Antiques and avant-garde design are the hallmarks of the shopping experience in Istanbul’s lively “new city”
If it’s funky jewellery, edgy attire, modern or antique housewares, or books and music you’re after, the Beyoğlu district is the place to be. The prime shopping grounds can be divided into three main neighbouring areas: İstiklal Caddesi, Galata, and Cihangir/Çukurcuma.
Beyoğlu’s big pedestrian-only thoroughfare is dominated by international brands such as Swatch, Diesel, Mango, and Benetton, but there are still plenty of unique little stores on and off the main drag. Pandora Kitabevi (Büyükparmakkapı Sokak No. 8) and Robinson Crusoe (İstiklal Caddesi No. 195A) both have a broad selection of English-language books, while the helpful staff at D&R (İstiklal Caddesi No. 85A) can suggest good CDs by Turkish artists.
Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir (İstiklal Caddesi No. 83) is a classic place to buy lokum (Turkish delight) and other sweets. The chocolate-covered candied orange rinds aren’t particularly Turkish, but they are delicious.
About halfway down İstikal, you’ll reach Galatasaray Square, an intersection marked by a sculpture of metal rods shooting up into the sky. Take a right turn to find the Aslıhan Pasajı (Meşrutiyet Caddesi No. 10), which is filled with dealers of used books and magazines. The next-door Avrupa Pasajı (Meşrutiyet Caddesi No. 8) is an attractive, high-ceilinged arcade that offers a low-key place to shop for traditional Turkish crafts and souvenirs. I like the silver jewellery at Alara Gümüş (No. 2), the mindboggling variety of bright blue “evil eyes” at the unnamed shop No. 10, and the bins of old maps, postcards, movie posters, and other ephemera at Ergun Hiçyılmaz (No. 17).
A left turn from Galatasaray takes you down Yeni Çarşı Caddesi, where you’ll find lovely stationery and notebooks at Mektup (No. 10A), a big selection of art books and an upstairs gallery at Arkeopera (No. 16A), comic books at Gon (No. 34A), hippie-style clothes at Shashi (No. 7A), designer dud at AntiJen (No. 9B), and fashionably clunky shoes and Boa Studio's artistically patterned organic T-shirts at Lazy (No. 9A).
Back on the main street, keep an eye out among the many little doorways full of scarves and trinkets for my favourite side “passage,” Hazzopulo Pasajı (İstiklal Caddesi No. 116), which opens up into an atmospheric courtyard tea garden encircled by shops.
Bargain hunters will enjoy digging through the clothes piled high on street-side tables in Terkoz Çikmazı or in the warren of shops inside the Beyoğlu İş Merkezi (İstiklal Caddesi No. 187); the best finds are kitschy T-shirts with gaudy patterns or seemingly random assortments of English words. For more stylish attire, try top Turkish name Mavi Jeans (İstiklal Caddesi No. 123 and 215).
For books, CDs, postcards, maps, and other materials relating to Istanbul and Turkey, the municipality-run İstanbul Kitapçısı (İstiklal Caddesi No. 191) is also worth a stop.
Running parallel to İstiklal, you’ll find Meşrutiyet Caddesi and its side streets, which hold a few quality shops tucked away amid all the hotels, including Edo (Meşrutiyet Caddesi No. 33) for Japanese-influenced gear; Her Şey Aşktan (Meşrutiyet Caddesi No. 79) for beautifully packaged Ottoman-inspired earrings, coffee trays, and covered bowls; and Umit Unal’s high-style Doors Fashion Design (Ensiz Sokak No. 1B). The İKSV Design Shop (Sadi Konuralp Caddesi No. 5) is worth the trek down to nearby Şişhane for creative housewares, clothing, and accessories by Turkish and international designers.
İstiklal ends at Tünel Square, where you’ll find local recycled-packaging purses from Çöp Madam, a local NGO that helps provide employment opportunities for women, on sale at Karınca (Tünel Meydanı No. 1) and a carefully cultivated selection of CDs and records at the tiny Lale Mağazası (Galip Dede Caddesi No. 1).
Galip Dede Caddesi, known locally as “music street,” runs down the hill from Tünel to the Galata area and is lined with shops selling -- what else? -- musical instruments both traditional and Western, including colourful toy shakers and guitars. Home Spa (Galip Dede Caddesi No. 61) has nice natural and locally made bath products, while the Milk Gallery & Design Store (Balkon Çıkmazı No. 8A) specializes in graffiti-inspired art, accessories, and toys.
When you see the Galata Tower looming on your right, turn left down Serdar-ı Ekrem Caddesi, a character-filled cobblestone street lined with century-old apartment buildings both crumbling and beautifully restored. The area is a hub for Istanbul’s new designers. You’ll find sleek housewares at Lunapark (No. 17B), retro dresses and structured jackets at Lilipud Boutique (No. 26A), high-quality ceramics at Stok Atolye (No. 38A), modern silver and felt jewellery at Ayda Pekin (No. 44A), and even customised wallpaper at Studio Nommo (Lulecihendek Caddesi No. 46B). Feeling peckish? Stop in for a snack at Galata Şarküteri (Serdar-ı Ekrem Caddesi No. 30A) or Mavra (Serdar-ı Ekrem Caddesi No. 31), a design shop that doubles as a café.
With a bunch of souvenir shops clustered around its base, the area around the Galata Tower itself looks unpromising at first, but the streets leading down from the medieval stone structure are full of finds. Shop for traditional pestamels (towels), colourful cotton robes, handmade soaps, and other Turkish bath supplies at Hamam (Kule Çıkmazı No. 1C) or Lalay (Camekan Sokak No. 3A); frilly dresses at La Mariquita (Galata Kulesi Sokak No. 3B); non-touristy Istanbul-themed T-shirts at Lal (Camekan Sokak No. 4C); and clothes by international designers at Paris Texas (Camekan Sokak No. 4). Nearby Cherrybean Coffees (Camekan Sokak No. 10) roasts its own beans to have brewed there or take home.
This atmospheric part of Beyoğlu is best known for its wealth of antique shops, largely located on three interconnecting streets, Turnacıbaşı Sokak, Faik Paşa Sokak, and Çukurcuma Caddesi. (You’ll probably spot some junk dealers roving by as well; have a peek on their carts too.) It’s also home to plenty of boutiques.
Turnacıbaşı Sokak wends its way from İstiklal Caddesi to Cihangir proper. Along the way, you’ll find high-quality jewellery fusing antique and modern styles at Mor (No. 10B), funky T-shirt and colourful sun dresses at Roll (No. 13), vintage records at Deform Muzik (No. 45), and inexpensive paintings and other unique pieces at Arkadaş Art Gallery (No. 36A).
Clothing stores in Cihangir tend toward the frilly, romantic, and vintage-y, looks you’ll find at Vanilya (Ağa Hamamı Sokak 3), Berrin Akyüz (Akarsu Yokuşu No. 20), Mariposa (Şimşirci Sokak No. 11A), Margarit’s (Siraselviler Caddesi No. 62A), and Matchbox (Matara Sokak No. 14). If that style doesn’t suit your sensibilities, head down the hill to Tophane, where you can get clothes made to order for reasonable prices at İncir Boutique (Boğazkesen Caddesi No. 72A).
Other shops in the area worth a stop include EviHan (Altıpatlar Sokak No. 4A) for delicate glass pendants and playful brooches; NB Seramik/Kreo Design (Defterdar Yokuşu No. 34A) for ceramic plates and mugs; Vie en Rose (Yeni Yuva Sokak No. 50A) for hand-blended aromatherapy oils and teas; Art.i.choke (Faik Paşa Sokak No. 1) for unusual designer clothes; and Kare Deri (Çukurcuma Caddesi No. 19) for one-of-a-kind leather bags and parchment necklaces.
More expert advice on Istanbul
For suggestions on where to stay in Istanbul, see my Istanbul Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Istanbul page.
Read my shopping overview on my Shopping in Istanbul page.