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.
Spice Bazaar Istanbul video
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:
Spice Bazaar Delights
Here are some of the things you will find at the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul.
I stroll past cheese vendors to taste shavings 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 is made from sheep’s milk form an impressive display.
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, he 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.
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.
The shop does a booming business with both tourists and locals at the family business 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.
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.
About the Spice Bazaar
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.