Spice Bazaar Istanbul- What to buy, what to see?

Spice Bazaar Istanbul- What to buy, what to see?

Spice Bazaar Istanbul- Information

After sharing many good locations, we are thinking that it is time to go shopping in an old bazaar such as Spice Bazaar, isn’t it? Moreover, the idea of shopping in one of the oldest bazaars in Istanbul is just amazing. Even its name is Spice Bazaar, it is not limited to spice. You can find many things except spice in this bazaar just next to Yeni Camii (New Mosque in English) in the Eminonu district.

We call “Misir Carsisi” in Turkish which means Egyptian Bazaar. We will also explain the relationship between the bazaar and Egypt.

Spice Bazaar Istanbul- Outside view
Spice/Egyptian Bazaar Istanbul

Spice Bazaar Istanbul – History

The construction was started in 1597 by the order of Safiye Sultan which was an important figure in the Ottomans. She is the wife of 3rd Murat and mother of 3rd Mehmet. However, the construction was completed in 1664 by the order of 4th Mehmet’s mother- Hatice Turhan Sultan. Spice Bazaar was constructed as part of the Yeni Camii/New Mosque complex (külliye in Turkish).

You know, Istanbul’s location is fantastic. And, it connects two continents. So as expected, Istanbul was always the heart of trade for Byzantines and Ottomans. The Ottoman Empire’s borders expanded drastically and products coming from both East and West were transferred to and from Istanbul. Moreover, these bazaars were receiving these products and people were trying to sell these products in these bazaars.

In history, the bazaar was also called New Bazaar and Mother Bazaar, however, people started calling as Egyptian Bazaar in the 18th century since the products were dominantly imported from Egypt and the construction was also supported by the taxes gathered from Egypt.

There were a couple of fires in history, however, one of them was huge which demolished the bazaar completely in 1691. However, it was restored after this huge fire. Moreover, it was restored comprehensively by the Istanbul Municipality between 1940-1943 [1]. And, the latest restoration which was around 5 years has just been completed currently representing its modern face.

Spice Bazaar Istanbul – What does it contain?

Looking back the history, the bazaars are mostly roofed-in structures having shops selling specific products like Spice Bazaar. And, the bazaar structure changed a little bit, however, it is still selling a lot of products including herbs, spices, products regarding Turkish culture and antiques.

In the old times, the second floor had been used as trade courts dealing with the conflicts between tradesmen and tradesman-public located in the main entrances.

This is a “L-shape” design and there are around 90 shops in the bazaar. The shops have also basements. Some of the shops use it as a depot and some of them present their products. The interior design is quite good. As we mentioned, there were many restoration activities in the past and the current design has been finalized after the latest restoration completed in 5 years. Moreover, some of the motifs on the walls have been added during the latest restoration.

You will also see a prayer square (azan pavilion) which was used as a praying location where the tradesmen met at this spot.

Basically, the bazaar has six gates opening to different streets.

Best Shops in Spice Bazaar

Before talking inside of the bazaar, we have two more recommendations for Turkish coffee. These are Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi and Nuri Toplar which are just outside of the bazaar. There are very good shops in the bazaar. But, here are our favorites. Basically, we are trying to be careful about hygiene. And, we mostly prefer to buy packaged products.

By following this link [2], you can see all the shops in the bazaar.

Recommended Shops

Akalin Jeweler: If you think to buy anything regarding the jewelry, you can prefer to check this shop.

Anatolia: There are very good silvers, scarfs, and lampshades in this shop.

Hazer Baba: Selling good delights and spices. You will notice that Hazer Baba shops are mostly crowded which is a good sign for a shop.

Cikita: There are also packaged products in this shop that you can prefer to buy.

Kocaoglu Gift: There are many ceramic clocks and gift sets in this shop.

Arslan Baharat: There are spices and delights. However, the shops’ pots are pretty good.

Attar Istanbuli: There are very well designed chess, backgammon sets in this shop. The shop also sells rosaries and herbs.

Attar Istanbuli in Spice Bazaar
Attar Istanbuli in Spice Bazaar

Arifoglu: You can buy packaged coffee from Arifoglu and there are many herbs and spices in this shop. Btw, they are a big chain and you can see Arifoglu in the big malls.

Arifoglu Baharat in Spice Bazaar
Arifoglu Baharat

Galeriset: Alright, this will be our best recommendation. This fantastic shop sells very cool coffee sets. Regardless of these fantastic sets, they are also consulting many TV series which are reflecting the Ottoman period. They know the history and the products in different periods. It is also fun to have a speech with the owner. Definitely check this place.

Spice Bazaar Istanbul- Galeriset
Galeriset in Spice Bazaar Istanbul

Ozer Antiques: Serving good antique products, spices, and delights.

Shoar: We really like Shoar since they serve different great products. There are very well designed rings, earrings, and necklaces. Moreover, you can buy very good pillows in this shop.  

Merve Ceyiz: Turkey has very deep traditions about weddings. You know, one of them is a “dowery” thing. This shop sells these products. If you are close to getting married, why don’t you check this shop?

Spices and Herbs- What to buy?

We all know that spices and herbs have been used in medicines. So, it can be said that these herbs and spices are generally remembered with their benefits. However, you should know yourself and your body well enough when you consume these products. Even everybody thinks that these spices and herbs are very good, they can also be allergenic and harmful to your body due to reducing blood pressure and increasing the tendency to sleep. Additionally, they are not advised during pregnancy period. So, be careful when you consume these spices and herbs.

Please also note that these shops are audited, however, we mostly buy packaged ones.

Here is a list of products that are sold in the bazaar. Btw, this is not limited to this list, you will be seeing different herbs and spices more than this list. You can also prefer to buy nuts as well.

Herbs

They are mainly grown in the Mediterranean climate. People mostly think that these products have some benefits such as:

  • Relaxing people and recovering during stressful conditions
  • Having antioxidant effects
  • Appetizing
  • Beneficial for visceral organs
  • Good against flu and cold

Spices

There are many types of spices in the bazaar. Again, be careful when you consume these spices. This can be dangerous if you consume more than your limit.

Basically, you can use these spices as flavors.

Spice Bazaar Istanbul – Visiting hours

Spice Bazaar is open everyday between 08:00-19:30. You can check in these hours, but don’t be too late. And, we are lucky that it is not closed on Sundays 🙂

The bazaar is closed on the 29th of October which is Turkey’s Republic Day. Additionally, it is closed on Islamic religious festivals containing Ramadan and Kurban (Sacrificife) Eids. [3]

Spice Bazaar Istanbul – Dress Code

Since this is a bazaar, you can wear whatever you want. But, we believe that you will be visiting some important mosques right after or before. You can check the dress code we explained in our posts about the Blue Mosque and the Suleymaniye Mosque. And, please always carry a scarf during your visits. You can find a historical mosque anytime in Istanbul and want to check the interior 🙂

Spice Bazaar Istanbul – Entrance Fee

Of course, you don’t have to pay anything when you enter the bazaar. Additionally, you don’t need a museum pass. So, this question is not valid.

Bargaining 101

Bargaining is also fun and we can’t think a historical bazaar without bargain 🙂 So, couple of tricks:

  • Acting is key.
  • Don’t exaggerate. You don’t want to have an argument. Always remember, the owners are really good at bargaining, they are the kings 🙂
  • Paying by cash has always advantages, use this and state during bargaining.
  • Check many shops before buying anything to see the variation. And use this sentence “I asked the same item in another shop, and the other shop says this number.” You can hear an aggressive sentence from the responsible person. “Ok, you can go and buy this item from that shop”. But, this is still worth trying 🙂
  • You should create your own style in order to bargain in the bazaars.
  • Bargaining for relatively cheap products is not good (e.g. packaged Turkish delight, spice, Turkish coffee, etc.)
  • Bargaining is not mainly valid for global companies. Their prices are very well standardized.

Our Best Practice

Alright, here is one of our colleague’s best practices. He spent his childhood period in a city in the Anatolian region called Kayseri and these people from Kayseri are very good at bargaining and trade 🙂 So, he always starts with half-price whatever it is.

For instance, you want a coffee set and the set price is 100 TL. You can start with 50 TL, but we all know that you can’t buy it with 50 TL. But, it is a good sign that you are interested in this set and you want to bargain. And the owner will probably say “it is too less”. And then you will say “OK, I understand you, but I can only pay up to 70 TL”. The owner will decrease the price, but both of you will probably agree on 80 TL. Please note that with this amount, both parties will be happy. Don’t forget the owner will still make a profit and you will not pay too much. It is a “win-win” situation 🙂

But, we can’t guarantee that this method will always work, it really depends on the products. And, also depends on the shop and your acting skills. If the shop earns good money, the responsible person may not approach to these deals. But, if you can’t reduce the price, you still have a chance to buy it at the same price. Why don’t you at least try?

Bargaining on Gold

One more thing we want to talk about is gold. You can purchase gold and diamond necklaces, bracelets, etc. in the bazaars as well.

When we think to buy any item regarding “gold”, we always ask its weight (in grams), and then we can easily calculate its pure price (check the gr. price on the net and with the owner and then compare). So, you can easily calculate workmanship right after. So, let’s think that the owner says a gold bracelet is 1000 TL and then you calculate pure gold price is only 500 TL. If this is a standard design, we can say this is too much for workmanship. But, if it is a superb design, that can be OK, it depends on the product. So, you can directly say “this is too much for workmanship” and start to bargain as we explained in the coffee set example 🙂 Again, don’t forget that you want to pay its actual price and the owner will still make a profit.

Summary of Bargaining

You can improve your bargaining skills in the bazaars of Istanbul such as Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar. And, this is fun 🙂 Moreover, please also remember that bargaining doesn’t mean you are stingy. You just want to pay the actual price of an item, don’t feel this way. But, if you don’t want to bargain, you can compare the prices from different shops and pay the minimum amount w/o bargaining.

Where is Spice Bazaar Istanbul?

Spice Bazaar is very close to the Eminonu pier. You don’t need a map, but check the map if you think you may need it.

How to reach Spice Bazaar Istanbul – Transportation Guide

The bazaar is very close to the Eminonu pier and Eminonu tram stop. So, you can directly focus on those spots when you want to come to Spice Bazaar.

From Eminonu Pier

It is just 5 minutes that you can walk easily.

From Kadikoy

The bazaar is very close to Eminonu Pier. So, using city lines’ ferries or Turyol ferries makes more sense to come to the pier. And, you will walk only 5 minutes after reaching the pier.

From Dolmabahce Palace

You can go to the bazaar by T1 from Kabatas. Actually, it is also easy to go to the bazaar from Dolmabahce.

From Taksim

The F1 funicular directly goes to Kabatas from Taksim square. And then you can use T1 to go to Spice Bazaar. Moreover, you can still catch a taxi, but we wouldn’t prefer to use it during traffic jams.

From Grand Bazaar to Spice Market

It is just 500 meters, so you can walk around 10 minutes. Try to walk towards Beyazit Square.

Conclusion

There are many things to buy in Spice Bazaar regardless of spice. You can buy spices, herbs, Turkish delights, coffee sets, chess sets, backgammon sets, coffee pots, sets and more on. But, even you are not planning to buy anything, the bazaar has a long history and was the heart of Istanbul with Grand Bazaar in Ottomans.

The spices and herbs are all delicious. However, don’t consume too much. Even it is believed that they are healthy, this can be harmful to you.

Visiting the Spice Bazaar is definitely a “must-do” activity in Istanbul. Don’t miss the bazaar to buy these spices and other things if you want, and improve your bargaining skills and create your own style 🙂

References

  1. http://www.misircarsisi.org.tr/en/our-history/
  2. http://www.misircarsisi.org.tr/en/shops/
  3. http://www.misircarsisi.org.tr/en/
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