Istanbul Travel Guide

Shopping

Connecting east and west, the will to control the major trading routes was the reason why Istanbul was founded in the first place, so shopping should definitely not be overlooked in your Istanbul experience.

The currency used in Istanbul is the Turkish Lira (TL) though the euro and US dollar are also accepted at places frequented by tourists (although certain tourist attractions such as the Hagia Sophia only accept liras). Currency exchanges (döviz bürosu) and banks are plentiful in Istanbul and offer extremely competitive exchange rates with no commission charged. If you are planning to visit Istanbul, bring hard foreign currency and exchange them after you arrive, preferably at a bank or a currency exchange. Exchange only what you need as you will find difficulty exchanging your leftover TRYback to foreign currency after you leave the country. Alternatively, withdraw money from ATMs whenever you need cash.

Shops may be closed on Sundays. Most major shopping malls have security checkpoints you usually see in airports and museums prior to entry.

Istanbul's historical bazaars with an oriental ambiance, once sitting firmly on the western terminii of the Silk Road and spice routes, all dating back to Ottoman era, are all located in the the peninsula of Old City.

On the other hand, modern shopping malls (alışveriş merkezi, usually shortened to AVM), popping all around the city in the last three decades, are mostly to be found in New Istanbul and western suburbs, though they are by no means exclusively located in these districts.

If you are after top quality upmarket garments, then you may better head for Nişantaşı in European Side and Bağdat Avenue in Asian Side.

Here are some of what are popular to buy while in the city:

Turkish Delight, or Lokum (as the locals call it). A good buy since you're in Turkey. It is advisable to buy it fresh rather than in pre-packed boxes and to get a variety of flavours rather than the stereotypical rose-water or lemon flavors available abroad. Pistachio in particular is very good. The best place to buy lokum in Istanbul is from a store. Istiklal Caddesi in particular features a number of stores that sell Turkish sweets by the kilogram including lokum and helvah. There are quite a few shops selling Turkish Delight in the Grand Bazaar, although unless you are very good at haggling better prices can be found elsewhere.
Turkish Tea (çay, CHAI). The national drink of Turkey, brewed from leaves grown on the steep, verdant mountain slopes of Turkey's eastern Black Sea coast. Traditionally, Turkish tea is brewed samovar-style, with a small pot of very strong tea sitting on a larger vessel of boiling water. Pour a small amount of strong tea into a little tulip-shaped glass and cut it to the desired strength with hot water. Turks usually add cube sugar (never milk, although you can often get milk if you ask.) Having fresh, hot tea always available everywhere is one of life's splendid little luxuries in Turkey. Elma Çay: apple tea, like hot apple juice (EHL-mah chah-yee) is the flavour of preference, although it's more for tourists; Turks prefer Saya Çay (black tea).
Turkish Coffee Roasted and then finely ground coffee beans are boiled in a pot (cezve), usually with sugar, and served in a cup where the grounds are allowed to settle. A classic of Turkish culture.
Nargile (hookah) It is a single or multi-stemmed instrument for smoking flavored tobacco called shisha in which the smoke is passed through a water basin (often glass based) before inhalation. Different sizes of nargile make it easier to carry one home with you.
Rugs and kilims can be a good buy while in the city. Most rug-specialized stores in the city, though, are aimed at tourist trade, so pick up basics of bargaining to avoid being ripped off at these stores. They are mostly located around Sultanahmet.
Chalcedony. A semi-precious gemstone named after the nearby town of Chalcedon, and is sold in many of Istanbul's multitude of jewellery shops.
Off the Beaten Path. Places that offer the best at what they do but are not on any of the traditional tourist paths.
*ArkeoPera, Yenicarsi Caddesi, 16/A Petek Han, Galatasaray, +90 212 2930378 . Best antiquarian bookshop in Turkey, owner knows every Turkish excavation site first hand.
*Gonul Paksoy, 6/A Atiye Sokak, Tesvikiye, +90 212 2360209. Peerless one-of-a-kind dresses made for royalty from refined, antique Ottoman-era cloth.
*Iznik Foundation, 7 Oksuz Cocuk Sokak, Kurucesme, +90 212 2873243 . Offers neo-Iznik pottery after recreating original formulas from original Iznik kilns, which functioned between 1450 and 1650.
*Sedef Mum, 50 Irmak Caddesi, Dolapdere, +90 212 2535793. Artisans of the time honoured art of candle making, intricately sculpted and aromatic wares make very portable gifts.

source: Wikivoyage

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