Istanbul is a city steeped in history and culture, and shopping is one of its most popular activities. From sweets to textiles, spices to ceramics, jewelry to leather goods, there are so many items to choose from when shopping in Istanbul. In this guide I introduce you to the best souvenirs in Istanbul and provide you with tips for shopping in Istanbul, ensuring you make the most of your time and money in this vibrant city.
Must-Buy Souvenirs in Istanbul
When choosing a souvenir, it is important to consider the weight restrictions of your luggage. To avoid exceeding the limit imposed by your airline, it is wise to opt for lightweight and easy-to-transport items. That being said, there are various options to pick a souvenir in Istanbul there is something for everyone. In this list, we will deep dive into traditional souvenirs and not typical souvenirs like magnets or postcards.
From baklava to Turkish delight, the sweets in Turkey are world-renowned. These sweets are made using only the finest ingredients and are a popular choice for visitors as gifts. Before purchasing souvenirs, it is recommended to do some online research about the stores. This may help you find better quality items at a more affordable price, away from tourist areas.
When buying sweets like Baklava, it is crucial to request proper packaging, especially if the sweets contain fluids like Baklava. Let the shopkeeper know you’ll be transporting them by plane and they should be able to pack them securely.
Additionally, consider the shelf-life of the sweets, as some may not retain their flavor over time. For example, Baklava is best consumed within 2-3 days of arrival, while Turkish Delight (Lokum) is a more stable option that can be enjoyed later.
Turkish spices are famous for their unique flavor, aroma, and color. From herbs to dried fruits, you can find a wide variety of spices in Istanbul’s markets. Istanbul, being a major port city, has access to a wide variety of spices from around the world as well.
The important factor here is to know how to pick a good quality spice or where to buy them. It’s important to note that some store owners in Istanbul may sell mixed or adulterated spices, especially expensive ones like saffron. If you have a tour guide you can ask him/her where to find reliable store owners.
From hand-woven carpets to towels and scarves, textiles are an important part of Turkish culture. They are known for their high quality and intricate designs, making them a popular choice for gifts. You can buy clothes from local stores as well.
Probably the most famous souvenir is a carpet, however, you can also opt for top-notch clothing made by Turkish brands such as Mavi, Ipekyol, and Sarar. Note that carpets may be costly in tourist areas and can be difficult to transport, so consider these factors before you buy one. Also, Turkish Towels are quite famous. Turkish towels also referred to as peshtemal or hammam towels, are crafted from 100% organic Aegean cotton featuring lengthy fibers, woven into a flat texture. So you should definitely check them out.
When shopping in Turkey, don’t just limit yourself to well-known brands in malls or cities. The country is a major textile producer, and you’ll often find higher-quality products at lower prices in local shops.
Ceramics, Glassware & Copperware
Turkish ceramics are known for their bright colors and intricate designs, and are often used as decorative items in homes. You can visit stores like Pasabahce to buy high-quality Glassware and ceramics. There are a variety of products like Vases, Plates, and decorative stuff. The most typical souvenirs would be Turkish coffee cups, Turkish Tea Cups, and Nazar boncugu.
A Nazar boncugu is an eye-shaped amulet believed to protect against the evil eye. Other than that you can find a variety of different souvenirs in the Grand bazaar and also you can buy some copperware as well. Copper Cezve is one of the most popular souvenirs in Istanbul.
A cezve is a small, brass or copper coffee pot used in Turkish coffee brewing. It has a long handle and a small spout and is traditionally used to make strong, unfiltered coffee by boiling finely ground coffee beans with water and sugar. Overall there are lots of options in this category so you can definitely find something for everyone.
From gold to silver, Turkish jewelry is known for its beauty and craftsmanship. Whether you’re looking for a special piece of jewelry for yourself or as a gift, you’ll find something you love in Istanbul.
The handwork in Istanbul is also cheaper than in Europe and USA so even though the gold and silver prices are the similar, you can still buy the jewelry cheaper than in western countries. It is also possible to find lots of traditional designs which makes the jewelry unique. There are lots of jewelry stores in the whole city. If you are looking for a more authentic place then the Grand Bazaar is the place to go.
From shoes to bags, Turkish leather goods are made from high-quality leather and are renowned for their durability. It is important to note that there are also famous mass producers like Desa and Matras. They are producing high-quality leather goods for years and they are quite famous in Turkey.
You can find their stores in Shopping Malls and in the shopping streets. You can also visit local leather stores if you are looking for something handmade and unique
What are the Best Places to Shop for Souvenirs in Istanbul?
Of course, the first place that pops into anyone’s mind is the Grand Bazaar. This famous bazaar has been around for centuries and is one of the largest covered markets in the world. You can find everything from spices to jewelry, textiles to ceramics, Turkish mosaic lamps, and much more.
Also, the Spice Bazaar is a usual suspect. As the name suggests, this market is the place to go for spices, herbs, and dried fruits. With over 100 shops, there is no shortage of items to choose from.
As a tourist, you will be in Sultanahmet at some point. You should definitely check out the Arasta Bazaar. Where you can find lots of traditional souvenirs.
You can also find lots of small shops in the Fatih, Galata, and Eminönü Areas.
Tips for Shopping in Istanbul
- Haggle and bargain: In Turkey bargaining is something usual. So when you hear the price from the shopkeeper try to bargain for a cheaper price. Most of the times you will get a cheaper price!
- Know the local markets: Istanbul is famous for its bazaars, such as the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar. These are great places to find unique souvenirs, spices, and textiles.
- Compare prices: Don’t be afraid to bargain, as prices are often negotiable in local shops.
- Look for authentic products: Istanbul is known for its leather goods, ceramics, textiles, and jewelry. Look for items made in Turkey to ensure authenticity.
- Check for quality: Be mindful of the quality of products, especially when it comes to textiles and jewelry. Look for signs of good craftsmanship, such as neat stitching on leather goods and clear gemstones on jewelry.
- Stay safe: Be aware of pickpockets in crowded areas, and keep your valuables close. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash, and consider using a credit card instead.
- Take your time: Don’t forget shopping is all about fun! Shopping in Istanbul can be overwhelming, so take your time and enjoy the experience. Don’t feel pressured to make a purchase right away, and consider visiting multiple shops to find the best deals.
Istanbul offers a wealth of shopping opportunities for visitors looking for unique souvenirs. From handcrafted ceramics and textiles to spices and jewelry, there is something for everyone.
Whether you prefer to explore the bustling bazaars or browse the shelves of local shops, be sure to take your time, compare prices, and check for quality. With a little effort, you’re sure to find the perfect memento to bring back home and remember your trip to Istanbul. So, next time you’re in the city, be sure to add some shopping to your itinerary, and bring back a piece of Istanbul with you!
FAQs for Best Souvenirs to buy in Istanbul
Yes, you can bring spices and tea home. Ensure they comply with your country’s customs regulations.
There are no strict rules, but displaying calligraphy at eye level is common for better appreciation. Choose a location that reflects the art’s significance.
Purchase from reputable stores and look for a certificate of authenticity. Authentic talismans are believed to have protective qualities.
Turkish tea is distinct for its strong flavor and preparation method. It’s typically brewed in a double teapot, creating a rich and robust taste.
While the Grand Bazaar offers a vast selection, authentic carpets can be found in other parts of Istanbul, often at lower prices.
Absolutely! Haggling is an integral part of the Grand Bazaar experience. Don’t hesitate to negotiate for the best price.