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No trip to Turkey is complete without a trip to the bazaar. But most tourists see nothing more than the Grand Bazaar and perhaps the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul, which are specialty bazaars and don’t have much in common with the weekly bazaars you see in every district in just about every city in the country.
These local bazaars are more closely associated with a combination of “farmer’s markets” and other street markets selling wares of all sorts. Regardless of what daily-use item you’re looking for, it’s likely to be found at one of the local bazaars in whatever district you’re staying in.
But what to buy? Assuming you’re not in Turkey to settle down, you’re probably not exactly in the market for a cheese grater or cleaning mop. Well we’ve got you covered for what to look for and what to buy (and how to buy them!) in these local markets that are local, better quality, and cheaper than you’ll get anywhere else!
Bargaining in Turkey is part of the fun of buying, and luckily you’re rarely going to ever get completely ripped off. While prices are rarely listed in bazaars, either the stated price or a written price are negotiable in a “rounding down” way rather than a way intended to rip you off. Typically, someone selling wares will begin bargaining simply with their own ideal price that they still consider reasonable. If you find this price reasonable too, it’s completely ok to just accept the offer and buy it – you won’t have gotten ripped off. However, if you’d like to do some haggling, a good rule of thumb is to subtract around 20% from their fee and round down to the nearest whole number from there. Thus, something that costs 104 TL can be bargained down to 80ish, possibly meeting in the middle around 90.
But unlike in other countries, bargaining in Turkey is often a friendly affair. If you can throw in a joke or two, it’s more likely that the seller will accept your discounted price rather than if you pull the trick of “walking away” – a bargaining staple elsewhere. Try to have fun, make friends with the person selling goods to you, and don’t take any of it too seriously. You’re more or less simply negotiating a price between what they want and what’s the minimum they’d still accept.
In fairness, the quality can vary depending on the specific local market, but the vast majority will sell regular kilims that can be used for runners for your home. Some will be handwoven by local villagers and some will be factory-produced, but all of them will be completely traditional and feature traditional Turkish motifs that go incredibly well with almost any interior design as runners or entry-way carpets, or even larger ones.
Kilims are all light and thin, which makes carrying them back with you relatively easy, and whatever level of quality you get at the local bazaar it’s sure to be a fraction of the price you can get the same thing either back home or in one of the more touristic locations.
Local bazaars double as a farmer’s market, and farmers will come in from all over nearby to bring the freshest goods, most picked the day before. Everything is seasonal and local – if you’re planning on cooking at home there is simply NO substitute for shopping at one of the local bazaars.
But even if you’re not, the fruit you’ll find at the bazaars is second to none and is the perfect snack to get through the day.
Herbs make a great food to bring home. They’re often only sold fresh and freshly picked in local markets so when you see the stall with local herbs, smell everything and take it back – oftentimes they’ve been picked wild and are unlike anything you can buy in stores.
Tip: Many of these bazaars have hundreds of stalls selling the same fruits and veggies, so which to choose? Head for the stall with fewer types of fruits and veggies and smaller numbers. It’s more likely to just be a local selling the contents of their garden, and more likely to be organic and fresh.
Local bazaars sell all kinds of traditional clothing items that you won’t find in either Europe or in brands. A particular favorite are the baggy pants called şalvar, which are extremely comfortable with colorful designs and are perfect for wearing around the house even if you don’t think they’ll fit any outfit you want to wear when you go back home.
If you’re looking for something a little more exotic, you’ll find a loose robe or dress called an entari which also uses traditional colors and is truly striking.
Beyond that, bazaars are a great place to get normal t-shirts, jeans, shoes, etc. that are unbranded but made with the same quality (and often in the same location) as many of the brands you’re more familiar with. Spend some time checking them all and you’re sure to find some great deals on things you’ll wear for decades. Happy shopping!
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