Shopping in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is an experience to remember.
You could spend hours wandering around the maze of alleyways in Istanbul’s bazaars. In the Spice Bazaar there are a myriad of spice shops selling herbs, soaps and dried fruit.
The market was constructed in the 1660s as part of the Yeni Camii complex where the rent from the shops supports the upkeep of the mosque.
Stroll past cheese vendors to taste shavings yellow Turkish kasar or milky white peynir cheese. Thick slabs of cheese are piled on top of each other behind glass cases.
Watch our video of the Spice Market:
In a prime corner position of the bazaar, Metin Palanci, the owner of spice shop Malatya Pazari is often at his stall handing out stuffed apricots, figs, dates and cubes of Turkish delight. He does a booming business with both tourists and locals at the stall established by his great-grandfather 125 years ago.
There, you can sip on hot apple tea while you fill your shopping bag with delicious goodies. Prices are based on weight. You can pay as little as a few dollars for a handful of dates or pay a little more for beautifully packaged gift boxes to take home to friends and relatives.
A few alleyways away in the small and narrow Papatya Aktar medicine shop there are teas, herbs, tinctures and oils that cure everything from haemorrhoids to impotence. But it’s the herbal love potions and Turkish Viagra which are this traditional medicine shop’s top sellers.
The shop looks like a science laboratory with an entire wall lined with rows of glass jars filled with mysterious oils. The oils are stored in pear-shaped bottles. My favourite is the Night of Istanbul.
Mehmet Kalmaz also specialises in potions and lotions. It sells remedies to make women look younger and men stronger. Caffeine addicts will love Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi Mahdumlari.
Istanbul’s most famous coffee purveyor sells Turkish, espresso and filtered coffee. You can also purchase a set of two signature coffee cups and saucers, a copper coffee pot and jar of coffee for around $25.
Watch our video here:
The Grand Bazaar is a shopaholic’s Mecca. The labyrinth of domed roofed laneways, its oldest part dates back to the 15th century, is virtually a city within a city with mosques, banks, cafés, restaurants and over 4000 shops.
The maze of alleyways has rows of shops selling leather coats, jewellery and carpets. There are other shops with pretty glass lamps, replica Ottoman weapons, mother-of-pearl mirrors, water pipes and hand-painted ceramic bowls.
Kismet is one carpet dealer who is enjoyable to do business with. Their range of carpets includes pure wool Anatolian carpets, silk Kayseri carpets, hand-spun wool and silk carpets. You can pay as little as $40 for a small carpet to thousands of Turkish new lira for an antique carpet. Sinbad also has a huge range of designs of carpets, pashmina shawls, leather wallets and belts.
If you’re thinking of buying a carpet, make sure you watch this video:
Other great gifts include cotton bed linen, woollen throw rugs from Eastern Turkey, hand-painted tiles, plates, cups and bowls along with antique Ottoman jewellery.
Watch my video about my visit to Istanbul:
Korean Air flies from to Istanbul. An overnight stopover in Seoul is required, which the airline will pay for. The economy seats appeared to have slightly more leg room than many other airlines (go to www.seatguru.com to compare seat pitch and leg room).
Singapore Airlines flies to Istanbul. See:
The Ritz Carlton (tel: +90 212 334 44 44)
Malatya Pazari, Shop1, Misir Carsisi No 44, Eminonu, tel: +90 212 527 1970
Papatya Aktar, Misir Carsisi No.67, Eminonu, tel: +90 212 528 8575
Mehmet Kalmaz, Misir Carsisi No. 41, Eminonu, tel: +90 212 522 6604
Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi Mahdumlari, Tahmis Sokak 66, Eminonu, tel: +90 212 522 0080
Kismet, Nuruosmaniye Caddesi, No 84
Sinbad, Terziler Street No 2 – 6, Kapalicarsi, tel: +90 212 527 1624