Ever since the days of the Silk Road, Turkey has been a magnet for merchants purveying in the exotic and wonderful, and those in search of retail therapy. The legacy of Turkey as the pot of gold at the end of the Silk Road lives on in, in high-end shopping malls and in colorful outdoor markets, in modern commercial districts and within fantastically domed bedestens and covered bazaars. Who knew that shopping in Turkey would be this much fun?
While bargaining for the best price provides enough entertainment of its own, the sheer delight in discovering traditional Turkish arts is part of an experience of discovery that should not be missed.
Hand-knotted carpets infused with thousands of years of tradition are a mainstay of Turkish life and are found, both new and antique, in specialty boutiques and village shops in every corner of the land. Brightly colored kilims woven on hand looms appear as floor coverings, pillowcases, and even cleverly designed handbags and boots.
The art of pottery dates back thousands of years, yet seems to have been perfected at the height of the Ottoman Empire with the creation of precious tiles of quartz and ceramic ware embellished with flourishes of color. Modern, museum quality pieces hand-painted by Turkey’s most celebrated ceramic artists can be found in boutiques in Turkey’s major cities.
Turkey is also a mecca of gold and silver, of precious metals and priceless gems. Increasingly, the sale of traditional jewelry and decorative housewares, in places like Istanbul’s Kapaliçarsi (Grand Bazaar), is complemented by a growing trend towards designer pieces utilizing motifs that harken back to the Hittites, Byzantium and the Ottomans.
Those looking beyond the folk arts will not be disappointed. Home-grown art and artistry is flourishing, as clothing designers, interior decorators and contemporary artists find success both within Turkey and abroad.
There may be no better place in the world to shop than Istanbul which has a wide range of shopping experiences – historic bazaars, local markets, designer boutiques and modern shopping malls. Most visitors find time to wind through the labyrinth of the famous and historic Kapaliçarsi (Grand Bazaar), dating from 1461, with over 4,000 shops selling every imaginable item including carpets, books, silver and food. The 17th century Spice Market is also referred to as the “Misir Çarsisi” (Egyptian Market) since spices used to come from India and Southeast Asia via Egypt. Enjoy the aromas and scents of tantalizing spices, dried fruits and nuts, teas, oils and essences, sweets, honeycombs. Also visit the famous Ortaköy Bazaar with its hundreds of stalls for everything from jewelry to handbags
Step into the daily lives of the people of Istanbul by visiting a colorful neighborhood market. Almost every neighborhood of Istanbul has its own market on a set day of the week. Carsamba Pazari (Wednesday Market), one of Istanbul's oldest and most well-known markets vies for size with the Sali Pazari (Tuesday Market) in Kadikoy on the Asian side of the city. Others include the Saturday market in Besiktas and Ulus Pazari, one of the newest “high-society” markets, that takes place on Thursdays.
For trendy, upscale shopping, be sure to visit Nisantasi on Istanbul’s European side and Bagdat Caddesi on the Asian side – think Fifth Avenue or Rodeo Drive. Stroll through the handsomely restored Akaretler row houses in Besiktas with their expensive homes, museums, art galleries and exclusive shops. For a change of pace, the little neighborhood Cukurcuma is a favorite among antique experts and artists. The equally artistic Cihangir, with its hilly streets, smart boutiques, vintage shops and cafes may remind you of San Francisco.
Istanbul also has several ultra-modern shopping malls with international and national brand names primarily located in the new part of the city near the residential and financial districts. Modern shopping malls include: Akmerkez, Kanyon, Istinye Park, Astoria, Nisantasi City, Galleria and Cevahir.
In choosing your piece of Turkey to accompany you back home, we guarantee you endless possibilities hindered only by your imagination and the luggage allotment of your airline.