Every week in Istanbul more than 200 markets (pazar) are set. This is an old tradition that comes from the Ottoman times. Markets in Turkey offer more than just fruit and vegetables. You can find almost anything in the markets mentioned in this article. Textiles have a great hand in the popularity of markets. Even celebrities and high-society members are spotted while shopping at markets in Istanbul, and they don’t look bashful at all.
Markets Do Not Equal Poor Quality
Many textiles and leather products of famous brands are manufactured in Turkey. Most of these brands give their ‘export surplus’ or faulty items to the markets, to be sold with or without showing the brand name. The quality of such items ranges from perfect (export surplus) to slightly faulty, and sometimes even with a big shortcoming (called defolu in Turkish).
Three Market Shopping Essentials
While shopping for textile items, keep the following basic rules in mind:
- Quality Check — It is your responsibility to check out the quality of the items, so you are allowed to investigate the stall and samples.
- Crowds Can Be Positive — Every shopper wants to get his or her hands on the highest quality pieces. Therefore, some stalls tend to be more crowded than others, which may indicate where to find the top goodies. Be aware though that you could get intimidated by the hassle. When you find an item you might want to buy, do not let go until you have made up your mind. Once you put it down, it’s someone other’s to take.
- You Can Bargain – Lastly, shout or wave at the stallholder to pack your items and pay for them. You can always bargain, but you won’t always be successful. However, your chances increase with the number of items you plan to buy.
Our Five Istanbul Markets
- Fatih Market — Since the Fatih district is located in the historical part of Istanbul, it offers the oldest and also the biggest market place of the city. Locals mostly refer to it as Çarşamba Pazarı, since Çarşamba (Wednesday) is the market day. It is open between 5am and 9pm. Around 1290 vendors, 4800 stands and about 2500 peddlers compose this market on the 7 main and 17 smaller historic streets of Fatih. Needless to say that Fatih pazarı is an esteemed market, where you can find almost anything ranging from fruit, vegetables, and clothing, to all sorts of household materials. Another bonus for tourists is that it offers a great opportunity to experience the real middle-class local life.
- Yeşilköy Market — Another highly respected Wednesday market, this time located in Yeşilköy (literally translated ‘green village’). The area is known for its relatively greener and upper classy setting. You can find an array of high quality products in this well-organized market place. Yeşilköy pazarı covers 12 thousand square meters with 2000 stalls, floral displays, scattered tea cafes and toilet facilities. Most stalls accept credit cards, but prices may be a bit higher compared to other markets.
- Beşiktaş Market — A smaller scaled Saturday market with ‘only’ 400 stalls. Beşiktaş pazarı still offers most products you’ll find elsewhere, such as shoes, bags, unusual jewellery and home textiles. However, the focus is definitely on clothing. The market starts building up at dawn and stays until dusk.
- Ulus Market — Ulus pazarı was known as sosyete pazarı, or society market. Simply because of the variety on display of both fake and real brand products. However, it was closed down in 2005 because of the disturbance it gave to the neighborhood. After a long break sosyete pazarı came back with a permanent area opposite to the old one. Because of this, it’s no longer in Ulus, but in Ortaköy these days. But yes, it still has the goodies such as Gap, Adidas, Fred Perry t-shirts, Abercrombie sweatshirts, pants and shirts, Burberry boots, Ralph Lauren t-shirts and the indispensable Louis Vuitton bags. You can also find real fur and leather waistcoats, jackets as well as the make-up products, and many more items. Open on Thursdays between 8 am and 7.30 pm.
- Kadıköy — Another traditional market is set on Tuesdays and Fridays in Kadıköy, on the Asian side of Istanbul. It all started rather modest in 1969. However, as time passed by, together with the city the market expanded. As a result, Kadıköy pazarı more and more became a sufferance for the hectic city life with blocked traffic during the market days. So, in December 2008, it moved from its traditional place in Altıyol to a modern forty thousand square meters area, with no less than four thousand stalls and a car park in Fikirtepe. This market is famous for the huge amount of women visitors as well as the women stallholders.
Attention: due to construction work, the market is currently in Göztepe, easily reached with the M4 metro line and get off at the Göztepe stop.
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How to Reach Istanbul’s Markets?
In case you prefer a complete local experience, here are your (public) transport options:
- Fatih Market — Assuming that you are staying in Beyoğlu or Sultanahmet, I suggest you are better of taking a taxi. The market place is spread out on the streets behind the Fatih mosque.
- Yeşilköy Market — Take bus 72T from Taksim or bus 81 from Eminönü, and get off at Park station. Alternatively, you can take the train from Sirkeci station, get off at the Yeşilköy stop, and hop on the free transportation to the market place.
- Beşiktaş Market — Take bus 43 from Taksim and get off at Ihlamur station. I personally prefer a quick taxi ride. Ask the driver to go to Beşiktaş Pazarı or Ihlamur Kasrı (Ihlamur Palace), which is a well-known landmark close to the market place.
- Ulus Market — Ortaköy Dereboyu Caddesi goes up the hill right across the very famous Ortaköy Mosque. The market is located on Çayır Sokak, close to Ortaköy Cemetery. You can take a taxi from Ortaköy. You can get to Ortaköy from Taksim by bus 40 or 40T, and get off at Ortaköy station.
- Kadıköy Market — By bus 110 from Taksim, which has Kadıköy as its final destination. A more enjoyable way is to take the city line ferry from Eminönü or Karaköy to Kadıköy. From there on you can take a taxi, or take the M4 metro until Göztepe station.