Best bazaars and fashion streets to shop in Istanbul

The capital of Türkiye is a haven for foodies and style enthusiasts alike.

The Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest shopping malls in the world

Istanbul is a city full of history, culture and beauty. Spanning two continents, this magical meeting place of East and West has a lot to offer, especially after serving as an imperial capital for almost 1,600 years. One can only imagine the stories every corner of the city has to tell.

Previously known as Byzantium, Constantinople and Stamboul, the capital city of Türkiye houses significant buildings and architecture, including mosques — there are more than 3,000 places of worship for Muslims in Istanbul alone — and cathedrals.

As a global trade centre, Istanbul has remained a shopping paradise for centuries. It presents a myriad of great destinations and hubs with its centuries-old bazaars, historical shopping districts and streets, exclusive fashion boutiques and modern shopping malls.

Here are some of the key shopping venues and streets to visit for all manner of desirables, from clothes, fabric and jewellery, to antiques, rugs, food, spices and sweets.


Istiklal Street


Explore local clothing brands such as LC Waikiki, Koton, Oxxo and Mavi at Istiklal Street

One of the most popular and crowded streets of Istanbul, Istiklal was built during the Ottoman Empire. Originally known as Grande Rue de Pera, it was renamed by the new Turkish Republic in the 19th century. Once choked by cars, it has thankfully been restored by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality who repaved the roads and reconstituted the city’s historic trams, making it a hive of pedestrian traffic today.

Also known as Independence Avenue, Istiklal Street extends from Taksim Square — centre of culture, entertainment and shopping — to the Karakoy area, a key commercial centre and transport hub — and onwards to the landmark Galata Tower. It is no wonder that the area is a magnet for tourists as it is easily accessible via buses or trams from nearby neighbourhoods. The more athletic ones can gear up with their most comfortable walking shoes because there is no better way to enjoy the place and its surroundings than by exploring it á pied.

Istiklal Street is home to a plethora of cinemas, theatres, art workshops, galleries, bars and cafes. It is also where people come to explore local high street clothing brands such as LC Waikiki, Koton, Oxxo and Mavi, and food establishments that date back decades. Other culturally significant places to visit in the area include Hagia Triada Church and Saint Antoine Church, the largest Catholic church in Istanbul.


Zorlu Centre


Zorlu Centre is a hot spot for high society

Located in the Beşiktaş district of Istanbul, Zorlu Centre is a multiplex comprising an upscale shopping mall, a Cinemaximum megaplex, a five-star Raffles hotel, as well as residences and offices. Small wonder it is greatly favoured by the city’s high society as well as jet-setting globetrotters. The modern mall is home to fashion giants including Chanel, Tiffany & Co, Dior, Louis Vuitton and Fendi. Opened in 2013, it is the de facto launchpad for introducing global names to the locals, be it is fashion, food or homeware. International restaurants such as Jamie’s Italian, Eataly, Morini and Tom’s Kitchen made their Türkiye landfall at this very plaza.

Having a Cinemaximum megaplex also means that the mall attracts film buffs who are keen on the city’s most extraordinary movie experience,  with no less than 14 theatres which can accommodate 1,600 people. On top of that, it houses a performing arts centre with a capacity of 3,500 that regularly stages performances: including Broadway acts, musical theatre, classical and jazz concerts and opera. The Raffles Istanbul, meanwhile, is a luxurious property offering 132 guestrooms and 49 suites with spectacular views of the city, making it a strategically-placed choice for those who come to Istanbul for business or pleasure.




Galataport offers unique shopping and gastronomic experiences for tourists and locals alike

Situated in the heart of the city, Galataport Istanbul is a major waterfront development project covering 1.2km of coastline on the Bosporus Strait, complete with a new world-class cruise terminal. Developed in 2016 and opened to the public in 2021, the venture aimed to breathe new life into the old ports that had been abandoned for many years, making them a popular travel destination alongside the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace.

Various activities and facilities are available around the port to accommodate cruise passengers and crew, tourists and locals alike. The İstanbul Museum of Modern Art and Mimar Sinan University İstanbul Museum of Painting and Sculpture, located in the Galataport complex, harbour some of the finest works of modern art in Türkiye.

Galataport not only offers knowledge of local heritage and culture, but also provides visitors a unique experience of entertainment, gastronomy and shopping. It features numerous brands that offer a wide selection of Turkish and world cuisines, fashion and accessories. After doing some shopping at the newly restored Post Office Fashion Galleria, customers can head over to restaurants of their choice including three-Michelin-starred eateries to sample local delicacies.


Grand Bazaar


Tourists can discover all sorts of locally made treasures at the Grand Bazaar (Photo: Aireena Azni/ The Edge Malaysia)

One of the oldest shopping malls in the world, the Grand Bazaar dates all the way back to 1455. To give some context, that was the same year the Wars of the Roses began in England. Spanning 30,700 sq m, it comprises a network of more than 60 covered streets and 4,000 shops. Sounds like a shopping heaven? It is indeed. With so many stalls to browse, it is recommended that you allocate at least three hours when planning a trip here, taking into account time for bargaining (a must) and retracing your steps should you get lost. Pro tip: Be sure to remember your entry point - taking a picture always helps.

Tourists can discover all sorts of locally made treasures such as Turkish carpets, kilims, Kutahya ceramics, jewellery, metalwork from the country’s southeast regions like Gaziantep and Mardin, as well as edibles ranging from Turkish Delight to condiments and spices. There are also unique clothing pieces and fashion accessories which demand more than a second glance. Bear in mind that shopping at Grand Bazaar requires excellent bargaining skills. Never settle for the price displayed on a tag.


Spice Bazaar


From spicy red pepper flakes to tangy sumac, you’ll find it all at the Spice Bazaar

The next most popular spot after the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar is part of the New Mosque building constructed in the 1660s. It used to be, and still is, the centre for spice trade in the region. However, over time, a great many merchants have come in to sell more than just spices.

On that note, you can expect to find shops offering all sorts of sweets, nuts, dried fruits, jewellery and plenty of souvenirs. While the Spice Bazaar itself houses about 85 shops, make your way out of the building and you will find more vendors selling the same goods at cheaper prices, giving customers the opportunity to compare prices and bargain harder.

If you are looking to bring home some local treats for family and friends, this is the best place to buy them as you get to sample what’s on offer before whipping out your wallet. While you are at it, do not miss the chance to wash it all down with a cup of the locally produced herbal teas.


Bağdat Street


An area full of life, Bağdat Street often hosts cultural celebrations and national events

Bağdat Street is located in Kadıköy district in the Asian side of Istanbul. Described as a modern and chic version of Beyoğlu’s İstiklal Street, the 9km avenue is where the locals flock to shop for luxury goods, and dine at fancy restaurants and bars. Running parallel to the water and boasting numerous parks with a sea view, it is a pleasant area for visitors to stroll around and enjoy the beautiful landscape while browsing standalone boutiques.

Considered one of the most luxurious streets in the world, Bağdat Street is always busy and full of life, especially during weekends and holiday seasons. It is a place people come to let loose and spend time with loved ones. The upper-class residential area is not quite as popular among tourists, but we think it is definitely worth exploring when one visits Istanbul.

A modern meeting venue among the Turks, the one-way street is often used for cultural celebrations and other national events. When a parade takes place, Bağdat Street will be filled with blaring cars, as well as people dancing, singing and partying. If you are looking to observe local festivities and be a part of them, mark Bağdat Street down on your list.


Kadiköy Market


Kadiköy Market is a haven for fresh produce

Another place for the foodies out there is Kadiköy Market, also located on the Asian side of Istanbul. If you are staying in the city for an extended period, we suggest you stop by this food market first before doing anything else. You will find everything you need to stock up your fridge and then some. It is a haven for fresh produce such as meat, seafood, fruits and vegetables, spices, sweets and cheeses. It is also full of shops selling souvenirs and other merchandise, making it the perfect place to grab a memento or two.

If you are only here for local delicacies, make your way to the popular Çiya Sofrası to try Türkiye’s best ethnic and regional cuisines. The three-storeyed restaurant serves a variety of dishes such as Dolmas (steamed grape leaves filled with a mixture of rice, onions, currants, pine nuts, mint and spices), Kibbeh (fried bulgur wheat balls stuffed with spiced ground meat, onion and pine nuts) and Perdeli Pilav (a thin layer of dough consisting of rice, chicken, onion and peanuts). Whatever whets your appetite, you will agree Istanbul offers all that and more.


This article first appeared on Apr 10, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.


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