Shoptastic Istanbul!

The Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar

We’d been in the Grand Bazaar for about five minutes when my loved one cracked: ‘What exactly is our purpose here? What are we trying to achieve?’ Purpose? Achievement? Had he learnt nothing over the years? I put my foot down. This was a recce, I told him, and with a birthday coming up it was only right that I studied the huge choice of goods on offer before returning on The Big Day to blow some birthday cash. And goodness me, if you’ve got some birthday cash to blow, Istanbul’s the perfect place to do it in.

(Unless you’re a man, perhaps).


Wandering back to our hotel one night, a man stopped us on the street and asked if we wanted to buy a rug, and then seemed surprised at our refusal, because let’s face it, there could be nothing more sensible than to go off, late at night, with a stranger in a new city to check out the knots on his Konya. Humph. It’s not as if there aren’t rug shops on just about every street to choose from, after all. Seriously, Istanbul is a ruggie’s paradise, but a bit of research would be well worth the trouble, and you could do a lot worse than visit the ruggie bible Hali magazine.

Buy one, get one free
Buy one, get one free

Cushion Covers

Less ruggy, but fun all the same, I did indulge in an easier, cheaper and lighter purchase of several inexpensive cushion covers. You’ll find vibrantly-coloured cushion covers and textiles all over Istanbul, and they make wonderful gifts and keepsakes.

Iznik Ceramics

Named after the western Turkish town where they were produced during the Ottoman Empire, the best ceramics, needless to say, are hand-painted, predominantly in cobalt blue and white, and based on classical designs. Admittedly the heavier and more breakable of purchases, (which is what put me off) but there’s a fantastic choice of tiles, bowls, plates, serving dishes, jugs, storage jars and vases on offer.

This girl's best friends.
This girl's best friends.


Easy to pack, and a wonderful souvenir of any trip. Istanbul is heaving with precious and semi-precious gems, in a variety of settings. In fact, the amount of jewellery available in Istanbul is bewildering, and you’ll need to take a few days to get your eyes in. Or you could luck out, as I did, and meet a kind woman from the Finnish embassy who tells you about her favourite shop, recommended by all her Turkish friends and colleagues in Ankara. Needless to say, I indulged. (An amber and a turquoise pendant, and an enormous lemon topaz ring, in case you were wondering…)

Evil Eye Amulets

You see them everywhere in shops around Istanbul: evil eye, or nazar, amulets that protect against jealous and evil thoughts or bad wishes. The idea is that the amulet will attract the evil eye and absorb its power before it can do any harm to the wearer. You’ll find evil eye jewellery, beads, key fobs, trinkets, shopping bags and general decorations everywhere - even on the tail fin of certain planes. A nice keepsake – mine now hangs in the kitchen, where who knows, it might even improve the cooking.

In the Spice Bazaar
In the Spice Bazaar

Teas and Spices

The Spice Bazaar was perhaps a little less spicy than I’d been hoping for, but was still fun, full as it was, not only with spices, but teas, Turkish Delight, perfumes and bath products. The spices themselves didn’t strike me as the best of bargains, however, and were possibly cheaper in a less obvious setting.

Curiously, the Turks drink far less coffee than I’d been expecting, preferring strong, dark çay. At the jewellers we were given cups of Apple Tea, which was sweet and refreshing and utterly delicious, and there are plenty of varieties on offer all over Istanbul.

A challenge I'm up for
A challenge I'm up for

Turkish Delight

In the UK, we’re used to cubes of red or green (rose or mint flavoured) Turkish delight with, if you’re lucky, a nut or two inside and a sprinkling of dessicated coconut or icing sugar on the top. In Turkey, however, Turkish Delight, or Lokum as it’s known, comes in all shapes and sizes, with flavours such as lemon, strawberry, orange blossom, ginger, cinnamon, coffee, almond – the list goes on, with a variety of fillings or outer coatings. As the accompanying photo illustrates, it would probably take a good year to try them all. (Well worth the effort, though.) The story goes that the confection was created in the 1700s to appease a sultan with a cracked tooth, and the soft, chewy delicacy that we all know and love today makes wonderful gifts.

Organic Cotton Towels

The last thing I expected to buy in Istanbul were bath towels, but the wonderful Arasta Bazaar was near our hotel and we discovered Jennifer’s Hamam, a shop owned by an enterprising Canadian who arrived in Turkey a few years ago and set out to find the handful of weavers left who could produce her organic cotton range. Not only is she reviving an old industry and creating jobs, she’s also exporting her towels worldwide and gaining a faithful following. The wonderful thing is, not only are they the softest, fluffiest, most luxurious towels you’re likely ever to come across, but, unlike mass-produced ones, they stay that way, even after washing and hanging out to dry on the line. An affordable luxury, and I’m a convert.

What do you think about shopping in Istanbul?

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Comments 11 comments

kerlynb profile image

kerlynb 5 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

Whoa! Is this Istanbul? It looks extremely exotic to me! Beautiful. Based on what you said here, I think it would be really good to shop for striking things for the house in Istanbul - Turkish rugs, covers, towels, bath products, and more!

Riviera Rose profile image

Riviera Rose 5 years ago from South of France Author

Hi Kerlynb, thanks for commenting. It's really a fabulous place to shop - do try it some time!!

Elenda 4 years ago

Thanks for this great info on istanbul. Am going there in August with my kids, pls can you share the info on where the secret jewelry shops are. Thanks

Suzie HQ profile image

Suzie HQ 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

Hi Riviera Rose,

Oh the memories this brought back to the wonderful trips and times spent in this eclectic mix that is Istanbul. The shopping at the Grand Bazaar, the Turkish tea, buying the famously delicious Turkish delight and yes, buying jewelry. Many thanks for this on point shopping experience where East meets West, voted up, interesting, useful and funny as enjoy your humorous wit here. Shared and Pinned!!

Riviera Rose profile image

Riviera Rose 3 years ago from South of France Author

Hi Elenda - I'm sorry I didn't see your comment earlier, don't know how that missed me. Hope you have an amazing time in Istanbul - you will, I'm sure.

Hi Suzie HQ, thank you for your lovely comment! There's just so much to see, do, eat and buy in Istanbul - I really fell in-love with the place. Would go back in a heartbeat.

epigramman profile image

epigramman 3 years ago

Your entire hub presentation is a Turkish delight. What a fabulous tour guide and world class shopper you are and of course it is all delivered so nicely with your awesome journalistic approach but with really nice personal touches as well -sending to you warm thoughts and good karma from lake erie time ontario canada 8:10am with second cup of coffee , a sublime Mozart sonata and the daybreak over the lake

Riviera Rose profile image

Riviera Rose 3 years ago from South of France Author

Hi epigramman - thank you for your wonderful comment, it made me smile. Coffee, Mozart and daybreak over the lake - what a beautiful setting you're in. Good karma back to you from a wet and windy south of France!

maxmaster profile image

maxmaster 3 years ago from istanbul,moscow

thank you for nice informations :)

Riviera Rose profile image

Riviera Rose 3 years ago from South of France Author

Hi Maxmaster, thanks for you comment. I'm guessing you know Istanbul much better than I do, though!! Fabulous city, I'd go back in a heartbeat.

Kalmiya profile image

Kalmiya 3 years ago from North America

Turkish fabrics are so amazing with their colours and patterns. I'd love to get some cushion covers to brighten up rooms. I love Turkish delight or loukoumi too; I've found a very unusual rose flavour! The Turkish market is definitely on the bucket list. Thanks for your hub!

Riviera Rose profile image

Riviera Rose 3 years ago from South of France Author

Hi Kalmiya, thanks for your comment. I must say I'm thrilled with my cushion covers, they look great in my living room. I do hope you make it to the market one day - and happy shopping once you get there!

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