Letâ€™s be honest. Whatâ€™s a holiday without a bit of local shopping. Browsing the markets, looking out for souvenirs, even buying necessities just to find out which brands such and such country has and how the locals do things is fun and educational at the same time.
Who can resist to try on this antique kaftan?
Thinking about Istanbul, such world famous places like Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar and maybe even Arasta Bazaar immediately spring to mind and certainly should be on the must-see list, but I love to find shops which are not necessarily found in guide books but offer special or particularly nice things.
Iâ€™d like to share two Istanbul shopping tips with you; one is a small boutique which specialises in antique and modern traditional Turkish clothes, embroideries, pillow cases and small artefacts and the other is a shopping mall which is an architectural work of art in its own right.
The boutique is located in the basement of the Muhlisbey Hotel in Tevkifhane StreetÂ in Sultanahmed and belongs to the lady who owns the hotel too.Â The hotel has only a few rooms and is housed in a restored wooden building, very romantic and a nice place to stay.
The owner is extremely knowledgeable about Turkish history as far as textiles are concerned and entering her tiny shop, you feel like you have walked into a museum, but one where you can actually touch the exhibits, try them on and, bank balance allowing, buy them. She is an avid collector of embroidered antique caftans and wedding gowns, but these precious things cost a bundle.
Enjoying a coffee after my chat
For the more modest purse though, you can find hand embroidered bed spreads, pillow cases, towels and other linens as well as new kaftans, shawls and scarves. She also had lamps, picture fames and other small artefacts.
Even if you donâ€™t buy anything, it doesnâ€™t matter, you are made extremely welcome, can sit on one of the fabulous sofas, drink a Turkish coffee or tea and discuss the art and history of textiles .And she told me about the Sadberk Hanim Museum, started by a Turkish lady of that name who shared the same love for the exceptional art of Turkish clothes and textiles. The museum is to be found heading north on the European side of the Bosporus, turning left towards a white waterside mansion shortly before reaching Sanyerâ€™s town center.
I like to visit a shopping mall, because thatâ€™s a place where the locals go and you can learn about their culture by seeing whatâ€™s on offer and what they buy. Istanbul has several huge shopping malls, some of them award winning. My favourite is the Kanyon Mall located in Istanbulâ€™s Levent district and so named because the mall was designed to resemble a glass, steel and concrete canyon. The mall is reached by taking the Metro to the Levent stop and then simply following the signs to the entrance.
Cafe in Kanyon Mall Levent
Itâ€™s truly a work of art, because the 30 tiered floors are soaring up into the sky, but in such a graceful way that you can only look in admiration. 4 floors are dedicated to shops, the rest are offices. Water, plants and lots and lots a flowers intersperse the walk ways. The shops have a lot of floor space which makes browsing around a pleasure because Â you never get pushed or jostled. Not only do you find branches of Harvey Nichols and other international brands but also Turkish designers, shops offering hand made soaps and lemon cologne and of course, an enormous variety of Turkish Delight. You find sit down restaurants with the freshest seafood on the menu as well as romantic cafes or stalls for a quick sandwich.
So if you’re looking for two unique experiences, take my Istanbul shopping tips and head for the boutique at the Muhlisbey Hotel and/or Kanyon Mall.
More Istanbul Tips
You’ll find lot of ideas for things to do in Istanbul in our Best of Istanbul Tips.
Where to Stay in Istanbul
To help you find a hotel for your stay in the city, you can check out our round-up of the Best Places to Stay in Istanbul, which includes a range of hotels from budget through to luxury.