books, old and new books, and examples of Ottoman miniature pages! The Sahaflar Bazaar is open daily except for Sundays and during public or religious holidays.

© iStock/Augustcindy

The Arasta Bazaar, which is also known as Sipahi Çarşısı in Turkish, is located behind the historic Blue Mosque in Fatih, İstanbul. This historic place was built in the 17th century, and it was converted into shop stores in the 1980s. If you are looking for a small and simple traditional market in Istanbul, you have to check out the Arasta Bazaar. In here, you can explore 40 shops lined on both sides of a street, and buy traditional items. 

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