The Spice Market, Istanbul

June 2, 2009

On May 21, 2009, Linda and I started out on foot from our hotel The Four Seasons Sultanahmet. We walked west through a mixed commercial and residential neighbourhood, where a few blocks still had some old charm.eba

We arrived at The Grand Bazaar in about twenty minutes and wandered a bit. It is as enormous as everyone says, but we didn’t find the merchandise appealing. If we stopped to look into a shop that seemed interesting, the shopkeeper would immediately start hassling us with high-pressure salesmanship.


So eventually we exited at the Örücüler Kapisi in the northwest corner and found ourselves on the Çarşı Caddesi, or Market Street, for a walk as suggested by The Turkey Travel Planner. This eventually becomes the Uzunçarşı Caddesi, or Longmarket Street. We wandered slowly downhill on these two streets where there are fascinating, very specific, shops for many things. In one block there are shops for buttons, shops for buckles, shops for beads etc. One block has firearm shops that would bring joy to any American gun lover. One can buy camouflaged gear. More sedately, there is a block for toys, games and woodworkers. There is much cooking equipment for sale. Interspersed are kebab stands with hot wood charcoal and tea shops. The merchants don’t have to go to the tea shop as there are many tea men carrying fresh glasses of tea on little copper trays; they seem to have regular routes among the shops. Linda bought a sesame bun from a street vendor. It did not seem as fresh as we had thought it would be.

At the bottom of Uzunçarşı Caddesi we turned right onto Hasircilar Caddesi, Street of the Matmakers. This wonderful street is a prelude to the Spice Bazaar at its other end. It is lined with specialty food shops of many kinds.

Fresh cheeses

Aged cheese, including the salty string cheese.

Many varieties of “Turkish Delight.”


Grape leaves ready for stuffing and many types of pickles.

Seafood salads.


Nuts and dried fruits.

Behind the man in the brown shirt below is a big, old-fashioned coffee roaster. He sells just roasted coffee beans in little bags. The aroma pervades the street in front. Very popular, although tea is the regular drink in Istanbul.


Inside the covered old Spice Bazaar itself there are stands for a huge variety of comestibles, confections, oils etc, but not fresh foods, which are sold in the surrounding streets.

A remedy for almost anything, including a sign in French.

Flavored teas.

When I took this photo, the shopkeeper offered me a kilo for free for having taken a picture of his shop. I didn’t find out how that would have progressed if I had accepted.

Honey is used in many Turkish desserts.

Iranian caviar is available.

Sponges from the Aegean Sea.

On the quai along the Golden Horn below the Spice Market are food vendors, including one whose kitchen is on a boat.

Along the outside east wall of the Spice Market are garden stores and pet stores.


He can’t put up his magnificent tail in this cage.

Along the outside west wall of the Spice Market are butchers, fishmongers and greengrocers. Here we have tripe and other innards.

The photo below was a happy accident. All morning I had been hoping to get a photo of one of the many tea men delivering tea around to the shops, but they move quickly in an out of the crowds and doors. I didn’t see this man coming and was glad that he had walked into my photo of the combination butcher greengrocer.



Strangely, we only saw the big globe artichokes, never the smaller Mediterranean variety. Here some have been trimmed with just the heart for sale in bags or bottles. We found the mezes based on them to be disappointing. A glass of tea has just been delivered for the greengrocer.

This is the north end of the west wall.


This is the view from the north. On the left you can see the garden shops. The fishmongers etc are to the right. The Spice Bazaar building was constructed between 1597 and 1664. Its rents were to subsidize the adjacent mosque. In Turkish it is called ‘Mısır Çarşısı’, or Egyptian Bazaar, as many of the spices came from Egypt in the Ottoman era. 

We had lunch at Hamdi, which is off to the right of the last photo. Then we took the very efficient tram back up the hill to Sultanahmet. On our last morning in Istanbul we took the tram both ways for a last visit to the Spice Market, which, in our opinion, ranks with Topkapi Palace as the two greatest sights of Istanbul. 

8 Responses to “The Spice Market, Istanbul”

  1. sue girdwood Says:


    Lovely pix, Mike.


  2. Jo-Ann Says:

    Loved the photo journal of your walk-about in Istanbul and it’s amazing spice market.


  3. Galen Says:

    Fabulous review of all the colors and sights – one can practically smell and hear from the vibrancy of the shots. Good work, Michael.

  4. George Says:

    As we have said before, we appreciate the opportunity of vicarious pleasures, even when tinged with a bit of envy. But we particularly enjoyed the pictures and the report from the bazaar and the spice market. The art, history and culture of a country, or place can be learned and enjoyed from museums, exhibits, ruins, and even restaurants. But the culture is incomplete without the flavor and essence(sorry)of markets. That’s why in our travels we always include a visit to the local market, or even supermarket, to see what the locals eat. The ones in Beijing and Nairobi, blew our mind.

    And we always try to include small neighborhood restaurants, to truly experience the local cuisine that is usually referenced, but often lost in the complex offerings of the upscale restaurants.

    It is understandable that sometimes local customs make us uncomfortable, as in the aggressiveness of the bazaar merchants. But that, too, is a cultural experience worth having. We bought a rug and some jewelry in that bazaar and we knew we were taken, but we didn’t mind, in exchange for the wonderful experience it gave us that we will always remember and cherish.

    Thank you Michael for the wonderful tour, Julie and George

  5. Hi Michael,
    great pictures and post! It seems that you’ve enjoyed a lot Istanbul and its scents!

  6. Lily Yeo Says:

    So glad I found your site! I’ll be flying to Istanbul with my family this weekend. So looking forward to it after seeing your photos! Thanks!

  7. happy06295 Says:

    Great article & photos, Michael! I have been looking for articles on the spice markets of the world and yours is a great one. Achieves what it should, giving the reader a feeling for the location and atmosphere. Well done! One can almost smell the spices.

  8. Sue HOLLENDER Says:

    thanks so much for the “insight” pics of your adventure. We’ll be going to Turkey in 3 weeks, your article sure gave me lots of what to explore and vivid “imagination” of what I should be doing. Appreciate your beautiful story and photos.

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