Thanks to its extraordinary geographical gifts, the transcontinental city of Istanbul has always lured serious traders and shoppers.
In the 13th century, crusader Robert de Clari was dazzled by its richness, noting in his journal, “There were so many rich vessels of gold and silver and cloth of gold and so many rich jewels.” Fast-forward to the 21st century, and Istanbul remains a shoppers’ paradise, whether they're buying precious jewels or avant-garde designer products.
Visitors can appreciate the strong artisan tradition, browse high-quality local products, and even sip complimentary tea from tulip-shaped glasses while discussing what to bring home
Bargain for a deal at the Grand Bazaar
Resembling a massive labyrinth and boasting nearly 4000 shops in 45,000 sq m, the Grand Bazaar is one of the world’s oldest covered shopping centers. Initially designed as an economy and finance hub for the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century, this historical bazaar is a microcosm of Turkish manufacturing and artisanship.
The goods for sale in the main streets are geared towards tourists – kitsch souvenirs such as Nazar amulets, colorful piles of Turkish delight, Anatolian carpets, or a fragrant selection of spices can make crowd-pleasing gifts. Visit Iznik Works or Iznik Gift Shop to buy exquisite pottery originally created in the Northwest Anatolian town of Iznik in the 15th century; the craft has recently been revived thanks to a strong artisan tradition. Likewise, the rose or pistachio-flavored Turkish delights from Haci Bekir – Turkey’s oldest producer – will satisfy any sweet tooth.
Don’t let the huge number of tourists, which might reach up to half a million a day, fool you: many middle-class Turkish families still shop at the Grand Bazaar for textiles, leather goods, kitchenware and even wedding supplies. As soon as you stray off the main streets, you’ll see many of these shops. For top tips on how to get the best price in the Grand Bazaar, see our guide to the art of bargaining.
Find high-street fashion on İstiklal Caddesi
İstiklal Caddesi is a 1.4km-long (.9-mile) pedestrian street in the heart of Istanbul’s central Beyoğlu district. A bright red vintage-style tram cuts through the hustle and bustle of Turkey’s busiest street.
Traditionally a cosmopolitan area home to shops run by Turkey’s Armenian, Greek, and Jewish communities, İstiklal Caddesi tells a story of industrialization and transformation in Turkey. Nowadays, local and international fashion chains have higher visibility than ever, even though shopping in İstiklal isn’t particularly high-end.
Most well-to-do high-street brands in Turkey, such as Koton, LC Waikiki and adL, have a branch on this street with budget-friendly offerings. Foreign stores like Mango, Levi’s and Lacoste are also found here.
Discover secondhand goods in historic shopping arcades
İstiklal Caddesi has dozens of pasajs, historic shopping arcades set in side streets off the main avenue. Many of the pasajs have been thriving commercial centers for small businesses and artisans for centuries.
To get the gist of a glamorous bygone era, pop into Çiçek Pasajı (Flower Passage), which served as a theatre in the 19th century. Previously a spot for flower sellers, it's now home to taverns and confectionery shops. Alternatively, look for bargain jewelry, artisan silverware or second-hand books at Hazzapulo Pasajı, another 19th-century passage with a cobblestone floor and hanging vines.
This area also has many eating options, particularly street food. Mobile stalls that sell grilled chestnuts, simit (a sesame-encrusted bread ring), boiled corn and other seasonal delicacies are everywhere.
Browse the designer boutiques of Nişantaşı
Lifelong home to the Nobel-winning Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, the swanky district of Nişantaşı features glitzy boutiques and designer label stores, as well as chic cafes and restaurants. This upmarket area is the epicenter of fashion in Turkey – here you can find luxury clothes, accessories, bags, bespoke suits and high-end jewelry. Many top designer brands like Chanel, Prada and Gucci have stores here.
There are also exclusive local brands and edgy up-and-coming designers, which reflects how Turkey’s fashion scene has developed – prestigious design schools and ateliers in the area attract the top talent locally and internationally, many of whom continue working for brands in the vicinity. As you stroll down the main shopping streets of Teşvikiye Caddesi and Abdi İpekçi Caddesi, keep your eyes peeled for local luxury brands like Sarar, Beymen and Vakko, which offer exquisite products made in Turkey.
Hunt for antique treasures in Cihangir and Çukurcuma
Set on Beyoğlu’s steep hills, the bohemian and laid-back district of Cihangir is sandwiched between İstiklal Caddesi and the Bosporus promenade, though no strict borders define the area. This trendy neighborhood is the ideal destination for those with a fondness for the old, but gold, and its knowledgeable and friendly shop owners know the stories behind many items on offer – and might even tell you some of them over a glass of tea.
Nearby Çukurcuma is less affluent than Cihangir, but both areas are packed with antique shops full of whimsical, pre-loved items, including antique china, clocks, handmade lace quilts.
Walk from İstiklal Caddesi towards the Bosporus Strait via Turnacıbaşı Caddesi and Çukurcuma Caddesi to enter this time machine. Lovers of Ottoman relics, carpets, ceramics and furniture might lose hours wandering the tree-lined and ivy-covered streets, lined with historical facades.
In alignment with the spirit of the area, pop into Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence, established by the author to showcase the nostalgic artifacts that appear in his novel of the same name.
Istanbul's best shops are truly unique
From high-end boutiques to locally crafted home goods to creatively flared stationary, Istanbul has it all – and, in many cases, like no other. These are six of our favorite shops in the city.
Çiçek İşleri – Kadıköy
On the Asian side of Istanbul, the bustling alleyways and streets of the Kadıköy district offer countless treasures. But for the past decade, Çiçek İşleri has been the go-to spot for the latest in original home goods, from wooden furniture and quirky lamps to eclectically crafted jewelry and other colorful finds. There are multiple locations around the city, and they ship worldwide.
Denizler Kitabevi – Kabataş
To explore Istanbul's history, from ancient maps and preserved books to rare lithographs, head to Denizler Kitabevi in Kabataş. Lined with bookshelves and maps from floor to ceiling, with a vibe that mimics a cozy townhome, you can easily get lost in another time here – but you'll never feel like you’re being rushed out, thanks to its friendly staff.
Kagithane House of Paper – Karaköy
For a truly unique souvenir and something you'll actually use in your daily life – think: artisan-crafted calendars, coasters, bookmarks and stationery, often featuring Istanbul’s people and landmarks – Kagithane House of Paper is a gem in the Karaköy district. It also offers a steady rotation of regionally inspired, off-the-wall quirkiness, whether it’s a fan covered in cats or city-topography inspired necklaces.
Olive Farm – Beşiktaş
With domestic roots stemming back nearly 2,500 years, the olive and olive oil industries are major economic drivers throughout Turkey, and Olive Farm is a local purveyor, headquartered in the Datça region. Its Beşiktaş shop stocks the basics, such as organic cooking oils and jams, plus a number of olive-infused natural care products, baby items and even pieces hand-carved from olive wood.
Serdar-i Ekrem – Galata
For independent boutiques mixed with a cobblestone-street charm and Galata Tower soaring in the distance, head to Serdar-i Ekrem. Among the up-and-comers are Civan, a made-to-measure men’s tailor; Lunapark, an edgy souvenir shop; and Analog Kültür, a vinyl shop where you can pick out Turkish tunes and international beats.
Shopi Go – Şişli
Originally an online concept store that opened its first brick-and-mortar in 2014, Shopi Go is locally and globally renowned for its stylish mix of international designs – whatever trend you’re seeing in magazines, on runways or draping celebs, Shopi Go is likely already on it.