Istanbul's bazaars

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 April, 2008, 12:00am

You could spend hours wandering around the maze of alleyways in Istanbul's bazaars. Eminonu district is home to the Spice Bazaar, or Misir Carsisi (below), where myriad shops sell herbs, cheese, soaps and dried fruit.

In a prime corner of the bazaar is Malatya Pazari (shop 1, Misir Carsisi 44;, which sells stuffed apricots, figs, dates and cubes of Turkish delight. The owner's business was established by his great-grandfather 125 years ago. You can pay as little as a few dollars for a handful of dates or buy them in gift boxes priced from 10 lira (HK$60).

The Papatya Aktar medicine shop (Misir Carsisi 67, tel: 90 212 528 8575; has teas, herbs, tinctures and oils said to cure everything from haemorrhoids to impotence.

The herbal love potions and Turkish Viagra are the best-sellers at this traditional medicine shop, which looks like a science laboratory. Pick up some 'night of Istanbul' (6 lira per milligram), an aromatherapy oil that can be used as a perfume, as a bath oil and for massage. Mehmet Kalmaz (Misir Carsisi 41, tel: 90 212 522 6604) also specialises in potions and lotions. It sells remedies said to make men stronger and women look younger.

Caffeine addicts, meanwhile, will be drawn to Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi Mahdumlari (66 Tahmis Sokak, Eminonu; Istanbul's best-known coffee purveyor sells Turkish, espresso and filtered coffee. Pick up two signature cups and saucers, a copper pot and a jar of coffe for about 30 lira.

The Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi) is a shopaholic's dream. The labyrinth of dome-roofed lanes, its oldest parts dating back to the 15th century, is virtually a city within a city, with mosques, banks, cafes, restaurants and more than 4,000 shops. The maze of alleyways has stalls selling leather coats, jewellery and carpets. Other vendors specialise in glass lamps, replica Ottoman weapons, mother-of-pearl mirrors, water pipes and hand-painted ceramic bowls.

It's a pleasure doing business at carpet dealer Kismet (84 Nuruosmaniye Caddesi, tel: 90 212 512 3888; The shop's range includes pure wool Anatolian carpets and silk creations from Kayseri, central Turkey. You can pay as little as 50 lira for a small carpet to many thousands for an antique. Sinbad (26 Terziler Street, tel: 90 212 527 1624; also has a huge range of carpets, pashmina shawls, leather wallets (from 40 lira) and belts (from 33 lira).

Abdulla Natural Products (62 Halicilar Caddesi) sells cotton bedlinen, woollen throws from eastern Turkey (from 400 lira) and pure olive oil soap (5 lira).

To browse a wide range of hand-painted tiles, plates, cups and bowls, go to Selvi El Sanatlari (54 Yaglikcilar Caddesi, tel: 90 212 527 0997). Prices start from 15 lira depending on size and quality.

Sofa (Nuruosmaniye Caddesi 85, tel: 90 212 520 2850) has prints, textiles, ceramics and calligraphy. Its antique Ottoman jewellery costs from 600 lira.