Exploring Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar

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Once upon a time, the Istanbul Spice Bazaar was once the final destination of merchants who travelled the Silk Road. The ancient Spice Bazaar Istanbul was built in 1663 to generate funds for the Yeni mosque next to it and is often known as the Egyptian Bazaar because spices were imported from Egypt.

Among the many places to visit in Istanbul these days, the Spice Bazaar, the mosque and the nearby Grand Bazaar are a trio of attractions that you could easily spend an entire day exploring.

Spice Bazaar, Istanbul 

While the merchants at the Spice Bazaar are keen to offload an assortment of goods, from Turkish delight and dates to soaps and souvenirs, many of the men in the market are natural entertainers.

Meet some of the Spice Bazaar showmen here:

What To See In Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar

Here are some of the things you will find at the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul.

Turkish cheese

turkish cheese
Taste varieties of Turkish cheese in Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar.

I stroll past cheese vendors to taste shavings of yellow Turkish Kaşar or milky white Peynir cheese.

Thick slabs of cheese are piled on top of each other behind glass cases.

Large wheels of Kaşar cheese from the Thracian region are made from sheep’s milk forming an impressive display.

spice bazaar people
Workers and visitors taste cheese in a friendly atmosphere in the Spice Bazaar.

A man waves towards a table at the back of the shop, where workers are munching on slices of cheese.

Although the cheese seller doesn’t speak much English, his relaxed body language makes me feel like one of the family.

In Turkey, cheese and olives are consumed for breakfast and cheese is served with fruit after lunch and dinner. And it seems consuming cheese in the bazaar is a regular activity for tourists and locals.

Further along, caffeine addicts will love Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi Mahdumlari. Istanbul’s most famous coffee purveyor sells Turkish, espresso and filtered coffee.

Turkish delights

malayta pazari
The famous corner shop in the Istanbul Spice Bazaar where everyone buys dates and Turkish delight.

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.

spice bazaar istanbul spices
A famous family business at the Istanbul bazaar.

The shop does a booming business with both tourists and locals at the family business established by his great-grandfather 125 years ago.

turkish tea
Apple tea is a sweet drink offered everywhere in the Spice Bazaar.

There, you can sip on hot apple tea while you fill your shopping bag with delicious goodies. Prices are based on weight.

shopping at spice bazaar
Stocking up on dates and Turkish delight at the Spice Bazaar.

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.

Aphrodisiac tea

perfume bottles at spice bazaar
One of the shops selling perfumes and all kinds of potions at the Spice Bazaar.

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.

A fascinating potpourri of potions sit in canisters on the wall and you could spend hours learning about the various uses for each item.

The shop looks like a science laboratory with an entire wall lined with rows of glass jars filled with mysterious oils stored in pear-shaped bottles.

My favourite is the Night of Istanbul.

Not surprisingly, it’s the herbal love potions and Turkish Viagra which is this traditional medicine shop’s top sellers! And there are several stores that specialise in potions, lotions and remedies to make women look younger and men stronger.

spice bazaar spices

About the Spice Bazaar

Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar is as iconic as a Turkish bath which is another Istanbul tradition I highly recommend trying. For a full list of shops in Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar go here.

Where is Istanbul Spice Bazaar?

The Spice Bazaar is near Galata Bridge in Eminonu, by the waterfront, and right next to a tram stop. You can also get there by boat via the Eminomu waterfront.

When to go to Istanbul Spice Bazaar?

The Spice Bazaar is open daily from 8 am to 7.30 pm. It’s closed on religious holidays. The best time to go to is when it is crowded, later in the day, to soak up the atmosphere.

Spice Bazaar Istanbul

Spice Bazaar Istanbul

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Christina Pfeiffer Travel Writer
Christina Pfeiffer is a writer, photographer and video blogger based in Queensland, Australia. She has lived in three continents and her career as a travel journalist has taken her to all seven continents. Since 2003, she has contributed travel stories and photographs to mainstream media in Australia and around the world such as the Sydney Morning Herald, CNN Traveller, The Australian and the South China Morning Post. She has won many travel writing awards and is a full member of the Australian Society of Travel Writers.