Istanbul

Istanbul has been a shopper's town for, well, centuries—the sprawling Grand Bazaar, open since 1461, could easily be called the world's oldest shopping mall—but this is not to say that the city is stuck in the past. Along with its colorful bazaars and outdoor markets, Istanbul also has a wide range of modern shopping options, from the enormous new malls that seem to be sprouting up everywhere to small independent boutiques. Either way, it's almost impossible to leave Istanbul without buying something and some say you haven't truly experienced the city until you take a whirl through the Grand Bazaar or Spice Bazaar. Whether you're looking for trinkets and souvenirs, kilims and carpets, brass and silverware, jewelry, leather goods, old books, prints, and maps, or furnishings and clothes (Turkish textiles are among the best in the world), you can find them in this city. Shopping in Istanbul also provides a snapshot of the city's contrasts and contradictions: migrants from rural Turkey haggle with tourists and sell their wares on the streets while wealthy shoppers browse the designer goods found in plush, upscale Western-style department stores.

İstiklal Caddesi is a pedestrian-only boulevard with everything from global brands like Levi's and big-name Turkish companies like Mavi to small bookshops and old-school shoe stores—though, sadly, increasingly high rent prices mean there are fewer and fewer independent local stores located on İstiklal these days. Down the hill from İstiklal, Çukurcuma Caddesi is home to a miscellany of antiques dealers carrying everything from small, Ottoman-era knickknacks to enormous antique marble tubs. Meanwhile, the character-filled Galata and Karaköy neighborhoods are becoming the places to find independent boutiques and intriguing shops selling clothing, jewelry, housewares, and objets d’art created by up-and-coming local designers.

The high-fashion district is the upscale Nişantaşı neighborhood, 1 km (½ mile) north of İstiklal Caddesi. This is where you'll find the boutiques of established Turkish fashion designers, such as Özlem Süer, Arzu Kaprol, and Atıl Kutoğlu, as well as the flagship stores of high-end international brands like Chanel, Prada, and Louis Vuitton—though because of high import taxes and unfavorable exchange rates, these labels are usually considerably more expensive in Turkey than they are in the United States.

Istanbul is also a good place to buy jewelry, as Turkey has a long tradition of jewelry making, and many jewelers are skilled at working with both gold and silver. While local brands often tend to copy European designs in their collections, recently there has been a trend towards creating beautiful pieces with a local flavor, using traditional motifs or taking Ottoman-era charms and setting them in silver or gold. The jewelry sold in the Grand Bazaar and in high-end boutiques in Nişantaşı tends to be fairly classic and high quality; if you’re looking for something a bit more unusual or easier on the wallet, try the smaller-scale boutiques in Beyoğlu or Galata.

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  • 1. Alaturca

    Beyoglu | Antiques & Collectibles

    Styled more like a grand private mansion than a store, Alaturca has four floors that house a carefully selected—and very high-end—collection...Read More

  • 2. 3rd Culture

    Beyoglu | Household Items/Furniture

    Globe-trotting pair Zeynep and Emre Rende have devoted their design and photography talents to creating home accessories, gifts, furniture,...Read More

  • 3. Amorf

    Beyoglu | Household Items/Furniture

    Rustic cutting boards, bowls, mortar-and-pestles, and other kitchen accessories handmade from olive and walnut wood are among the traveler-friendly...Read More

  • 4. Artrium

    Beyoglu | Antiques & Collectibles

    Artrium has a range of antique items, including a fascinating collection of old prints and paintings, as well as some interesting ceramics,...Read More

  • 5. Denizler Kitabevi

    Beyoglu | Books/Stationery

    This shop has a selection of antiquarian books—primarily in English and French, focusing on Turkish history and nautical subjects—along with...Read More

  • 6. Hacı Bekir

    Beyoglu | Food/Candy

    Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir founded his sweets business back in 1777 and is considered the inventor of Turkish delight. Today, the Hacı Bekir stores...Read More

  • 7. Homer Kitabevi

    Beyoglu | Books/Stationery

    One of Istanbul's best bookstores, Homer carries an impeccable selection of English-language books, especially ones dealing with the politics...Read More

  • 8. Istanbul Kitapçısı

    Beyoglu | Books/Stationery

    This municipality-run bookshop near the Tünel funicular entrance just off İstiklal Caddesi carries a broad range of coffee-table books and other...Read More

  • 9. Levant Koleksiyon

    Beyoglu | Antiques & Collectibles

    The maps, engravings, calligraphic works, and charming old postcards with photographs of Ottoman-era Istanbul sold here are quite affordable...Read More

  • 10. Mavi

    Beyoglu | Clothing

    Turkey's homegrown jean company, Mavi, has come a long way since its founding in 1991, with stores now in dozens of countries. The flagship...Read More

  • 11. Mor

    Beyoglu | Jewelry & Watches

    On a side street off İstiklal Caddesi, Mor displays the work of a brother-and-sister designer pair who make funky, bold jewelry that incorporates...Read More

  • 12. Nahıl

    Beyoglu | Other Specialty Store

    Everything in this homey store near Taksim Square—handbags, necklaces, key chains, baby booties, sachets, cards, natural soaps, bath sets, coasters...Read More

  • 13. Pandora

    Beyoglu | Books/Stationery

    One of Turkey's premier booksellers for more than two decades, Pandora has an upstairs floor dedicated to English-language works and carries...Read More

  • 14. Robinson Crusoe

    Beyoglu | Books/Stationery

    This Beyoğlu institution, associated with the local arts institution SALT, stocks a well-chosen selection that includes fiction and nonfiction...Read More

  • 15. Tombak

    Beyoglu | Antiques & Collectibles

    One of the area's longest-established antiques dealers stocks an eclectic collection of antique metal objects, tablewares, lamps, paintings...Read More

  • 16. İKSV Design

    Beyoglu | Jewelry & Watches

    Run by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts and housed in the organization's headquarters, the İKSV Design boutique focuses on local...Read More

  • 17. Librairie de Pera

    Beyoglu | Books/Stationery

    A small shop filled with antiquarian books in English, French, German, and a smattering of other European languages, Librairie de Pera also...Read More

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