Colors and tastes of Istanbul Markets


If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.

Alphonse de Lamartine

Istanbul has everything. Architecture, diversity, history, narrow alleys full of stories, dynamics, the cutest stray dogs in the universe, fantastic street food, stunning views. It stole my heart and it may steal yours if you go. Istanbul knows how to make people fell in love with it. At the first sight. The travel industry knows it as well. There are a lot of tours to various Turkish destinations available on the market. You might be interested to take a look on what the travel industry has in store for you in Turkey .

While in Istanbul, I fell in love with tastes and colors. The best way to find them, to capture them and to immerse in them is to take a tour to Istanbul markets. It might take you an entire day but it’s so worth it.

Here is a set of basic rules for shopping:People are nice. Vendors might be a little bit pushy but there are some truly kind souls among them and a little small talk or/and a cup of a fantastic Turkish tea will make your experience more authentic and enriching. I spent almost an hour in a carpet shop once. Everyone knew I wasn’t about to buy anything. We just spent time talking about linguistics and politics. Don’t miss out on people, experience is beyond things!

You can bargain. You should bargain. You must bargain if you don’t want to be overcharged. Nearly all vendors at the popular, more touristy markets speak basic English so there will be no communication barrier. Don’t be afraid, just go for it. If you go to buy food, especially Turkish sweets, you can taste at the stand first and then buy.

Never buy at the first stand you went to. Take your time, look around and choose the best quality and value for money. There are many vendors selling exactly the same things for very different prices. It’s worth checking.Be prepared for crowds of vendors seeking your attention. Shopping at Istanbul markets is a sport. They are overcrowded, noisy and you can be sure that literally every vendor will be trying to grab your attention. Make peace with the noise and concentrate on smells and tastes.

These are the basics. Now, it’s time to introduce you to some of the markets.

Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar or Kapalı Çarşı in Turkish was built in the 15th century. It was established by sultan Mehmet II. Today it is the oldest covered market in the whole world. It’s not only old but also tremendously big. 54.653 square meters is a lot, right? In other words, it’s a paradise for shopping lovers.

In the beginning, every alley of the market was dedicated to a profession. Today, most of them have disappeared and the structure of the market is very unclear. There are leather coats being sold next to carpets and sweets next to lamps. Goods of all sorts can be found there but it’s a bit of the labyrinth, indeed. That’s why it’s better to reserve a lot of time for visiting Grand Bazaar, especially if you are looking for some very particular goods.

Up until recently the Grand Bazaar was more than a market. You could find 5 mosques, 1 school, 7 fountains, 10 wells, 1 water dispenser and 1 ablution fountain inside. Today only 1 mosque and 1 ablution fountain are still to be seen. Once a vibrant commerce and financial center famous in the whole Mediterranean region, nowadays the most touristy market of Istanbul full of astonished tourists and persistent vendors fighting for their attention. Did you know that it employs over three thousand people? Imagine the scale. Good place to buy souvenirs but only if you master the art of bargaining like a Turk.

Spice Bazaar

Just a short walk from the Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar also known as Egyptian Market is where the feast for senses truly begins. Welcome to foodie paradise teasing your senses since 1644. It was commissioned by Hatice Turhan Sultan to provide financial resources for New Mosque. This is a place to buy lokum, baklava, spices, herbal and fruit teas, coffee, nuts, olives, dried fruits and all things delicious. Just thinking about it makes me hungry. It’s also all-time favorite for photography lovers. Yes, you got it right, it’s extremely photogenic.

Arasta Bazaar

Arasta Bazaar is a quiet market street located in Sultanahmet. It was established in 17th century as a source of financial means to help maintain the neighboring Blue Mosque. Arasta is the calmest and the most quiet market street in Istanbul. It’s a little pricey but you can always take a stroll for free just to gaze at Arasta’s wooden-facade shops selling colorful carpets, perfectly renovated Ottoman antiques, pottery, jewelry and art. The street is also home to The Mosaic Museum where you can see ornamental pavement mosaic from the Byzantine Great Palace that was uncovered in the 1950s.

Go and explore. Don’t forget your camera. Skip the breakfast. Keep your eyes wide open.This post has been contributed by First Choice. As always, all opinions are mine.

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