October 12 , 2023

What to Buy in Turkey

A Shopper’s Guide to Istanbul

What to Buy in Turkey


Türkiye doesn’t do things quietly. The country’s shops and bazaars are a prime example of this live-out-loud aesthetic.


Shopping in Turkish street markets is a bit like visiting the home of your crazy relatives, whose eagerness to invite you in can be off-putting, but once you sit down together over a cup of tea, you feel at ease from the warm hospitality. In all corners of the country, the friendly chaos in the streets puts everything right under your nose where you can’t help but look at it, and the energy circulating around markets and shops pulls you in whether you like it or not. The sellers call out, the colors and smells grab your senses, the pedestrians either brush past you or directly block your path as they take yet another selfie.



Traditional Turkish markets can be both thrilling and overwhelming, with a dizzying array of choices. At the same time, it’s not all old-school – there are some excellent modern designers and brands for which you’ll want to save room in your suitcase.



First, we’ll go over what items to buy in Türkiye. Then, keep reading for a juicy Istanbul Shopping Guide.



The top souvenirs and treasures handmade in Türkiye ...



1. Tea & Coffee Sets


The offer of a hot beverage accompanies every interaction in Türkiye. Recreate those moments of Turkish hospitality at home with your own delicate and beautiful tea or coffee service set. The tulip-shaped tea glasses themselves are an unmistakable Turkish symbol. Choose from beautiful Ottoman patterns or modern designs that adorn the cups, saucers, and serving trays. If you’re a coffee drinker, don’t forget the cezve (small pot with a long handle) used to make a proper Turkish coffee.




2. Ceramics & Tiles


The craft of Turkish ceramics developed centuries ago in Eastern Anatolia, and the art of hand-painted tiles and pottery pieces developed to a level of mastery during the Ottoman period. The potters of a town called Iznik were famous for their quality workmanship, featuring intricate designs in cobalt blue, turquoise and crimson red for tulips and carnations. Today, Iznik tile replicas sold on the street are plentiful and cheap, but to take home a true piece of art you’ll want to visit a dedicated shop. It’s a good idea to ask your local guide for recommendations. In addition to decorative tiles, the Hittite wine jug is another special piece to add to your collection. Pottery is a popular souvenir from Cappadocia and Kütahya in particular.




3. Carpets & Kilims


Weaving is another ancient craft particularly renowned in Turkiye. Turkish carpets can be exquisite works of art with intricate designs made from wool, cotton or fine silk threads. Carpets and rugs are made with a knotted technique to form a ‘pile’ that withstands more foot traffic, while kilims are made with a flat weave so they are thinner and often lighter. No matter which you purchase, you don’t have to save room to carry it home with you – most of the sellers have reasonably priced, efficient methods for shipping your rug safely overseas. You can find excellent carpets all over the country, but Ephesus and Cappadocia have some reputable shops where you can watch a carpet-making demonstration and make a fun memory to go along with your purchase. As always, it’s best to let your local guide lead the way when looking for a place to buy a carpet.




4. Unique Home Decor


If you like to decorate your home with travel finds, a Turkish carpet is a good place to start. However, there are many other beautiful items like colorful mosaic lanterns, or storied treasures plucked from any of the abundant antique shops around the country. Traditional Turkish instruments like the bağlama (long-necked lute), darbuka (goblet-shaped drum) or ney (shepherd’s reed flute) can also make fun display pieces.




5. Hamam Towels & Soaps


When you have a hamam tradition as rich as Turkiye’s, it only makes sense that your pampering products would be tried-and-true. The Turkish bath towels, known as peshtemal, are light and absorbant, quick-drying, and only get softer with use. You’ll appreciate the range of colors and patterns, and they make great gifts for even the pickiest people on your list. Most towel shops also have thick bars of creamy organic soap made from olive oil or goat’s milk with a range of natural scents. You can also pick up a kese, an exfoliation mitt used in the hamam.




6. Socks & Shoes


Even your feet can get the Turkish treatment! In many villages, and some boutiques in the city, you can find thick wool socks knitted in a rainbow of colors and patterns. There are knitted slipper socks (patik) as well as longer styles to cover your feet and calves – we love these as gifts and for keeping toasty feet in the wintertime. Buying these knitted items is also a great way to support local women artisans.


Another trend that seems to get more popular each year is the modern re-imagining of the typical Ottoman slippers known as çarık or yemeni. If you visit Gaziantep’s historic Coppersmiths Bazaar, you can find a shop called Yemeni Hayri Usta, which has been making these leather slippers in the traditional method for several generations. Today there are a few different shops in Istanbul where you can find these comfortable shoes in a range of colors and materials for a chic relaxed street style.




7. Baklava & Lokum


These are the most packable of Turkiye’s sweets, their recipes long ago tweaked and perfected under the masterful eye of the sultan’s chefs. Lokum, otherwise known as Turkish delight, is a sweet and chewy confection that comes in a variety of flavors from pistachio to rose. Baklava, thin pastry dough layered with nuts and syrupy goodness, can be packaged in a firm box and tucked safely away in your carry on. Make sure you buy the dry variety (kuru baklava) and just tell the seller it will be traveling on a plane so they can wrap it appropriately.




8. Spices & Loose Teas


Turkish cuisine is famous for its exotic spices, which make excellent souvenirs and gifts. Look out for spices like hot or sweet red pepper flakes (pul biber), sumac, thyme (kekik) and zahter (a savory blend of spices popular in the Middle East). While you’re around Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar, don’t forget to pick up some finely-ground Turkish coffee from Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi. You can also get a bag of typical aromatic black tea, the kind the locals are fond of drinking all day long, or peruse the rainbow-colored bins filled with all manner of loose leaf herbal teas, fruit teas and imaginative blends.





9. Nuts & Dried Fruits


Turkiye is heaven for tree nut lovers. The country is most often associated with pistachios thanks to the worldwide fame of baklava, but it’s actually the world’s largest producer of hazelnuts and apricots. To get your fix of dried and roasted snacks you can always count on the specialty kuruyemiş (‘dried eats’) shops found all over. Some favorite buys include the flavorful ‘siirt’ variety of pistachios, almonds from Datça, mini dried and roasted chickpeas called ‘leblebi’, walnut-stuffed dates and apricots, and roasted apricot kernels.




10. Raki


Turkiye’s national drink, rakı (rah-kuh), is a potent anise-flavored spirit best enjoyed with fish and meze dinners. It might be most convenient to purchase at the airport’s duty free shops, then there’s no need to take up space and weight in your luggage. Yeni Rakı, Beylerbeyi Göbek, Tekirdağ, and Kara Efe are reliable brands.




11. Olive Oil & Pomegranate Molasses


High-quality olive oils are produced nearby the Turkish Mediterranean, and you can look for those coming from the area of Ayvalık. Another unique ingredient is pomegranate molasses (nar ekşisi), which concentrates the sweetness and tang of the ruby-red fruit in a sticky syrup most often used for salad dressings. When you have both of these items, you’re on the way to making the best re-creation of the flavorful Turkish shepherd’s salad. The metal cans of olive oil are a great choice for lighter and easier transportation.



12. Turkish Symbols


Bring home a piece of Turkiye with a symbol of its culture and landmarks. The most favorite is the evil eye talisman (nazar boncuğu), the blue eyeball used to symbolize protection and bring good luck. You’ll find this symbol in jewelry, decorative ornaments, keychains and more. Find mementos with other iconic images of Turkish culture like the beloved street cats, Galata Tower, the nostalgic red streetcars, the Bosphorus bridges, pomegranates, tulips and Ottoman motifs.




The Istanbul shopping experience …


A visit to the Grand Bazaar is a must for the experience, but there’s no need to buy a Turkish carpet or lantern if that’s not your thing. Leave some time in your schedule for strolling and browsing Istanbul’s lively streets and you’ll come away richer even if some money leaves your pocket.


As you get a feel for the city, one thing you’ll notice is how all the sellers in one industry tend to set up shop right next to each other, offering the shopper a universe of options all in a row. So, when one needs to buy, say, a can of paint, garden seed, or a new guitar, there’s a street for that. This is particularly true of the nuts-and-bolts type purchases of everyday life, but also when shopping in the name of fun and fashion, it’s helpful to know which streets to head for.


Istanbul is actually many little towns all in one, so each neighborhood has its own unique address for a shopping spree. While Istanbul is home to, without a doubt, some of the best shopping malls in Europe, that’s a topic for another day – for this shopping guide we’ll focus on the nicest shopping avenues around the city. Istanbul is a city lived in the streets, so this is the best way to get to the heart of the metropolis, with all the inspiration of its local artisans and designers.




Istanbul’s Best Shopping Streets …


Grand Bazaar


As the biggest covered bazaar in the world, this is the grandaddy of Istanbul’s marketplaces, so the choices are endless! Make your way through the maze of over 60 streets and 4,000 shops, and don’t be afraid to bargain, it’s expected.




Spice Bazaar


While the Grand Bazaar is primarily for tourists, you’ll find plenty of locals milling about the Spice Bazaar and the surrounding streets nearby the Eminonu harbor because here one can find suppliers for all of life’s hobbies and necessities.




Serdar-ı Ekrem Street


Running out from Galata Tower, this charming lane has a nice energy with more contained crowds that allow you to mosey along and window shop. There’s a nice mix of artisan shops, vintage stores and trendy cafes to balance out your shopping. Take a break at the Georges Hotel rooftop for a drink with a view.






The city’s newest shopping complex is set along the renovated cruiseship harbor next to the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art (designed by Renzo Piano), with views of the old city minarets across the water and Galata Tower to the other side. Come here for an open-air shopping mall with luxury and international brands, as well as the delightful neighboring streets of the Karaköy district.






Istanbul’s most famous district for antiques is not in the old city, it’s actually up the hill from Galataport. The whole neighborhood is dotted with antique and furniture shops, particularly along Çukurcuma Caddesi, and it’s wonderful for a nostalgic stroll to see restored Ottoman wooden houses and all the trappings of a bygone era of Turkish culture.




İstiklal Avenue


This is the European side’s major shopping street, a mile-long stretch of all the best-known brands, restaurants, cinemas, attractions and street foods. The grand neoclassical facades tell of Istiklal’s heyday in the 1900s, and the wide avenue is mostly pedestrian except for some crossing cars and the nostalgic red tram that runs from Taksim Square to the beginning of Galata.




Bağdat Avenue


On the Asian side, Bağdat Caddesi is the place to see and be seen. Find all the high-end and mid-range international and domestic brands surrounded by affluent neighborhoods. The shopping and entertainment portion of the street is nearly 4 miles long, and it runs parallel to the Bosphorus just a few streets over.




Abdi İpekçi & Teşvikiye Streets


In another of the city’s wealthier quarters, called Nişantaşı, fans of premium fashion labels will find their bliss on Abdi İpekçi Street with the likes of Prada, Chanel and Cartier. One street over is Teşvikiye, offering a mix of fashion brands as well as the ‘City’s’ shopping mall. If you keep hopping over to the next street and the next, you’ll discover more local boutiques and gift shops among the trendy cafes and a countless number of salons – your sign that this is a place where looks matter.






Istanbul’s Best Boutiques & Gift Shops …



Arifoğlu | Spice Bazaar & various locations


A well-respected spice shop, originated in the Spice Bazaar, now a widely sold range of organic products from teas to cosmetics.




Malatya Pazari | Spice Bazaar & various locations


Brought from Eastern Anatolia to Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar, this widespread dried goods market is an excellent place to purchase nuts, dried fruits, spices, coffee, tea and Turkish delight.



Güven Kuruyemiş | Nişantaşı & various locations


A consistently reliable nut shop with locally-sourced products (apricots from Malatya, walnuts from Kahramanmaraş, pistachios from Gaziantep, hazelnuts from Giresun, almonds from Datça) – the vacuum packaging keeps items fresh.



Güllüoğlu | Karaköy


Istanbul’s favorite address for baklava couldn’t be closer to the renovated cruise port, and it’s just across the bridge from the old city.




Punto Carpet | Old City


In a beautiful caravanserai from the days of the Silk Road, this family-owned carpet shop near the Grand Bazaar sells a range of handmade rugs at various price points.




Jennifer’s Hamam | Old City


This Canadian expat-owned shop in the Arasta Bazaar, behind the Blue Mosque, provides towels and textiles that are still naturally dyed and handwoven on old-style shuttle looms by Anatolian weavers.




Mae Zae | Karaköy


Curated collection of fashionwear, jewelry, ceramics, décor and gifts made by Turkish designers.



Kağıthane House of Paper | Karaköy


Pick up some unique Istanbul-themed notebooks and fun novelty items at this stationery shop set inside Karakoy’s historic ‘French Passage’.




Pitane | Karaköy


Bold and fantastic ceramics and jewelry designs, with Turkish motifs sometimes thrown in.




Atelier Rebul | various locations


Started by a French pharmacist in the days of the Grand Rue de Pera, this popular scent shop provides beautifully-presented fragrances and the ubiquitous Turkish ‘kolonya’ – the ‘Istanbul’ scent is popular, and we love the Fleur Méditerranéenne essential oil blend that you can have added to your choice of products at the store in Galataport.



Halt | Nişantaşı & Galata


Curated collection of fashionwear, jewelry, ceramics, décor and gifts made by Turkish designers.




Zmix | Nişantaşı


Curated collection of fashionwear, jewelry, ceramics, décor and gifts made by Turkish designers.


Happy-Nes | Nişantaşı


These fun braided designs add so much color to your accessories, especially the popular phone carrying strap, that someone always stops to ask “Where did you get that?”.


Turkish Modern | Beyoğlu


Run by a local Istanbul designer and her American husband, this brand brings vibrant Ottoman traditions into the new era with impeccable furniture, rugs, leather footwear, towels and more.




3rd Culture | Çukurcuma


A collection of vivid homeware, inspired by diverse cultures and made by local artisans and workshops.


The North Fox | Çukurcuma


A chic, urban leather design atelier located in the heart of Istanbul’s charming antiques district.


Home Spa | Galata


This cozy little shop on Galip Dede street, owned by a lovely American woman, is an excellent place to buy all Turkish-made natural soaps, spa towels, traditional hamam gloves, colorful wool socks, and aromatherapy products.




Tower Leather Bag | Galata


Floor-to-ceiling leather bags, wallets and accessories, all handmade, await you at Mr. Rasim Sağin’s shop on Galip Dede.


Postane | Galata


This nice little fair trade shop is part of a cultural center set in a beautiful former post office building with its own rooftop garden with tower views and a café that also sells organic products – a great way to support local producers and women’s cooperatives.




Paşabahçe | various locations


Türkiye’s favorite producer of glassware, with a wide range of tea and coffee sets and Turkish-themed gifts.


Selamlique | various locations


Your one-stop-shop for fine Turkish coffee, all the accoutrements for coffee preparation and service rituals, and sweet complimenting confections – try the pomegranate Turkish delight (narlı lokum).


Vakko | various locations

A Turkish fashion luxury brand, started as a hat shop in 1934, great for high-quality ties and scarves.




Figg | Kuruçeşme


Slip-on suede shoes, inspired by the traditional çarık style, in a range of rich colors.


Selin Baltacıoğlu | Kadıköy


Unique gifts and treasures, handmade by local female designers, ranging from jewelry to ceramics, from textiles to leather goods, and home décor.




Happy shopping!