Destination: Turkey: Istanbul
Istanbul Shopping Advice
Today Istanbul is truly one of the most exciting cities in the world for shopping because it offers a mix of up-and-coming brands, international luxury labels and authentic artisan crafts. It lies at the crossroads of east and west and old and new and those blends are revealed in its creative wares. Whether you seek rare antique textiles, hand-stitched Anatolian carpets, trendy fur vests, suede jackets or leather boots or museum-quality jewelry, it can be found here and the browsing and buying is likely to involve passing through colorful neighborhoods and meeting passionate tradesmen. And in Istanbul, as in other capitals with lots of local craftsmen like Hong Kong, Shanghai and Marrakech, it is quite possible to have custom products made while you are in town. So if you want a leather or fur jacket or bag copied or crafted, bring a sample with you and have a new one made-to-measure.
As one of the fastest growing metropolises in Europe or Asia (remember it sprawls across both), the city is best approached with a strategic shopping plan that focuses on specific neighborhoods. (The traffic snarls can mean an hour’s journey from the Four Seasons Bosphorus or Ciragan Kempinski to the Grand Bazaar so you will want to go once. ) The most concentrated areas for special finds are the exclusive residential area of Nisantasi, where Turkey’s best designers’ boutiques are sprinkled among the famous international brands, and the Grand Bazaar. Other special shops lie just beyond these two zones and are also worth the trek if you have more than a few days in town or are in pursuit of their specific specialties. Curkurcuma is another charming area with lots of antique stores.
Credit cards are widely accepted and are always recommended when having items shipped, but cash may gain a lower price, and ATM machines are quite plentiful.
BAZAAR BARGAINING If you are going to the Grand Bazaar, remember that it draws tourists and the shopkeepers set prices according to what they think you will pay. Bargaining is a centuries-old custom here. While many Westerners view it as unseemly and the practice of con men, it is a tradition by which fair value was established. We suggest browsing a number of shops that sell what you are looking for. This is easy at the Grand Bazaar since goods are clustered together with tiles in one area, leather in another and carpets in another. Browse to get a sense of what you like and bargain (many sellers will start with a price double what they may take, but not always.) It’s best to have a sense of what you think something is worth and buying a number of things will always give you more leverage on a good price. Walk away if you have to and if the store owner doesn’t come after you, then you were probably asking for too big a discount.
The super choosy can skip the Grand Bazaar altogether and head, instead to the exclusive boutiques of Nisantasi and such rarefied stores as Armaggan and Beyman, where you can find exquisite jewelry on par with the best designers at work in Paris for a fraction of the price and leather and fur fashions of extremely high-quality and at insanely low prices.
Melissa’s favorite shops in Nisantasi
Armaggan Think of it as a Turkish version of Takashimaya with only the very finest Turkish products from linens and food to spectacular jewelry and inlaid wood products, even exquisite birdcages.
B Point also near Armaggan has great jewelry at really reasonable prices
Gonul Paksoy for fashions with a uniquely Ottoman sensibility
Midnight Express for a great selection of the best of modern Turkish designers
Favorite stops in the Grand Bazaar
Abdullah is great for gifts
Adnan & Hasan is one of the best place for carpets, totally civilized, with marked prices and high-quality pieces
Epoque jewelers has an amazing following for its vintage jewelry. We’ve heard that this is the first stop for vintage jewelry collector and architect extraordinaire Zaha Hadid
Koc for leather, fur and suede. They will make or copy anything. Best outpost is the one in Grand Bazaar
For bargain hunters
Kiyici Canta for the best copies of all the top handbags
Sehrazat for scarves of all kinds
Timucin for the best knock-off jewelry
Haremlique has gorgeous linens and towels
Sevan Bicakci for really special jewelry
Sofa Art and Antiques is just outside of Grand Bazaar and has a more curated, best-of-the-bazaar experience
Read more tips from designer and personal shopper Denise Spencer
Members read: Indagare Insider designer Madeline Weinrib on her favorite Istanbul shops
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