Getting to know a city, especially one like Istanbul, requires going well beyond the must-do lists, and embracing the chaotic order of its daily life, mingling with crowds who are going about their day, without being aware of their wonderfully curious appearance to those who are strangers in this land.
And where better to get immersed in local culture than the weekly markets where the smell of fresh produce gets mixed with the cries of toddlers and the shouts of ambitious sellers. Plus, it comes with a bonus – you get to buy inexpensive stuff!
What to take with you: Common sense.
Who to go with: Someone who doesn’t mind watching you stare at stuff for long periods of time or someone who joins in your curiosity.
When to go: When you have the energy to walk for hours and the patience to handle huge crowds. Remember that closing times may vary depending on the weather or the seller’s mood, so try not to push your luck.
Feriköy Antika Pazarı
The fact that there is enough second-hand stuff in this country to fill an entire market on a weekly basis is slightly baffling but also kind of captivating. This unique market carries a very nostalgic air, and is much like an open-air antique store filled with memories. You’ll find anything from tea sets and cameras to posters and clothing, to dinner sets and records not just from Turkey, but from Europe and America as well. Keep in mind that this is something between a flea market and an antique market so you’ll come across low and high prices depending on what you’re looking to buy.
When: On Sundays from 9am to 7pm
Where: Lala Şahin Sokak, Bomonti
How to get there: Take the metro and get off at the Osmanbey stop. Walk towards Bomonti. Ask for directions if need be.
Feriköy Organik Pazarı
The first of its kind in Istanbul, the Feriköy Organic Market attracts the crème de la crème of the European Side. Celebs from Bebek and fashionably healthy hipsters from high-end neighborhoods like Ulus, Levent, Etiler and Ortaköy come here to buy the very best of organic goods (from produce to beauty products) in the city. Add to that mix locals that live in the area, and you get an interesting potpourri of Istanbulites. Tip: Head early to avoid crowds and make sure the produce is not sold out.
When: On Saturdays from 7am to 5pm
Where: Cumhuriyet Mah. Gökkuşağı Lala Şahin Sok. Feriköy, Şişli
How to get there: Get off at the Osmanbey stop of the metro and walk towards Bomonti.
Ulus Sosyete Pazarı
This is one of the legendary markets of the European Side. It used to be located across from Akmerkez (Istanbul’s first shopping mall), located in Ulus, and that is where the market gets its name. Now located in Ortaköy, and sometimes referred to as Ortaköy Sosyete Pazarı, this market has the trendiest clothing and accessories including well-imitated designer bags and fake (and sometimes authentic) streetwear from brands like Zara, Mango, Gap, Nike, and Adidas. Because the market attracts a very high profile crowd, you get VIP services from valet parking to mobile bathrooms and changing rooms. The market gets crowded after work ends, so plan your visit accordingly.
When: On Thursdays from 8am to 7pm
Where: Dereboyu Cad. Çayır Sok., Ortaköy
How to get there: By cab. The closest metro station, which is not very close, is the Levent one.
Kadıköy Salı Pazarı
Photo by Basakina
This is perhaps the most popular market on the Asian Side. Spread over more than 39000 sqm of space with nearly 2000 stalls, the Kadıköy market has everything from clothing and fresh produce to flowers, rugs, and home appliances. People from far corners of the city come to this market to make the best of the budget goods on sale. It is rumored that the bazaar creates 22 tons of trash each week. (The market has temporarily moved to Göztepe but will be moved back to its original location in 2017.)
When: On Tuesdays from 9am to 8pm
How to get there: Take the metro to the Göztepe stop. You'll see the market across the station.
Beşiktaş Cumartesi Pazarı
Photo by Seza Bali
It’s one fifth of the size of its Kadıköy counterpart but arguably equally popular. With only 400 stands, the emphasis here is on cheap clothing and everything for the home excluding furniture. It’s located in a covered yet open-air car park with fresh produce on the first floor and everything else on the second.
When: On Saturdays from 6am to 6pm
Where: Nüzhetiye Caddesi and its surrounding streets
How to get there: If coming from Sultanahmet, take the tramway to Kabataş, then take a cab. If coming from the Asian Side, take the vapur and then take a cab. Tell the driver to take you to the market and if you want to know where you are going, google Ihlamur Kasrı, which is very close to where the market is set up.
Fatih Çarşamba Pazarı
This market is big. Really big. If you’re good with numbers, you’ll know what I mean: Imagine 7 main streets and 17 side streets, over 1200 vendors and triple the amount of stands and nearly 2500 peddlers. Obviously, these are not official numbers, but you get the idea. With goods coming from all around Istanbul (including neighboring cities in the Black Sea region) and people flocking from all corners of the city, it turns out to be one big party. And the crowd here is completely different, appealing to locals in Faith, Balat, and Beyoğlu areas, the city’s more conservative and less affluent sections. Because it’s so huge, you’ll basically find everything here. If you’re into DIY, be prepared to spend some time looking through hundreds of different fabrics. Tip: If you want to blend it, don’t be too liberal with your outfit.
When: On Wednesdays from 5am to 9pm
Where: The streets around the Fatih Mosque
How to get there: If you’re staying in Sultanahmet or Beyoğlu, just take a cab. If not, take the metro to the Haliç stop and then take a cab.
Tarihi İnebolu Pazarı
A revered market for foodies and some of Istanbul’s top chefs, this historic markets brings together some of the best regional ingredients from the Black Sea region and especially Kastamonu, filling up the stands with cheese, olives, butter, eggs, jams, honey, and more.
When: On Sundays from 7am to 5pm
Where: Küçük Piyale Mahallesi, Toprak Tabya Sokak, Kasımpaşa
How to get there: Take the metro to the Taksim or Şişhane stops, and take a cab from there.
Beyazıt Sahaflar Çarşısı
Although this list is reserved for weekly bazaars, we thought it’d be ok to make an exception for bibliophiles. This permanent bazaar is mainly for second-hand books and magazines in Turkish. Yet you don’t need to know the language to appreciate the selection here (although it would obviously help), which includes textbooks, stationery, religious book, foreign books, and much more. If you like the smell of old books and are obsessed with old school book covers and page design, you’ll have a blast.
Where: Çadırcılar Caddesi, Eminönü
How to get there: Take the tram and get off at the Beyazıt-Kapalı Çarşı stop. The Sahaflar Çarşısı is located right by the Grand bazaar, and is only a 5 minute walk from the tram stop.