What to Buy in Istanbul?
Shoppers in Istanbul are bound to be tempted at every corner. From food to traditional handicrafts to modern apparel, the variety of things to buy in the city as souvenirs is endless. We have put together a list of some of the most popular items to buy in Istanbul.
Carpets and Rugs, of course, are one of Istanbul’s greatest draw cards and, especially in Sultanahmet and the surrounding areas, it would be difficult to escape an encounter with this roaring trade. Although easy to find, the quality and price of carpets and kilims can vary greatly. Many carpets are now made in India or China and shipped to Turkey, so make sure to shop around and educate yourself on what to look for in a carpet prior to purchasing one in Istanbul.
Check out the carpet and rug stores in Istanbul here.
Food-wise, Turkish Delight (Lokum) makes for a delicious souvenir, and is sold fresh or packaged all around Istanbul. Some stores specialise in selling a wide variety of Turkish Delight, from the common fruit flavours to nut varieties, while at the Spice Bazaar the choices are endless. Many stores will offer patrons complimentary ‘testers’ to help you to discover which type takes your fancy.
Fear not for the Evil Eye, the Turkish good luck charm. These blue glass beads are found all over Turkey, from buses to clothing; their origin dates back centuries. Still in force as a light-hearted superstition, these charms are nonetheless found in the form of keychains, necklaces, bracelets, stickers and just about anything capable of sticking, hanging or displaying.
Ceramics are another popular choice for shoppers in Istanbul. Since the 16th century, Turkey’s tile work was made famous by its colourful Iznik tiles, found in many mosques around Istanbul – most spectacularly at the Rustem Pasha Mosque, Blue Mosque and Suleymaniye Mosque. The Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar are both popular spots to pick up modern equivalents of Turkish ceramics.
Have a look at our collection of ceramics-tiles stores in Istanbul.
Although the city of Bursa is undoubtedly the home of the Turkish silk trade, this fine material is nevertheless found all over the city in the form of scarfs, clothing and shawls.
Gold and silver jewellery, leatherware and brass and copper are all sold on mass in Turkey. The Grand Bazaar, in particular, has dedicated sections for these items, and they can also be found in the Spice Bazaar as well as the backstreets surrounding it.
Here, you can find some of the jewellery stores in Istanbul.
As for what not to buy in Istanbul, it’s important to note the following warnings: the sale or possession of antiques (more than a century old) in Turkey is illegal. Spot bag checks are carried out at customs points and if you are caught with antiques, large fines or even a jail term are possibilities. Also beware of buying large quantities of cheap knock-off brand clothing and watches while in Istanbul. Although these products can be found all over Turkey, purchases can be confiscated and fines issued at the border.
Turkey’s Value Added Tax (VAT) ranges between 1 – 18%, with the majority of goods charged at 18%.
The good news for travellers is that they can claim back this tax when departing the country.
To obtain a VAT refund, head to the tax refund office at the airport before going through customs and show officials the receipt from your goods. This will be stamped to confirm that you have departed from Turkey. When you have gone through customs, present the stamped receipt to officials at one of the booths in the departure lounge. You can ask for the refund in cash (Turkish Lira) or have it transferred to a credit card.
Hagia Sophia ©Helen Simpson
Golden Horn ©Helen Simpson
Sultanahmet © Aydin Sertbas
Bosphorus ©Helen Simpson
"A traveller without observation is a bird without wings" - Moslih Eddin Saadi