September 07, 2011

10 of the Best Markets in Istanbul

Çarşamba A sprawling weekly affair in an ultra-conservative area, the enormous Fatih Çarşamba (Wednesday) market – flogging fruit and veg, eggs and cured meats, outrageous stilettos, gadgets, branded clothing and, well, everything at rock-bottom prices – is not a place for the faint-hearted. Disorganised and wholly unruly, relentless sellers on table-tops wade among overflowing wares, bellowing prices and bagging goods at the slightest sign of interest. Favoured by locals, tourists are refreshingly absent, so keep the cameras under wraps, adopt a steely visage and don't hold back from joining swarms of angry mothers raking through mountains of clothing, as these will, no matter how unlikely it seems, produce the occasional gem. Bags and loved ones should be kept close at all times.
• Kirmasti Mahellesi, 34083 Fatih

Inebolu A genuine Istanbul "foodie" can be defined by their affinity with the Inebolu Sunday market, an Anatolian culinary carnival located in the downtown grime of Beyoğlu's Kasimpaşa district. Tobacco-chewing sellers from the Inebolu Black Sea region of Turkey set off in their lorries on Saturday night to arrive in Istanbul at the crack of dawn, laden with the finest organic produce; chunky slabs of corn bread, bushels of fragrant herbs, thick pastes and purees, crates of eggs, bright flowers, splitting sacks of grain, walnuts and hazelnuts and bins of glistening olives. With beady-eyed punters beginning their forage as early as 6am, shalwar-clad damsels and their moustached counterparts police topsy-turvy stalls in a chorus of discordant bellows. A trip to Anatolia and back again – and all before breakfast. Shuts up shop early, at 4pm.
• Toprak Tabya Sokak, 34440 Küçük Piyale

Spice bazaar A short walk from the Grand Bazaar, the 17th-century Eminönü Egyptian Spice Bazaar, open seven days a week, is another favourite of the camera-wielding, souvenir-seeking tourist. A bustling gastronomic paradise since 1664, this is the best place to pick up dried fruits and nuts, spices, olives, Turkish delight, oils and essences of the finest order. Bronze curios glint in the sun, torpedo-sized dates are stacked to the rafters, and the decadent scent of freshly ground Mehmet Efendi coffee merges with the aroma of fresh fish, with surprisingly non-toxic consequences. Marriage proposals should only be entertained if they involve free Turkish delight.
• Sururi Mahellesi, 34120 Fatih

Sahaflar One thing you will not find in abundance at Turkish street markets is books. But the old booksellers' market in Beyazit is a haven of old volumes. A leafy city oasis located between the Grand Bazaar and Beyazit Mosque, under a canopy of chestnut and acacia trees, the 15th-century market and its associated tea garden was a hotspot for prominent poets, academics and authors in the mid-20th century, and now hosts 23 bookstores. Stationery, calligraphy materials, textbooks, novels and foreign and holy literature, Sahaflar has it all. Huddles of elderly, tobacco-chewing gents peddle watches, badges, old coins and trinkets, , although it's never entirely clear who is working and who is just hanging around for a chat.
• Çadircilar Caddesi, Beyazit Mahallesi, 34126

Tarlabaşi A short stroll from the bright lights of Taksim's Istiklal Street, the hard-knock residential area of Tarlabaşi – an area associated with unemployment, crime and prostitution – is not the first destination that comes to mind when directing earnest travellers. Yet surprisingly, the rough-and-readyTarlabaşi Sunday food market – a rabbit warren of dusty, uneven streets – boasts a loyal following from all corners of Istanbul society, from penny-pinching Erasmus students to muttering old villagers craving a taste of home. Stall-holders arrive in laden trucks at the crack of dawn, to unload oozing figs with the texture of honey, dazzling fruits, glowing jams of rosehip, apricot and raspberry, and pickled… everything. Economical street shopping at its most authentic.
• Sakiz Ağaci Sokak, Beyoğlu Mahellesi

Grand Bazaar Constructed in 1461, the Grand Bazaar, boasting 5,000 shops, is one of the largest covered markets in the world. Once a vibrant hub of international and local trade, recent decades have seen this labyrinth of glittering delights win the hearts, minds and wallets of wide-eyed tourists in search of the ultimate oriental shopping experience. With beckoning sellers peddling exquisite textiles, pottery, spices, jewellery, lanterns and souvenirs, bartering is an absolute must. However, resist the urge to entertain small boys wielding spinning tops on strings, who will address you as "mother", regardless of age – and, occasionally, gender. At the end of the day, if it gets a bit too bizarre, 22 historical gateways offer ample escape routes.
• The Bazaar is closed Sundays; Divanyolu Caddesi 42, Sultanahmet, 34010

Read more on the Guardian: 10 of the Best Markets in Istanbul