Take a Stroll Around a Traditional Turkish Market With Us
The traditional markets of Turkey are one of the highlights of any visit to the country. Market culture in the region of what is now called Turkey dates back to the days of the Byzantine Empire. Traditional Turkish markets, whether in the Istanbul or the outlying areas, are beehives of activity where everything is available from astonishing handmade porcelain and Turkish mosaic lamps to knock offs of luxury handbags. (Thankfully, that type of activity is kept to a minimum.) When visiting a traditional Turkish market make sure you get lots of pictures because the blizzard of colors and textures and the rabbit warren nature of many markets make them the stuff of National Geographic covers.
Must-See Traditional Turkish Markets in Istanbul
The following are a few of the best traditional markets in Istanbul:
- Fatih market - Located in the historic center of Istanbul Fatih market is a visual feast for the eye surrounded by buildings more than a thousand years old. So there’s no letup in the interest even after you exit the market. Fatih boast some 1,300 established vendors and more than 2,500 associated street peddlers.
- Yeşilköy market - This is a very popular, slightly upscale market that occurs every Wednesday in the Yeşilköy neighborhood of Istanbul. There’s a higher degree of organization than you’ll find at other markets but the dizzying array of hand woven baskets, fresh fruits, Turkish rugs, textiles and even cheeses from around the world will keep you enthralled all day.
- Kadıköy market - The Kadıköy market combines the feel of Montmartre with the controlled mayhem of an Asian street market. You’ll find textiles, fresh fruits and vegetables, mosaic lamps, hand woven rugs and more. And when you’re in need of a break there are innumerable cafes where you can enjoy a cup of rich Turkish coffee and just drink in the splendor of it all.
Wandering Further Afield
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous take the train or bus to the southern port city of Fethiye. The Fethiye Tuesday market is nothing short of nirvana for both the bargain hunter and those who love idyllic settings, fresh air and variety. This is a sprawling market that encompasses everything from fixed storefronts to large areas of temporary stalls set up under canvas awnings fluttering in the gentle breezes wafting in off the Mediterranean. The air is alive with the scent of spices, scented candles and perfumes and when you tire don’t worry, there are dozens of comfortable, colorful cafes to take the weight off your feet and relax. It’s the type of place that will leave you thinking life is pretty good.
Textiles to Turkish Mosaic Lamps
Whether you’re looking to purchase Turkish coffee or Turkish mosaic lamps or you’re just image hunting don’t forget to take your time and drink it all in. Traditional Turkish markets have a vibrance all their own. They’re typically well-organized without being over-regulated, they’re colorful beyond belief and the quality and variety of goods on offer accurately reflects the nature of the area as being the traditional crossroads where East meets West. Thankfully, most of the traditional Turkish markets have not been overrun with knock off goods, although to be sure you’ll want to check any discount items to see where they were made. However, if you stick to traditional Turkish handicraft items you should have no problem establishing their provenance.
Some of the things you’re likely to see in a traditional Turkish market include:
- Ceramics - The ceramics craft dates back a millennium or more in many parts of Turkey. The Turks are deservedly proud of the quality of their ceramics and you’re likely to fall in love with them as well.
- Inlaid wood items - The people of Asia Minor have spent centuries perfecting their woodworking techniques and inlaid wood items are a point of particular pride. Jewelry boxes, backgammon boards, tables and more are all on display in most traditional markets.
- Textiles - Genuine Turkish textiles and household items like table mats, tablecloths, linens and rugs are all on display in the better traditional markets. The Turkish handicraft tradition is one of the richest in the world and nowhere is it better expressed than in the products that emanate from the looms of their master weavers.
- Turkish Mosaic Lamps - The Turkish mosaic lamp was the direct inspiration for the Tiffany lamp and has been around for many centuries. These magnificent handcrafted items can be found in most traditional markets.
- Spices - As you make your way through most traditional markets in Turkey you’ll be aware that the air has a unique and compelling fragrance to it you won’t find anywhere else. It’s mesmerizing and it’s largely the result of the plethora of herbs and spices on sale in various stalls.
Buying in a Traditional Turkish Market
As you make your way around a traditional Turkish market you’ll likely find yourself wanting to purchase some items to take home with you. Just keep a few things in mind:
- Haggling is expected - If you simply accept the first price that’s tossed out at you you’re throwing money away. They know it and you’ll eventually figure it out yourself. Instead, don’t be afraid to bargain and bargain hard if you like. Just remember to do so in good spirits.
- Always inspect your item for quality - This is especially true of textiles. Always take a good look at the stitching, feel the texture and quality of the material and take your time.
- Look for stalls where locals are shopping - The local folks typically know which vendors sell quality items and which are there to lift tourist dollars. While this is less of a bellwether when it comes to things like mosaic lamps it can be a useful guide when looking for textiles and food.
The traditional Turkish market is one of those things every serious traveler must experience. But even if you’re not a professional vagabond you’ll be overwhelmed by what you encounter and will come away with memories to last a lifetime.