The Best Bazaars in Istanbul
The best markets and bazaars in Istanbul are scattered all over the city. Either open every day or held once a week, these markets are the places to haggle with vendors to buy a range of Istanbul’s best goods on the cheap, including farm-fresh produce, organic products, affordable souvenirs, leather handbags, clothes, and more. The neighborhood weekly bazaars are the places to go to shop, pay local prices, and nab the best bargains in Istanbul.
Sultanahmet Mh, sultanahmet meydanı, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
The very chill owner of Arasta 79 has one of the best shops in Istanbul. Ikat scarves, knotted silk jewelry strung with chunky jewels, delicate crochet strings of flowers, pestemals (traditional Turkish bath towels) in every weave and color, and bright Suzani and Uzbeki ceramics. If you have time for only one stop within Arasta Bazaar, this should be it.
Beyazıt, Kalpakçılar Cd. No:22, 34126 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Soon after conquering Constantinople and defeating the Byzantines in 1453, Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II commissioned the beginnings of the Grand Bazaar to reinvigorate trade with the city. More than 550 years later, the bazaar is one of the oldest covered markets in the world, with a labyrinth of 61 streets connecting over 4,000 shops selling all manner of treasures and souvenirs, from jewelry to silk carpets. Make a beeline for Sivasli Istanbul Yazmacisi, whose quality textiles are popular with interior decorators. Looking for currency exchange shops? You’ll find the best rates in Istanbul here.
Rüstem Paşa Mahallesi, Erzak Ambarı Sok. No:92, 34116 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar may be a global tourist trap, but isn’t nearly as rage-inducing as the squawking group tours inside the Grand Bazaar. Here, a remnant of authenticity lives on in this 17th century building, created by commission for Sultana Turhan Hatice. Visually-arresting piles of spices and Turkish delight, and rows of pushy men, make for a wild afternoon of souvenir shopping and colorful conversation. Inside the Ucuzcular stall the sellers are friendly and happy to let you browse. A bag of “love tea” ensures romance in a pot. In that vein, on my way through the bazaar, a man trotted up to me and said, “Excuse me. I think you dropped something...” I looked puzzled. He smiled and theatrically clutched his chest, "...my heart.” He probably does that for all the Westerners, but I pretended it was as real as the magic in the spices.
Balat, Lokmacıdede Sk. No:34087, 34087 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye
Every Wednesday morning in my neighborhood near Fatih Mosque, the traffic disperses, the roads are closed, plastic canopies are strewn from building to building, and thousands of stalls bursting with color and produce are set up across several blocks. It’s my favorite day of the week because not only do I get to rub shoulders with the locals, I can also grab a bargain of fruit and vegetables, cheeses, olives, herbs, spices, kitchen odds and ends, clothes, shoes, bags and haberdashery. Not all the fashions are geared to the western tastes, but wandering through the makeshift open-air markets is highly entertaining as vendors compete over offering the cheapest bargains with the loudest voice. It’s also an opportunity to better understand how the locals live—just keep in mind that the market is in a somewhat conservative neighborhood, so dress modestly to avoid becoming the main attraction.
Beyazıt Mahallesi Çadırcılar Caddesi istanbul sahaflar çarşısı No.16-18-19-22-23, Beyazıt Mh., beyazıt, 34126 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Book lovers and bazaar hunters will revel in foraging through the Sahaflar Çarsısı (Beyazit Book Bazaar) for new titles, secondhand books, historical maps, the Quran (in various languages), ancient texts, and other rare finds. The bazaar, between Beyazit Mosque and the Grand Bazaar, was built in 1954, but the site is a historical literary landmark where the Chartoprateia—a Byzantium book and paper market—existed. During Ottoman times, the site became a center for printing and literary trade, drawing many intellectuals and writers to the Beyazit and Grand Bazaar area. Some historians will say Sahaflar Çarsısı is where the first book was printed in Turkey in 1729. Whether this is fact or fiction, the statue in the middle of the courtyard is that of Ibrahim Muteferrika, an Ottoman diplomat who, among many titles, was the publisher responsible for the first book—a two-volume Arabic-Turkish dictionary. The entrance to the bazaar is off Çadırcılar Caddesi (Road), just down from the Grand Bazaar’s Beyazit Gate (Gate Number 7).