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Treasure Hunting: Exploring the Markets of Istanbul

A bustling table at the markets of Istanbul, adorned with a lot of items.

You don’t have to be a pirate to go treasure hunting – and there are plenty of treasures for sale in the abundant shops that you’ll discover on a trip to Istanbul, Turkey. Whether you’re a food lover, a book collector, or you’re looking for a stunning rug to commemorate your trip abroad, Istanbul is bursting with markets that will suit every fancy.

The Grand Bazaar

One of the largest (and oldest) covered markets in Istanbul (and the world!), with over 5,000 shops to choose from, The Grand Bazaar is considered the most famous among all its markets. The Bazaar is divided into sections highlighting different specialties, so take home a souvenir that ranges from jewelry, clothing, leather goods, or antique items like old coins. Discover the history of Istanbul within these market halls and find something beautiful to return home with!

Contiki Tip: Competition is fierce inside The Grand Bazaar with many shops selling the same wares, so go into the Bazaar prepared to haggle. The less interested you seem, the easier it will be to bring the price down and get a good bargain. And always be nice!

Grand Bazaar Lamps

The Egyptian Bazaar (or “The Spice Bazaar”)

One of the largest bazaars in the city, it is the second most famous covered Bazaar (with the Grand Bazaar reigning supreme.) This particular bazaar is part of the New Mosque and known as “The Spice Bazaar” (though it’s officially known as the Egyptian Bazaar), housing 85 shops selling spices, Turkish delight and other sweets and souvenirs. You may also find belly dancing outfits and household goods for sale as well, just in case you fancy taking up a new hobby…

 Contiki Tip: If you’re a fan of Turkish coffee or tea, the Egyptian Bazaar is a great place to find it. Also, ask for vacuum packing if the shops offer it so that you don’t have spilled spices all over your suitcase when you return home!

Turkish spices

The Arasta Bazaar (near the Blue Mosque)

If you’re looking for a calmer alternative to its larger counterpart, the Grand Bazaar, head over to The Arasta Bazaar. Situated behind the Blue Mosque, the Arasta Bazaar is the place to go when you’re looking for textiles, carpets, jewelry, and other wares with prices that might be cheaper than the more well-known markets in town. Even better, the bazaar is open on Sundays and operating hours are later than that of the larger markets.

Contiki Tip: The Arasta Bazaar is a great alternative to the Grand Bazaar if you are limited on time. With only 40 shops in comparison to 4000, this open air market offers up some of the same items sold at other nearby markets.

Arasta Bazaar

The Sahaflar Carsisi (Old Book Bazaar & Orient Shop)

Want to get your hands on an old book or illuminated manuscript? Check out Sahaflar Carsisi, often overlooked due to its proximity to the Grand Bazaar. This hidden gem has been a book and paper market dating as far back as the Byzantine era (for all you history buffs out there). Find miniatures, maps, and other vintage items in the courtyard of this bazaar.

Contiki Tip: If you’re a fan of miniatures, the best shop is “Orient Shop,” located at Number 13 in the Old Book Bazaar. There is also an in-house calligrapher who can write your name in Arabic.

A room adorned with a collection of framed pictures capturing the vibrant markets of Istanbul.

Which bazaar is your favorite one to visit?  Let us know!