Istanbul the shopping paradise
Turkey, and in particular, Istanbul, is a shopper’s paradise with a huge variety of choice at every price point. From designer goods to high quality textiles, jewellery, leather goods and of course traditional rugs there are plenty of lovely things to enjoy.
Your time in Turkey would not be complete without taking home some special memories. Souvenirs come in all shapes and sizes and will evoke thoughts and memories from your time in Istanbul. Bargain buy gifts include spices from the Spice Bazaar, Turkish honey or pomegranate molasses, a box of Turkish Delight or cute tulip shaped tea glasses for tea lovers.
Supermodel Kate Moss was said to have literally bagged herself a bargain on a visit to Turkey by purchasing a fake designer bag. Known as ‘super fakes’, these shops specialise in leather goods that are so carefully made that they really do look like the real thing. While at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, you can find some of the best matched Louis Vuitton bags at a fraction of the price.
Silver and gold
A huge variety of jewellery can be found in Istanbul and when bargaining is expected, there is plenty of opportunity to get something beautiful for a great price. Many shops will even create something that is to your own design although there is a huge range available from simple beaded bracelets to rings with precious stones through to ultra modern designs.
Jewellery shops are clustered throughout the city of Istanbul but traditionally the Grand Bazaar region was where the top craftsmen had their workshops and where many of the finest shops can still be found today.
The quality of gold in Turkey is excellent with 14, 18 or 22 carats. Before you purchase, make sure the jewellery comes with an authenticity certificate. When buying silver or gold, check for the maker's hallmark stamped into an inconspicuous part of the piece to certifying that it is genuine.
Istanbul is world famous for the fine artwork, the intricate designs and the rich colours of its rugs and carpets. There are several carpet stores around the city as well as the Grand Bazaar, which offers an enormous range on display. From bargain buys to genuine antiques, there is a rug to suit all styles, tastes and wallets.
The Turks are famous for loving tea, possibly because they have such a wide variety of it. You can find black tea grown in the hills up near the Black sea as well as herbal teas including fresh thyme, rosehip, linden, lemon balm and sage. A visit to Turkey is not complete without being offered apple tea made from reconstituted apple and sugar. It is quite sweet but incredibly refreshing and it’s a popular souvenir to bring back home. This simple powder is mixed with water and you will find it sold on every street corner.
Onyx is a natural volcanic stone, much of it is mined in Cappadocia about ten hours’ drive from Istanbul. Onyx comes in varying colours with green being the best quality, followed by beige. Onyx is a translucent stone marbled with concentric veins. It is transformed into beautiful objects and jewellery by talented craftsman and artisans who can carve away at it to create anything from intricate vases through to chess sets and ornamental figures.
You can’t leave Turkey without at least trying a Turkish Delight. This speciality can be known by its Turkish name ‘lokum’ and is one of the oldest forms of confectionery, originating in Istanbul during the Ottoman empire. It became a fashionable gift among the upper classes in Europe and is still a popular souvenir today. Traditionally it is flavoured with rose or lemon, but modern versions feature a range of ingredients such as pistachio nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, coconut and dried fruits.
A sisha is a smoking pipe known as nargile in Turkey. It is a water pipe that allows you to smoke flavoured tobacco as it is bubbled through the water. It’s a traditional past time and a relaxing, fun experience. Originally from India, the nargille found its way to Turkey during the Ottoman empire. Today, you can have many types of smoke to use with the nargile including apple, raspberry, banana or plain tobacco. Some are made from clay and others are very delicate because they feature ornately carved metals or plastics.
Turkish evil eye
Turkey is famous for the evil eye. To ward off spirits and evil people, you will see a blue circle with an eye in the middle wherever you go. This good luck sign can be found over the entrance to houses and businesses, on baby clothes, dogs' collars, in taxis, buses and fast food restaurants to name just a few. The evil eye is traditionally made of handmade glass featuring concentric circles or tear-drop shapes in dark blue, white, light blue and black, occasionally with a yellow or gold edge. They make for a great souvenir and can be made into a necklaces, key-rings, magnets or pretty much anything else.
Lemon cologne is a multi-purpose wonder, including a repellent for mosquitoes. Often you will find you are offered it to freshen up your hands after a bus journey or even after visiting the shops. It is offered to guests when they visit your home and given in restaurants at the end of a meal. But some people even use it to clean at home to kill germs.
Turkey Homes top tips for shopping in Istanbul
* Research the market to compare prices if you are planning a major purchase.
* The early bird catches the worm! Shopping is best done in the morning when the sales people have more time.
* Most shopkeepers know you may bargain so don’t be embarrassed to give it a go.
* Most of the major credit cards are accepted but you may get a lower price if you pay by cash.