Shopping in Istanbul: where to shop for luxury goods

by jennifer.hattam

Shopping for high-end clothes, jewellery, and housewares in Istanbul’s malls and on its high streets

Istanbul's market culture is turning into a mall culture at a rapid pace, with more than 40 modern shopping centres opening over the past two decades or so. While some, such as Cevahir in Şişli -- at one point Europe's largest mall -- appeal to a more middle-class crowd, many are stuffed with luxury goods from the best-known international brands. Local designers catering to the same clientele are scattered throughout the chic Nişantaşı district northeast of Taksim Square, while Asian-side shoppers can find the same types of stores that fill the upscale malls along Bağdat Caddesi, a 6km tree-lined high street with lots of cafés and restaurants.

Istanbul’s malls

Its combination of size, convenience, and offerings make Kanyon (www.kanyon.com.tr) one of Istanbul's most popular malls. Located right on the Metro line at the Levent stop, it boasts good restaurants, striking architecture, a plush cinema, and a high-end gym. Its 170 boutique-style stores include Camper shoes, the Body Shop, well-regarded local housewares chain Paşabahçe (www.pasabahce.com), and the Turkish clothing and cosmetics store Vakko (www.vakko.com.tr), best-known for its scarves and ties.

Once the city's most stylish mall, Akmerkez (www.akmerkez.com.tr) is looking a little dated these days, but still draws shoppers to stores such as Derimod (www.derimod.com.tr), a purveyor of high-quality leather coats, and the popular Turkish department store Beymen (www.beymen.com), which stocks both international and house brands of designer men's and women's clothing and accessories.

Globally known luxury brands such as Ralph Lauren, Fendi, and De Beers fill İstinye Park (www.istinyepark.com), one of the city's newer malls. It holds some local shops too, such as the quirky housewares store Continuum (www.continuum.com.tr). The shopping centre is also popular for its high-end "food court" and gourmet market, where stores such as Taze (www.ta-ze.com.tr) sell top-quality olive oil and other gastronomical treats.

The latest fashions in Nişantaşı

The upscale Nişantaşı/Teşvikiye area has outlets of many of the same high-end brands as the city's top malls, but also provides a home for smaller fashion and design shops making equally luxurious goods. Abdi İpekçi Caddesi is the district's big high street. The upmarket City's Nişantaşı mall (www.citysnisantasi.com) hosts the likes of Louis Vuitton and Dolce&Gabana.

Designer Gönül Paksoy (Atiye Sokak No. 6A) draws from Ottoman influences to create unique coats, slippers, and purses from hand-dyed fabrics, while neighbour Arzu Kaprol's (www.arzukaprol.net, Atiye Sokak No. 9) ready-wear lines exhibit the same striking use of structure and texture as her couture collection. The dresses of Elif Cığızoğlu (www.elifcigizoglu.com, Teşvikiye Caddesi Alhambra Apt. No. 178/3) combine a bold colour palette with deconstructed shapes. Cassette (www.cassette.com.tr, Ihlamur Yolu Sokak No. 12/A) carries a more street-wise mix of precariously high-heeled boots, flowing dresses, and vintage-inspired jewellery. Sporting a similar attitude, Midnight Express (www.midnightexpress.com.tr, Kadırgalar Caddesi Açık Hava Apt. No. 8/3) features unique and funky pieces by Turkish designers, from T-shirts to party dresses. Inner and outer wear are well-represented in the neighbourhood by lingerie designer İpek Kıramer (www.ipekkiramer.com, Abdi İpekçı Caddesi No. 47/3) and the high-quality leather, suede, and fur goods at Koç Deri (www.kocderi.com, Atiye Sokak No. 1).

Nişantaşı is also a popular destination for jewellery shoppers looking for something a bit more up-to-date than the bazaar offerings. A good place to start is SODA Istanbul (www.sodaistanbul.com, Şakayık Sokak No. 37/1), which sells art jewellery from a variety of innovative designers. Sema Paksoy (Atiye Sokak No. 9) crafts new pieces from antique silver and semiprecious stones, while the metal jewellery at Zeckie (www.zeckie.com, Ihlamur Yolu Değer Apt. No. 16/C) comes in shapes both abstract and playful. Can't find anything you like? Alef (www.alefgaleri.com, Hacı Emin Efendi Sokak No. 4) offers workshops where customers can learn to design their own jewellery.

High-end housewares

The addresistanbul (www.addresistanbul.com) shopping centre in nearby Şişli specializes in home design, including the modern takes on traditional Turkish motifs provided by Maybe Design (www.maybedesign.at). Yastık By Rıfat Özbek (www.yastikbyrifatozbek.com, Şakayık Sokak Olcay Apt. No. 13/1) specializes in pillows and cushions in eclectic patterns, while Haremlique (www.haremlique.com, Şair Nedim Bey Caddesi No. 1) in Beşiktaş' posh Akaretler area offers a full range of luxury linens plus other pampering goods for the bedroom and bath.

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.

jennifer.hattam

I work as a news editor at Turkey's leading English-language paper, the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review, which keeps me up-to-date on everything from political campaigns to coup plots to the latest cultural events in Istanbul. Writing freelance dispatches for publications such as the luxury lifestyle magazine Ayn, the Abu Dhabi-based daily The National, the online magazine Salon.com, and the popular U.S. technology magazine Wired meanwhile allows me to peek into new cultural, political, and historical corners of this ever-fascinating city in greater depth.

I was smitten with Turkey on my first visit to the country, in 2001, and have now been living in Istanbul for more than three years, regularly renewing my love affair with the city by gallery- and bar-hopping in Beyoğlu, clambering on the Byzantine city walls, and swimming in secluded coves on the Bosphorus. As an inveterate urban explorer, news junkie, avid photographer, and enjoyer of a good night out, I find Istanbul hits all my buttons -- excepting, alas, the yen for microbrews and Burmese food.

I write about my travels, linguistic misadventures, and daily observations about expat life at http://theturkishlife.blogspot.com.

My Istanbul

Where I always grab a coffee: With its funky-old-house interior, large patio, and artsy vibe, centrally located Kafe Ara (named for the famous Turkish photographer Ara Güler) is the perfect place to meet for a leisurely chat with friends or while away the afternoon with a book.

My favourite stroll: Every time I walk along the waterfront from, say, the Sakıp Sabancı Museum in Emirgan to Bebek for an ice cream, I ask myself why I don't do it more often. The Bosphorus views and sea breezes always give me new energy. For a more urban experience, I love crossing the Galata Bridge on foot, watching the passing boats, the crowds of fishermen, and the giddy tourists, before being swept up into the chaotic warren of streets in Eminönü, where everything from cheap pajamas to heating stoves to wooden spoons is on offer.

Books for inspiration: Nobel Prize-winning writer Orhan Pamuk's memoir Istanbul is a loving, if melancholy, ode to the city, while Elif Şafak's novel The Flea Palace has been described as a Turkish-style Tales of the City. Latife Tekin explores a darker side of Istanbul life with her Berji Kristen, a somewhat surreal story set in a community built on a garbage dump. For lighter fare, Jason Goodwin's Ottoman-era mystery The Janissary Tree is an atmospheric page-turner.

City on screen: Istanbul's twisting streets and dramatic backdrops seem made for action flicks, from the James Bond classic From Russia with Love and the 1960s French heist movie Topkapı to the 2009 global-banking thriller The International. Films by Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Distant), Semih Kaplanoğlu (Egg), and Fatih Akın (Head-On) give viewers a taste of modern Turkish cinema along with an intimate perspective on the city.

Where to be seen this summer: Life is lived outdoors during Istanbul's sticky, sweltering summers, whether on a rooftop bar or a sidewalk café. The Cihangir neighbourhood has a café culture to rival any in Europe, with the White Mill Café and nearby Limonlu Bahçe offering shade and socializing day and night in their "hidden gardens." Rooftop bars like Balkon in Asmalımescit and My House near Taksim have great views without too much pretence.

The most breathtaking view: A ramble up through the leafy hillside cemeteries of the Eyüp district is rewarded with a sweeping view down the Golden Horn from the Pierre Loti Café, while those who hike up to Yoros Castle above Anadolu Kavağı (the last stop on the Bosphorus Tour) can gaze out over the seemingly endless Black Sea and the undulating green hills leading back to the city.

The best spot for some peace and quiet: The car-free Büyükada - The Princes’ Islands is the classic Istanbullu getaway -- escape from the city for the price of a ferry ride. If you must go on a summer weekend, try the lesser-visited Heybeliada or Burgazada. Pure bliss, though, if you have enough people and/or money, is to charter a boat for a day trip up the Bosphorus, to sunbathe, grill fish, and swim in the secluded coves at the northernmost end of the strait.

Shopaholics beware: There's always something enticing to buy in this city of salesmen. The Grand Bazaar is a must-see on most visitors' itineraries for its sheer size and chaos, but to pick up evil eyes, prettily patterned ceramics, and other typical Turkish gifts for visits home, I prefer the much smaller Spice Bazaar in Eminönü or (to escape the "Hello, lady, I have very nice carpet. You like?" gauntlet altogether), the Avrupa Pasajı, a quiet arcade off the bustling Balık Pazarı in Beyoğlu. The new city's Cihangir, Çukurcuma, and Galata districts are increasingly good places to find boutiques offering clothing by up-and-coming designers and other out-of-the-ordinary items.

City soundtrack: Ship horns on the Bosphorus mixed with the cries of street vendors, the five-times-daily call to prayer, taxi horns honking, and whatever pop hit of the moment is pumping out of all the stores and bars on İstiklal Avenue.

Don't leave without… Joining the throngs on İstiklal on a weekend night and feasting on mezes while drinking rakı at a raucous street-side meyhane in Nevizade or Asmalımescit.