The Best Markets and Bazaars in Istanbul
Apart from the historical buildings, ancient landmarks, archaeological sites and sightseeing places and mosques, Istanbul also has an amazing range of markets. The most famous is, of course, the labyrinths of the Grand Bazaar and the aromas of the Egyptian Spice Market. These two are the best known but if you want to experience a more local experience then head to the local weekly open-air markets selling weekly groceries or try some speciality antiques, clothes and organic products at some others. The sweet but strong smell of freshly ground coffee alongside the haggling, frantic atmosphere and sincere hospitality highlights the uniqueness of Istanbul’s market shopping experience!
The city’s markets sell almost everything your heart desires — sometimes even knock off products such as handbags, t-shirts and shoes from name brands can be found in some of the weekly markets (called ‘sosyete‘ or ‘society’).
To get a taste of the local Turkish cuisine and culture of Istanbul, you’d have to venture into the local markets, both for their goods and also for the sensory stimulants of local life and culture! In a city of concrete, the markets offer a level-playing field for people from all walks of life!
Farmer’s Markets and Greengrocers
Colourful produce is stacked side by side — green and black olives in many varieties, green and red peppers, big Çanakkale pink tomatoes, Yayla tomatoes, red tomatoes on the vine, cherry tomatoes and local cultivars that are used for making tomato paste and preserves for the winter months (indeed, tomatoes are very important for Turkish cuisine!), for instance. Sold by local farmers with some products from outside the country such as mangoes and bananas, these markets offer the best weekly grocery shopping!
Alternatively, some districts have established shops such as greengrocers that stock their colourful produce in colourful stands, and these serve local residents that are loyal customers. Seasonally there is a rich variety of fruits such as green plums, nectarines and figs in the summer months of June, July and August, for instance. On the other hand, in the winter months, there’s pumpkins, sunchokes, red radish, celery, cabbage and spinach. While not everything is available throughout the year, eating seasonally is more healthy and also better for the environment.
The Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market
The world’s largest covered market, the Grand Bazaar covers a huge area with almost 5000+ shops in the old district and with numerous gateways in and out. For tourists and first-time visitors, it’s probably the best option to experience the local culture and get some shopping done. Shop owners are sometimes fourth/fifth-generation and are knowledgeable about their trade and goods.
You could buy souvenirs, ceramics, lamps, gold jewellery, kilims and carpets and also antiques. Custom services are offered by some jewellery shops and goldsmiths, alongside some great choices for buying textiles such as shawls, scarfs and Turkish hammam towels.
A favourite among Istanbullites as well as visitors, the Spice Market from the mid-1600s is a paradise for camera-wielding foodies! This is where you’ll find spices, Turkish delight, herbal teas, dry nuts and fruits. Take home some ‘flowering tea’ or better yet ‘love tea’. Perhaps, sift through the stalls to find some real Iranian saffron — the best kind of saffron — and pack up some roasted nuts to help sustain you as you figure out what else to buy! Take a break and enjoy a Turkish coffee in between or buy some kitchen utensils, pots or pans made of copper or wood. As you head out towards the Yeni Cami, don’t forget to get some local cheese packed for next morning’s Turkish breakfast!
OPENING HOURS: 8 am to 7 PM (grand bazaar closed on sundays)
ADDRESS: Beyazıt, Kalpakçılar Cd. No:22, 34126 Fatih/İstanbul; Rüstem Paşa, Erzak Ambarı Sok. No:92, 34116 Fatih/İstanbul
TRAMWAY STOP: beyazit/eminönü
Just behind the Blue Mosque, this bazaar by the Ottomans was initially built for the upkeep of the mosque. However, today the place offers high-quality souvenirs, Iznik tiles, ceramics, carpets, kilims, pottery and textiles, with little need for haggling. The 70+ shops in the bazaar here have been renovated completely.
Shopkeepers are knowledgeable, speak English and many other languages and you can have some tea while you browse and make some good shopping decisions. Prices here are slightly higher than the Grand Bazaar, but it’s more peaceful and haggle-free and without the crowds. Check out Jennifer’s hammam offering linens, bath towels and other textiles. The shop fronts are a delight and the place is worth a stroll here to experience an Ottoman-era market. Check out the nearby museums such as the Mosaics Museum as well before settling into a hammam experience at many of the nearby local hammams.
OPENING HOURS: 9 am to 7 PM (some shops closed on Sundays)
ADDRESS: Sultan Ahmet, Mimar Mehmet Ağa Cd. No:2, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul
TRAMWAY STOP: Sultanahmet
Beyoğlu Fish Market
In one of the busy side streets of Istiklal Avenue, you’ll find the plaque declaring it the entrance to the “Balık Pazarı” or the Fish Market on Sahne street and Dudu Odaları street. Known for providing some good quality and freshly caught fish and its smoked varieties is the Resat Balık fish shop, a local favourite. There are a few more well-known tavernas — meyhane — that serve fish and rakı here.
In addition to fish, you’ll also find plenty of shops selling a variety of stuff — jewellery, souvenirs, Turkish coffee pots called ‘cezve‘, Turkish lamps, tattoo shops, taverns, and rows and rows of Turkish delight. There are a few more shops stocking pickles, fresh greens, vegetables and fruits that are frequented by loyal locals living in one of the most touristic spots in the city. Catch your breath with some tea or coffee in one of the small unpretentious cafes or grab a Kokoreç sandwich!
In recent years, much has changed due to construction, redevelopment and urban commercialization. Remnants of some old shops still remain so be sure to check it out before it all, unfortunately, disappears!
Not far is the lively milieu of Nevizade that’s open for business almost all night long with its drinking establishments accompanied by mouth-watering mezes. Another well-known landmark is the Çiçek Passage, a former flower market, in a historical building with a glass dome and a few shops and restaurants. There’s more to see in this area than just wandering up and down Istiklal Avenue or having some street food in nearby Taksim!
OPENING HOURS: 9 am to 10 PM (varied timing, some shops closed on Sundays or earlier on weekdays)
ADDRESS: Sahne Sk. Hüseyinağa 34435 Beyoğlu/İstanbul
TRAMWAY/metro STOP: galatasaray/ taksim, Şişhane
Kadıköy Main Market and Salı Market
When you get off the ferry/metro and walk up the main thoroughfare of Kadıköy, the open produce and fish market in the streets near Osmanağa mosque is sure to delight visitors. Specialities such as pickles, olives, cheese and honey are sold here and you can try a few varieties before buying.
Image sourced from Flickr
The fish market, in particular, is worth a look given the variety of fish available given Turkey’s secret seafood culture. It’s not surprising at all given the country’s vicinity to four seas!
On Tuesdays, there’s another weekly Kadıköy market in the Fikirtepe/Hasanpaşa neighbourhood with fresh produce (vegetables and fruits) and clothes. Also operating on Fridays, it sells clothing as well.
OPENING HOURS: YOU CAN VISIT BETWEEN 10 AM AND 10 PM/8 am to 7 pm (sali pazari)
ADDRESS: Güneşli Bahçe Sk, Caferağa, Kadıköy/İstanbul/ Hasanpaşa, Uzunçayır Cd. 50/2, 34722 Kadıköy/İstanbul
metro/ferry STOP: Kadıköy and for the sali pazari take a dolmuş there
Feriköy Antique Flea Market and Ecological/Organic Market
Istanbul’s first organic market held on Saturdays is at Feriköy, followed by the antique market on Sundays. Head there early on Saturdays before breakfast for your weekly grocery shopping of fresh produce and then have a relaxing Sunday vintage finds and antique hunting. Ask for directions from Osmanbey metro station to Şişli’s Bomonti area to find the market around 20 minutes away by walk.
The antique flea market has around 200 sellers specializing in vintage goods such as glasses, jewellery and Ottoman-era lamps, for instance. Here, you can also find rare manuscripts, coinage, maps and memorabilia. Spend a good Sunday afternoon here and who knows what you’ll find! Alternatively, you could spend some time at the Ara Güler Museum in Bomontiada, a must if you’re in the area!
OPENING HOURS: visit the antique market (open only on Sundays) BETWEEN 9 AM AND 7 PM; visit the organic market (open only on Saturdays) between 7 am and 5 pm
ADDRESS: Cumhuriyet, Semt Pazarı, Şişli/İstanbul
metro STOP: osmanbey
Tarihi İnebolu Village Market
A famous market in the Kasimpaşa district of Beyoğlu, the Tarihi İnebolu Köy Pazarı is the place to be for food lovers in the city! Operating only on Sundays, this historical market’s goods are mostly from the Kastamonu and Inebolu area of the Black Sea region of Turkey. On the stands, you’ll find fruit jams and preserves, walnuts, almonds and all the best ingredients for an amazing meal, among other products common in most markets.
If you live in Istanbul, get here early to enjoy the shopping experience before the crowds. The Guardian described it as “an Anatolian culinary carnival” — now you be the judge! Take a trip and get a taste of Anatolia in Istanbul!
OPENING HOURS: 7 am to 5 pm (open only on Sundays)
ADDRESS: Küçük Piyale, İSTANBYL, Donanma Cd., 34440 Beyoğlu/İstanbul
ferry STOP: Kasımpaşa or take a taxi from Taksim metro
Yeşilköy Bakirköy Market
Close to the old Istanbul airport in Bakırköy, there’s the ‘Yeşilköy’ market (translating as the ‘Green Village’) operating only on Wednesdays. Rows and rows of dry fruits and nuts include such as jujube fruit, black currants, greens and local cheeses.
You can eye other items on sale here such as imitation silk scarves, make-up and knock-offs. Some stalls even accept credit cards, which is a rarity in the other open-air markets that operate on a cash-only basis. What’s more, shop in a far more relaxed atmosphere when compared to some of the other markets, and even take a relaxing tea break in some of the small cafes!
OPENING HOURS: 7 am to 5 pm (open only on Wednesdays)
ADDRESS: Yeşilköy, 34149 Bakırköy/İstanbul
train STOP: Yeşilköy
Beşiktaş Cumartesi Market
Like any other weekly market but only open on Cumartesi or Saturday, this popular market has around 400 stalls selling green veggies, fruits and other items. Located in Beşiktaş’s Turkali area, not far from Nişantaşı and the main Beşiktaş shopping district, this is a super busy farmer’s market! It is set up in a storied parking lot that transforms into a make shift market for that day alone, once a week.
The first floor is for fresh produce like any other weekly produce bazaar, while the other is mostly for clothing, accessories, kitchenware, carpets and some choices for snacks including gözleme! The focus on clothing on the second floor offers something different here, also that it’s housed in a parking lot!
OPENING HOURS: 8 am to 7 pm (open only on Saturdays)
ADDRESS: Türkali, Nüzhetiye Cd. No:66, 34357 Beşiktaş/İstanbul
ferry STOP: Beşiktaş
Beyazıt Sahaflar Market
The second-hand booksellers market called the Sahaflar Çarşısı in the old streets of Beyazıt is home to hundreds of bookshops selling used books, manuscripts, religious booklets, rare books and antique finds.
Browse through the old manuscripts here or take a look at the coinage or rare maps on offer. As the market sits near the Beyazıt mosque complex and the wonderful Beyazıt Public Library with beautiful interiors, be sure to explore the area, which is less than 15 minutes away to Sultanahmet Square.