Oh, Istanbul! That shopping paradise that can become a real madness if you don’t know where to go! Throughout my three trips to ancient Constantinople, I have gathered information that I would have liked to know before traveling there for the first time. So here it is for you… The holy grail, the Wikipedia, the bible of shopping in Istanbul! But first, some general tips:
General tips for shopping in Istanbul
- Depending on the amount of shopping you plan to do, it is very likely that you will have to check in a suitcase. We advise you to travel with only the necessary hand luggage on the outbound flight and buy a cheap suitcase or sports bag to check in on the return flight.
- Look and compare, but don’t get too excited: Think carefully about what you know for sure you are going to buy and compare prices in several places to see the difference. Pin the locations of the stores on Google Maps because otherwise, I assure you that you won’t know how to return when it is time to make the final purchase. Also, when looking for something, don’t show too much interest, or the seller won’t give you a good price.
- Within the same neighborhood or area, prices tend to be similar with small variations, but between zones, considerable savings can be made.
- BARGAIN if you don’t want to be ripped off. You have to bear in mind that the initial price they give you is usually three times the value of the product. Even in shops that have a fixed prices, ask for a discount if you plan to buy several items. Regarding the initial price, in many cases they will tell you a price based on an initial assessment they make of you. They will ask you where you come from, what you do for a living, questions about your family… to get an idea of your economic status. Needless to say, on the day you go shopping, keep cameras and phones stored, and if possible, don’t dress too fancy. Trust me, the appearance can really be a game changer.
- Don’t leave shopping for the last day. Leave enough time in case you have to move between zones, as distances in Istanbul are quite large in some cases.
- Many people include on their shopping list the famous replica bags such as LV, Chanel or Gucci among others. It’s important to point out that there are two well-differentiated categories: The cheap replicas that cost around 15$ and are basically the same as what you can find in the street markets or even in your own country (a piece of junk, for real), made of plastic or bad quality fake leather, and on the other hand, the quality replicas, made with real leather and better materials. Usually the ones that are on display are the bad ones, so if you want to see the good merchandise, ask directly for «better quality» or «real leather.» If they show you a leather item, make sure it is real. Ask them to do the lighter test with the flame in a vertical position.
Shopping in Istanbul: Sultanahmet and Eminönu area
Located just a few steps away from the Blue Mosque, the Arasta Bazaar is a small outdoor market consisting of a single straight street (Kabakasal Cd.) lined with a variety of shops selling bags, textiles, carpets, home decor, tea, and spices. It also has a couple of cafés where you can grab a bite to eat at reasonable prices.
The advantage of this bazaar is that it is not as crowded as the Grand Bazaar or the Spice Bazaar. However, the downside is that prices can be quite high due to its location, but there are exceptions. We bought high-quality towels at Ata Textiles, and they were the same price as similar shops in the Galata area (35 liras each towel).
Grand bazaar and surrounding areas
The Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world, and is a popular destination for shoppers looking for everything, from pashminas to replica handbags. However, due to its popularity, prices tend to be quite high. It’s worth noting that the Grand Bazaar is the best place in the city to exchange money, as the exchange rate fluctuates in real time inside the market.
While the Grand Bazaar is a must-see for its history and secrets, it’s not necessarily the best place to shop. There are plenty of other areas nearby where you can find great deals on a variety of items. The streets that lead from the Grand Bazaar to the Spice Bazaar (such as Mahmutpaşa, Fuat Paşa, and Çakmakçılar) as well as the surrounding streets and galleries, are filled with hidden treasures.
The area around the Grand Bazaar has a market-style atmosphere with thousands of shops selling all kinds of items, and some even display their fixed price offers outside, since many of them are oriented to locals. It’s possible to find great deals on pashminas, small Kilim rugs… While some stalls offer good quality counterfeit clothing and handbags, the best models are often hidden away in storage areas or «showrooms» off the beaten track. It’s worth asking around and showing pictures of what you’re looking for to get the best deals.
One particular shop worth noting is Marla Deri Kemer Cüzdan (Uzun Çarşı Cd. No:44 Fatih), which sells high-quality leather items such as belts, wallets, and purses at reasonable prices.
Overall, Istanbul has a wealth of shopping options for every taste and budget, and exploring the markets and surrounding areas can be a great way to find unique and affordable souvenirs.
Şark han çarşisi
This was one of the places that surprised me the most! It’s located on Vasıf Çınar Street 17, which goes down from Suleymaniye Mosque towards the Spice Bazaar. The entrance is not very noticeable, as it’s surrounded by hundreds of shops, but once you go through the small corridor that leads inside, you’ll find a giant market with infinite floors up and down, including an elevator…
I noticed that only Turks were shopping there, and as you know if it’s crowded by locals, that’s a good sign. There are many clothing stores, as well as some trinket shops that aren’t even good enough for gifts, but if you search carefully, you can find real bargains.
On one of the upper floors, I found an incredible pashmina store. It wasn’t very big, but they had a million models, with different fabrics, qualities, and colors. The best part? The price of course! I got 4 pieces for 30 liras. I bet you won’t be able to find this prices anywhere else!
Çamoluk Dikmen Giyim is a clothing store located in this han. It wasn’t easy to find, as even though we were told it was on the first floor, from outside we could only see a Caftan store and the entrance was not very well indicated. To find the access, you should stand with your back to the entrance of the Spice Bazaar and look at the building on the corner. At street level, you will see an electronics store, but if you look to the left, there is a hallway and some stairs that lead to the Han (they usually have bags and wallets displayed on the wall). Go up there and you will find the store.
They had a lot of good quality fake jeans for both men and women from brands like Tommy and Levis, Gant polos, Hugo Boss, Lacoste… The prices were not the cheapest, but the quality and fabrics were really good. Remember that sometimes is worth to pay a little bit more for quality stuff.
- Gant short-sleeved polo: 150TL
- Diesel jeans: 250TL
- Jack Wolfskin windbreaker jacket: 400TL
The same guy also has a bag store right across.
Replica handbag stores in Yerebatan
If you are looking for replica handbags, shoes, or accessories, you can find them around the Grand Bazaar. However, I want to tell you about a few specific stores, all located on Yerebatan Cd, the street where the Basilica Cistern is located. They are quite geared towards Spanish tourists, but they also speak other languages, so it won’t be a problem if you go there. Please note that we are talking about quality imitations, not the 15$ ones that you can find at flea markets.
- Finito de Córdoba: We had heard very bad reviews about this store, but the truth is that they treated us phenomenally, and it was where we got the best prices. We only had a small «incident» on the day of the purchase: We went with the prices already written down from the first day we went to check, but when we got there, another salesperson told us that those prices were «impossible». As she saw that we were getting angry, she immediately called the boss, who came, apologized, and kept the initial price for us. [DECEMBER 2021 UPDATE] We have returned to the store for more handbags and wallets, as always, excellent treatment and good prices.
- Casa Pedro: It was the first store we visited. Courteous treatment, although prices were a bit high (On the first visit we made, they told us that they could lower them, but the second time we went, nothing at all…). Many beautiful models are available, and they also have belts, wallets, and other accessories. The store is not very large, and if a specific model is not there, they can order it from the factory. I was looking for an LV Chapeau, and they sent me photos directly from the factory and had it brought to the store for me to see in person, although we didn’t end up buying it due to some flaws in the manufacturing.
- Caprichos (Pepe): He has two adjacent stores. In addition to handbags, they also have some clothing and footwear. Many models are available (they have some things that we only saw there), and again, the possibility of ordering from the factory or getting it elsewhere, but the prices are a bit high.
Do NOT go to…
- Paco Moda: I have to say that this store disappointed me a bit. I had looked at their merchandise on Instagram, but when I got there, I realized that the quality was not up to par with other stores we looked at. Moreover, the specific models that I was looking for were not very well executed.
- Cayetana de Alba: Right across from Finito de Córdoba, the ground floor is a tea and spice shop. If you go in and ask for Eduardo, they will take you upstairs. We went in with high expectations and references, and it was a complete disaster. It is true that they have a lot of variety of handbags and footwear (3 complete floors), and the quality looked good, but the prices were simply outrageous, asking us up to 3 times what other shops were asking!
After a couple of trips and visiting all the stores, we are clear that if we have to recommend one (and where we will return in the future), it is Finito de Córdoba.
Spice bazaar and Eminönu market
Just like the Grand Bazaar, the Egyptian Bazaar or Spice Bazaar is another meeting point for tourists who want to buy spices, caviar, turkish delights, or tea. The bazaar is not very big and it’s usually packed, so it can be a bit overwhelming. But I took a quick walk out of curiosity to see it.
I only did shopping here on my first trip back in 2016 cause there were a couple things I couldn’t find elsewhere: a handmade curry mix that I didn’t see at any other stall, and a set of tea glasses that my mother had asked me to get. I didn’t really like the models I found in the stores outside and they were asking for 70/80 liras and up, and I was already short on time and didn’t feel like bargaining too much. Well, I found them in a store inside the bazaar for 40 liras and on top of that, the shopkeeper gave me an additional discount of 5 liras because we started talking about Spain. These Turkish people are so nice.
I bought some spices and tea at a shop called Oktay, located in the back of the Rustem Pasha Mosque (Asmaaltı Cd.)
To buy Turkish coffee, there is a fairly interesting shop on one of the sides of the Spice Bazaar where they grind it on the spot, called «Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi». They also have a shop in Kadikoy. You will easily find it because there is always quite a queue.
Shopping in Istanbul: Beyoglu and Taksim area
Galata and Karaköy
The area surrounding the Galata Tower is full of small designer clothing boutiques, as well as craft shops, leather goods, the famous hammam towels (Peshtemal), and even musical instruments (they have a whole street dedicated to it! The «Galip Dede Cd»).
- We highly recommend the Pera Family shop, where we left loaded with purchases. We bought a pack of peshtemal with soap and exfoliating stone to give as a gift for 35 liras, a small hand peshtemal for 15 liras, a large peshtemal (suitable for covering a sofa or using as a bedspread) for 125 liras, and a lot of handmade soaps. We had seen many types of soaps in other shops, but these were different. They even wrapped them in beautiful fabric packages with a ribbon! Perfect choice if you want to give some original gifts.
There are also other shops we checked out like «Galata Towels» or «Home Spa.» Ultimately, it’s a matter of comparing prices depending on what you’re looking for.
- Namli Gurme is a delicatessen shop (you can find cured meats, sauces, honey…) in the Karaköy area. It’s a bit more expensive than the local markets, but if you’re far from those and without time to go back there, here you can find an infinite variety of products. I couldn’t resist getting a couple of packets of Pastirma and smoked meat (Füme et). Additionally, the shop has a dining area that specializes in breakfast. You can browse through different stations (bakery-pastry, cured meats, cheeses…) and create your own custom dishes.
The Istiklal Avenue is one of the most famous streets in Istanbul. This 1.5km-long street is home to major international brands such as Mango, Zara… But do you really think I’m going to tell you to go shopping there? No way! I have that in my country and it’s probably cheaper here.
There are many shops selling Turkish brands, but I’m not going to expressly recommend that you look for them there, as the prices are quite similar to the international brands, so it’s not really so advantageous. Nevertheless, some interesting brands include Oxxo, Kotton, DeFacto, LC Waikiki, Mavi, Bambi (shoes)…
Young people in Istanbul roam Istiklal in search of bargains, as you can find street markets and bazaars in the most unexpected places. You have to pay attention to the alleys that cut across the main avenue: these markets usually start with a shop that is on the corner with Istiklal and extend dozens of meters into the interior.
Access to the «Han» or «Pasaji» is usually through portals or staircases that lead to underground areas, and sometimes they are indicated by luminous signs written rigorously in Turkish. In these street markets, you can find sweaters, pants, scarves, sweatshirts… at ridiculously low prices. We must also say that there is a lot of junk, so you will need to be patient and search a lot to find worthwhile things. These are some of the most outstanding Pasajis, where you can find everything from fakes to clothing from their own brands, accessories, decorative objects, and much more: Atlas Pasaji, Avrupa Pasaji, Tahiri Pasaji Elhamra and Terkos Pasaji.
Special mention goes to Cicek Pasaji (The Passage of Flowers) and Suriye Pasaji which, although not shops, are beautiful and worth a visit.
Another curiosity is that on Istiklal Street, you can find really noticeable fake shops, with their logos and all screen-printed on the shop windows, as if they were official distributors… until you enter and see the prices! There are also some brand outlets (for example, JeansLab) but there wasn’t much difference with the prices compared to my country. Here are some of our favorite shops on Istiklal:
- David Walker: Perfume shop, we entered thinking it was some Turkish brand when the guy explained to us that they were replicas… haha. They had a promotion of 2 perfumes for 100 liras and we took home Dior’s Hypnotic Poison and Gucci Flora. On our second trip in 2021, we bought Armani’s «Sí». Super successful, they smell exactly the same as the originals and last a lot, nothing like other imitation perfumes we have bought before.
- Denizler Kitabevi: Antique bookstore where you can find not only books but also stationery, maps, hand-painted bookmarks, collectibles… many of them related to the Orient Express. A highly recommended place to buy original and different things from the rest of the typical souvenir shops. [UPDATE DECEMBER 2021] We think the bookstore has been moved to the Beyoglu area.
- Tudors: Men’s shirt and clothing franchise, not only can you find it on Istiklal (But they have 3 locations here alone), but there are stores throughout Istanbul. The quality is really good, in my country a shirt of that quality won’t cost you less than 25/30€ and there we found them for 7€ each. In addition, there was a promotion of buying 3 pieces for 150 TL (around 15€ at the exchange rate).
Shopping in Istanbul: Kadiköy and Üsküdar area
There is a food market in Üsküdar (especially for fish) where locals usually go to buy groceries. They sell fresh meat, fish, vegetables… but there are also some stalls selling Turkish sweets and delights. The price is obviously much lower than in the Sultanahmet area, so I recommend you to wander around for a while and enjoy the atmosphere of this neighborhood. Nothing better than a morning visit to eat at one of the many fish restaurants there!
Shops and markets in Kadiköy
Kadiköy was one of the areas that I found most interesting for shopping in Istanbul. Frequented by young people and with businesses in line with its audience, in this district you can find many alternative fashion stores, a bit like Camden in London, as well as many hobby shops and comic book stores. Special mention to the vinyl shops and antique bookstores that you can find in many of the underground passages and galleries in this neighborhood. However, they don’t speak much English in this area so it’s advisable to learn some basic Turkish phrases like «How much does it cost?» and similar. Otherwise you could try using Google Translate.
In Kadiköy, you can also buy imitation items, especially sneakers and men’s clothing… Getting to the bazaar is easy, you go up from the ferry station on Söğütlü Çeşme street until you reach the Osman Aga mosque and on the right-hand side next to the main entrance you will see an alley full of stalls. From there upwards it’s full of shops. We bought Nike Air Jordans for 100 liras and Converse for 70 liras.
Another interesting place in Kadiköy is the food market, which extends along Yağlıkçıismail Sok, Güneşli Bahçe Sok, and surrounding streets. The shops are interspersed with local taverns where you can eat at a good price.
- Altındoğa Kuruyemiş: We bought the majority of the spices in this store. Prices, of course, have nothing to do with the more touristy areas, it would have cost us three times as much in the spice bazaar area. We bought spices for chicken kebab, various types of curry, several packages of tea (mint with lemon, green with apple, apple and cinnamon…) for 15 liras each, the famous menthol crystals for congestion or making creams… the total bill was 26€ and we left with a lot of stuff.
- Outlet Kuaför: Very original clothing store with vintage touches. We bought a bomber jacket with Kilim patterns and a sweatshirt, and each thing costed around 250TL. If you pay in cash they will give you a discount.
- Cemre Doğal Ürünler: Store selling handmade soaps, essential oils, and other natural cosmetic items. We have bought here several times, the last time 5 soaps cost us 20 liras.
Faruk Güllüoğlu: We bought baklava at this pastry shop (they are a small franchise), 3 half-kilogram boxes each one packed in a very nice tin to give as a gift, and paid about 70 liras per box.
Other interesting spots for shopping in Istanbul
We don’t want to end this post without mentioning that in any neighborhood a little away from the tourist areas, you will undoubtedly find the best prices.
- For example, in the Ortakoy area, you can also find plenty of shops and stalls selling fakes, home decor, or jewelry.
- In the picturesque neighborhood of Balat, we found a bakery (Anteplioğlu A’saftat) on our last trip where we could buy fresh baklava at laughably low prices: 2 half-kilo boxes for 47 liras. Prices obviously differ greatly between where locals shop and where tourists shop.
- For buying tea, coffee, and some other things, checking out local supermarkets (Sok, Migros…) is also an excellent option. We bought a half-kilo package of typical black tea for just 20 liras.
- If you’re looking for makeup and cosmetics, I recommend the franchise «T-Shop», especially the products from the Turkish brand Sheida, which are very cheap and of good quality. It’s a franchise that you can find all over the city.
As you can see, there are many options for your shopping, as every corner in Istanbul can be the start of a bazaar or flea market. What I advise you to do is to plan ahead because even if you have a specific plan, you will end up getting lost among shops and alleys, marveling at the atmosphere of Istanbul, admiring storefronts that could be considered works of art. And as always, remember to haggle if you don’t want to pay triple the value of the product.
I hope I’ve helped guide you on your shopping journey, and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments! By the way, many of you have been asking me about buying carpets. On my first trip to Istanbul, I asked my hotel, and they gave me a card for a shop, but the prices were not really affordable for me. My advice is that if you want to buy quality carpets, do it in Göreme, Cappadocia! It’s a perfect excuse to explore this incredible region! There are many flights from Istanbul, and they are very affordable.
Want to check flights to Istanbul or Cappadocia?
Happy shopping everyone!