With choices from the Grand Bazaar to Gucci and Prada, shopping is what you make of it. One of my favorite shops in all of Istanbul was Lokum in Bebek, selling perfume, soap and lotion scented with fruits and flowers native to Turkey. They also sell candy, the reason I was lured in. Lokum has Turkish delight in fusion flavors like pistachio-hazelnut and fig-walnut, packaged in adorable boxes you’d assume held jewelry. They also sell a traditional Turkish candy called Akide in big glass jars. Either sweet option would make the perfect gift.
On the subject sugary goodness, Bebek has a couple other must hit sweet spots. Baylan has the best pastries. Léra Fresca serves up ice cream so good it doesn’t need the show you’ll get on Istiklal Street. Meshur Bebek Badem Ezmesi is an old fashioned candy store with really unique gourmet candy sold by the pound.
If you don’t have the same sweet tooth, but are serious about shopping and want to find the finer side of clothing, jewelry and shoes, spending an afternoon in Nisantasi will really confuse you. It’s about as European as you can get and you could easily mistake it for Paris, infused with contemporary Turkish designers. If you’re looking for a shopping spree, here’s your to do list: Fabrika, Beymen Club, Koton, Yorgici, Desa, Machka and Koton. For a refuel, take a lunch break at the new House Café or the old Çerzeko 1920.
Time spent shopping in Taksim Square would be much better spent in the nearby boutique clusters like Fransiz Sokagi and Galatasaray. Try Buka for funky fabric wrapped costume jewelry. If antiquing is your game, you won’t want to miss the Cukurcuma area. When purchasing antiques always remember to get a receipt for customs if you plan on getting it out of the country. The back streets off of Istikal are a collection of gems on their own. It doesn’t take long to feel like you’ve left the beaten path, so do some of your own exploring. Some of the best purchases I made were in local shops on streets with signs I couldn’t find. The same goes for the Grand Bazaar. Every stand out textile shop has been featured somewhere and is likely sold in a boutique or two between the US and Europe. 4500+ shops is not an easy number to navigate, so wander…chances are you’ll still descend upon incredible finds. If you spend too much time with a list and a map, you’ll miss out on the experience of just being there..
Maybe shopping isn’t your sport, but here’s the quick list of purchases you definitely want to make.
2. A canister of Turkish coffee.
The best: Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi 2nd Place: Nurettin Kocatepe Damla Sakizi
Where to buy: Any grocery store or market
3. Loofahs or exfoliating mits back with Turkish cotton for a DIY hamami
The Best: Aphrodisiaque des Sultans
Where to buy: The Egyptian Spice Market, first stall on your left after the first fork.
5. Vintage Scarves & Pillowcases
The Best: Home Textile the original (There’s a reason it’s been featured in Elle Décor)
Where to buy: Grand Bazaar, Takkeciler sk No. 48-50
6. A bottle of Raki
The Best: Tekirdag
Where to buy: Liquor/Grocery stores, airport duty free.
For more Istanbul adventures, check out:
- A First Time Guide to Understanding, Turkey
- Off The Brochure: Istanbul, Turkey
- Our 2011 report, Turkey Post Earthquake: Is Travel Safe? Will Tourism Be Disrupted?
- The Middle East travel archives
By Courtney Crockett for PeterGreenberg.com