Last updated: July 2018
Istanbul is paradise for shoppers. You can finds just about anything here, from leather handbags and jackets to spices and tea. Every corner you turn, you’ll find new markets and new shops and it won’t be long before you’ll be wishing you’d brought an empty suitcase with you.
In the article, we look at some of the best things to buy in Istanbul.
While drinking tea is something that’s often associated with the British or the Irish, it’s a strong part of Turkey’s social fabric as well. There is no part of Turkish life that doesn’t warrant a cup of tea, and you’ll find that you’ll be offered cups of tea everywhere you go in Istanbul.
If you’re shopping for Turkish tea, you may find yourself a little overwhelmed: there are a lot of different types of tea in Turkey including black tea, lemon tea, apple tea, and rose tea.
The most authentic or most popular type of tea that’s drunk in Turkey is black tea, which you’ll find for sale at every market, supermarket, and deli. Traditionally, it’s supposed to be made with two kettles and served in a small, tulip-shaped glass. These both make great souvenirs in themselves, and are worth buying if you have the space, but you can still make a decent cup of tea without them.
Buying spices in Turkey is an experience not to be missed, even if you just pick up a small amount of one spice. As with anywhere, the best thing is to watch where the locals go and do as they do. The Spice Bazaar may still be used by locals, but it’s also a popular tourist destination as well. Watch which stalls the locals shop at and follow suit.
If you’re not sure what to get, cinnamon (Kimyon), red pepper flakes (Pul biber), oregano (Kekik), and mint (Nane) are always good things to have in your cupboard.
It’s often also worth picking up some of the combination spices. While it’s worth picking up single spices like turmeric and cinnamon for the quality and the price, buying combination spices or spice mixes gives you an opportunity to try flavours that you might not otherwise get to try.
You’ll find leather products all over Istanbul, and particularly around the Grand Bazaar area. Leather bags, jackets, belts, wallets – you name it! If it’s made from leather, you can find it here.
Turkish leather goods range in price and quality, and finding a product that’s both good-value and good-quality can seem daunting at first. Everywhere you go, you’ll be accosted by smiling salesmen and all of them promise that they have the best goods at the very best prices.
If quality is your main priority, head to Koç in the Grand Bazaar or their store in Nişantaşı. They’re not the cheapest option in Istanbul, but they’re one of the most reputable stores for quality.
Baklava needs no introduction and, if you’ve been in Istanbul for a few days already, chances are you’ve already tried some. Baklava makes a great gift, although it’s best enjoyed as fresh as possible: while it’ll keep on a flight, you want to be able to give it to the recipient as soon as possible.
As well as Baklava, a trip to Istanbul is also a fantastic opportunity to pick up high-quality Turkish Delight (Lokum).
A lot of people say that they don’t like Turkish Delight, but they often change their minds when they visit Turkey. Real Turkish Delight is incredible, and nothing like what you’ll find for sale in supermarkets and convenience stores back home. You’ll find all flavours of Lokum on sale in Istanbul including rose petal, pistachio, and coconut.
Start you shop with a trip to Hacı Bekir in Beyoğlu, which dates back to the 18th Century. The shop is renowned throughout Turkey, and carries the prestigious title of being ‘confectioner to the sultan’.
Have you been to Istanbul or anywhere else in Turkey? Did you pick up any souvenirs? Share your experience with us, and other readers, by leaving a comment below.