A cruise to Istanbul can be the adventure of lifetime, particularly because of the fine cuisine, incredible architecture and exquisite shopping venues. Going shopping when travelling abroad is often an interesting pastime, but this observation is not quite true for Istanbul. This ancient Turkish city is the epitome of shopping and millions of people visit it every year with this exact purpose in mind.
There is practically no end of things that one could buy in the 4,000-store Grand Bazaar, the tiny old stores with an antique flair or the new malls that seem to pop out every day in all corners of the city. From gourmet baklava and Turkish delight to rugs and clothing, there is something for any avid shopper who debarks in Istanbul. Thus, if you are planning to go on a Europe cruise that has Istanbul on the list of port calls, make sure you don’t miss the opportunity to explore the magic shopping venues that lure visitors with their glimmer.
The Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi)
The Grand Bazaar, Kapali Carsi (“covered market”) in Turkish, is located in the Beyazit district and is one of the first things thousands of cruisers decide to visit in Istanbul. It was founded in 1461, during the reign of Sultan Mehmet II. With 60 lanes and more than 4,000 stores spread over 30 hectares, it is nowadays one of the biggest bazaars in the world. Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
No cruise is complete without tasting the traditional delicacies of the countries you visit. In the case of Istanbul, you will be totally pampered, especially if you have a sweet tooth, as the Turkish pastries are world-famous. The baklava and Turkish delight are the two essential elements for any gourmet sweet shop in Turkey and there are so many places where you could sample them. For some of the best baklava you will ever taste, try the Karaköy Gulluoglu store in Karaköy, while for Turkish Delight, the Inci Pastanesi in Beyoglu appears to be an excellent place. You can also buy baklava and Turkish Delight in many shops of the Egyptian Bazaar and Grand Bazaar. In these shops, you will also find spices, different kinds of tea, other Turkish specialties and even caviar. The choice is so varied, that you will probably return to the ship in the evening loaded with tasty treats and gifts.
The best locations for luxury shopping in Istanbul are the dozens of malls, which feature stores of all the world’s most popular designers as well as a wide range of cinemas and restaurants. If you would prefer shopping on the high street, head over to the Nişantaşı or the Bağdat Caddesi neighbourhoods. These areas are within easy reach from Karaköy, the place where most cruise ships dock in Istanbul.
As in the case of many other tourist destinations, you will find a multitude of souvenir shops in Istanbul. The Grand Bazaar remains a compelling place to buy your souvenirs. However, you should not hesitate to drastically bring prices down by fully engaging in the traditional negotiation that is an intrinsic part of the local culture. In many bazaar shops prices are not even listed, and you will find it quite amusing to bargain for the best price. Apart from classic traditional items such as prints, art, and jewellery, the Iznik ceramics can make an original and authentic souvenir to bring back home from your cruise. Istanbul will not be a location you forget!