Where to Shop in Istanbul
From the Grand Bazaar to the spice market to neighbourhoods full of intriguing boutiques, Turkey’s largest city has much to offer the serious shopper.
Updated April 12, 2013—Istanbul has been a favourite shopping ground for the haut monde ever since the Byzantine era. Then it was known as Constantinople and was a major stop on the Silk Road. Nowadays, the city that straddles two continents is still attracting those on the hunt for one-of-a-kind finds, from intricate flat-woven kilims, colourful hanging lanterns, fragrant spices and precious metal baubles to cutting-edge fashions, modern ceramics and chic leather goods. In other words, it’s an inveterate shopper’s Turkish delight. Most visitors kick off their retail expedition at the Grand Bazaar—and rightly so. The covered complex and surrounding outdoor space accommodate more than 4,000 shops and stalls selling, well, everything. It’s one of the world’s oldest and largest bazaars—the original shopping mall—and navigating its nearly five dozen streets is not as difficult as you might think.
Oh, you’ll get lost—after all, the Bazaar is plenty bizarre, and the serpentine lanes, tiny alleyways and hidden courtyards confuse even locals. But it’s actually well organised, with shops clustered according to type.
Across the Golden Horn from Eminönü is where the shopping gets really fun. First up is the neighbourhood of Galata, where the hilly cobblestone streets radiating from the Galata Tower hold shops and ateliers of some of Istanbul’s best up-and-coming designers. Just northeast of Galata are the very walkable neighbourhoods of Çukurcuma and Cihangir, the best places to go for antiques. Right on the Bosphorus, the Beşiktaş villages of Ortaköy, Kuruçeşme and Bebek are local favourites for their hip, casual boutiques. Nearby is another insider’s haunt—Akaretler Row, a series of restored Neoclassical townhouses built in the late 19th century, which now are home to dozens of stylish shops. North of it all, you’ll find Nişantaşi, considered the Beverly Hills of Istanbul. If you have time for only one neighbourhood, ply its gilded streets.
Here are some of our favourite addresses.
Abdulla Natural Products
Ali Baba Türbe Sokak; No. 25-27; 90 212/526 30 71
Everything sold at this breezy shop is 100% natural, from the hand-woven, vegetable-dyed towels, sheets and throws to olive oil soaps and loofah mitts and gloves—the perfect accessories for your home hammam.
Adnan & Hasan
Halicilar Caddesi No. 89, 90 & 92; 90 212/527 98 87
The best source in the Bazaar for old and new hand-woven carpets and kilims. The attendants are extremely knowledgeable and the sales pitch is decidedly low-stress.
Sandal Bedesten Sokak No. 38
This tiny boutique overflows with antique silver goblets, ornate vases and ceramic ware. Epoque also has a very rich collection of vintage and antique jewellery—just be sure to ask, as many of the pieces aren’t on display.
Bedesten Şerif Ağa Sokak; No. 18-21; 90 212/520 25 68
One of the city’s best sources for contemporary Turkish ceramics. Named after the vaunted Iznik style of ceramics, the shop offers tiles, plates, bowls and vases that often reproduce 16th-century shapes and motifs. Iznik also carries modern pieces.
Kalpakçilarbaşi Caddesi; No. 4-6; 90 212/522 03 26
Widely considered to be one of Istanbul’s top jewellers, with several locations throughout the city. The cuffs are studded with precious stones, the necklaces are vintage-inspired, and the gold rings are topped with enormous yellow diamonds. The Bazaar outpost is Kafkas’ first store, and you’ll often find the owners presiding behind the glittering displays.
Abdi Ipekçi Caddesi, Bostan Sokak No. 8; 90 212/291 62 92
This six-storey emporium, dedicated to preserving someof the country’s best craft traditions, is a one-stop shop for hand-woven kaftans, tabletop items and jewellery, most handmade.
Atiye Sokak No. 9; 90 212/225 01 29
This is where the city’s upper-crust ladies buy their flowing couture creations made from Turkish silks, their structural little black dresses, their lavish party gowns and their super-chic cocktail dresses. The boutique itself is worth a visit for its Iznik-inspired floor tiles, exposed brick walls and archways.
Abdi Ipekçi Caddesi No. 23/1; 90 212/373 48 00
With its cosmopolitan cadre of designers, Beymen is Istanbul’s answer to Barneys New York. But its home store stays local with the collection of furniture, tabletop items, rugs and linens by some of the country’s best designers. Head here if you have a hankering for graphic, evil-eye-adorned ceramic vases, Turkish ikat-style pillows, impossibly delicate hand-woven linens and modern Ottoman-style settees.
Raen Spa & Natural Care
Vişnezade Mahallesi Dibekçi Sokak Şener Apartmanı No. 2/B; 90 212/241 41 14
Your bathroom may not be a hammam, but you can bring a little flavour of the Turkish bath home with you, thanks to the soaps, creams, scrubs and the like from this modern apothecary shop. Most of the ingredients are sourced in Turkey. Can’t find a face cream that smells and works just right? The shopkeeps will happily whip you up a custom creation.
Abdi Ipekçi Caddesi 18/1; 90 212/246 71 94
Urart is a cooperative of jewellery designers and craftsmen who look to the civilisations and traditions of Anatolia and Asia Minor for inspiration. The collection of bracelets, rings, necklaces, cufflinks and tabletop items is pricey, no doubt, but many of the pieces are directly inspired by the Istanbul Archaeological Museums’ holdings, to which the cooperative has special access.
Yastik by Rifat Özbek
Şakayık Sokak No. 13/1; 90 212/240 87 31
Cushions unlimited! Yastik, whose name is Turkish for “cushion,” carries more than 100 different limited-edition designs, from ikat and Anatolian floral prints to antique velvet that’s perfect for a modern-day harem.
Çukurcuma and Cihangir
A La Turca
Faikpaşa No. 4; 90 212/245 29 33
Unlike many kitschy antiques shops in the area (wacky sultan portraits, anyone?), A La Turca carries exquisite, well-preserved antiques, kilims, Ottoman textiles and hammered copper pieces. The four-storey townhouse feels like a cluttered yet cosy home.
Ortaköy, Kuruçeşme and Bebek
Meşhur Bebek Badem Ezmesi
Cevdet Paşa Caddesi No. 53/C; 90 212/263 59 84
Opened in 1904, this confectionery is famous for badem ezmesi, Turkey’s slightly less sweet answer to marzipan. (The shop’s name translates to Famous Bebek Almond Paste.) You’ll find a number of other Turkish sweets here, including excellent lokum and the boiled hard candy called akide şekeri.
Küçük Bebek Caddesi No. 7/A; 90 212/265 45 47
Owned by fashion designer Banu Bora and architect Tayfun Mumcu, this well-edited boutique offers a quick introduction to some of Turkey’s hottest designers, with cheeky dresses and silk pants by Zeynep Erdoğan, Kismet by Milka’s rose gold rings in the shape of Fatima’s hand, and Mehry Mu’s leather bags inspired by Turkish ikats. Both Bora and Mumcu design pieces for the shop. Bora deals in comfy, chic clothing, while Mumcu purveys furniture and accessories.
Autoban Gallery Akaretler
Sinanpaşa Mahallesi, Süleyman Seba Caddesi No. 16-20; 90 212/236 92 46
This concept store is the best of the galleries and design shops in this townhouse row. The group is behind some of Istanbul’s most stylish projects, and the gallery sells its full range of midcentury-modern-meets-Scandinavia-meets-Turkey furniture.
Doors by Ümit Ünal
Ensiz Sokak No. 1B; 90 212/245 78 86
Ümit Ünal has a way with drapery. His slouchy clothing (all in natural fabrics) exudes casual comfort while still being impeccably stylish and sophisticated. The shop/atelier is housed in a heritage building with rough-cut wooden floors and Ünal’s sketches on the walls.
Bereketzade Sokak Kuledibi, Kuleçıkmazı No. 17; 90 212/292 78 99
Putting a contemporary spin on traditional leatherwork is the idée fixe here, as seen in the designer’s edgy collection of leather dresses, jackets and accessories. The shop also stocks a range of jersey knit and silk pieces.