The most famous Turkish market is undoubtedly the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Most visitors to the country will visit this incredibly colorful labyrinth of stalls and shops, with its vibrant colors and exotic sights, sound, and aromas. For shopping in Istanbul this is definitely the place to go. But you will find Turkey shopping in bazaars all over the country in both small villages and large cities. These markets are generally the least expensive, while the gift shops found in many tourist hotels are generally the most expensive for the quality of souvenir you receive.
There are also some exclusive shops in Turkey in the larger cities that sell finer gift items and museum quality pieces. These can be very expensive, and you should be relatively well educated on the kind of article you are purchasing if you intend on shopping in Turkey in these kinds of establishments. Be aware that the export of antiquities is strictly forbidden. If someone is telling you something is a genuine ancient artifact from an archaeological site like Ephesus, it either is a fake or you could be in big trouble if caught with it. Additionally, you may be able to buy things such as ivory, but bringing it back into the United States or European Union is forbidden except under very special circumstances. Check the customs regulations of your home country before you depart.
There are two main things that many people buy while shopping in Turkey that can cause some people to feel they got “ripped off.” These are carpets (as well as kilims) and gold or silver jewelry. It is easy to get taken on these kinds of articles by unscrupulous dealers, both in exclusive shops and bazaars, who will claim a rug is rare or an antique when it is not or inflate the value of jewelry. Whether you are in a Turkish market or fine shop, you should not purchase very expensive items like this unless you are assured of the integrity of the shop and have knowledge about the item you plan to purchase. If you are looking for more expensive items, do some research before your holidays or vacation packages, and once you arrive ask your trusted guide or tour operator for recommendations of reputable vendors.
Having said all this, it is important to note that Turkish carpets and kilims are beautiful works of art. They can be purchased for very reasonable prices and reliably shipped home by the vendor. The best Turkish market to purchase a rug is in the region where it was made. There are about 80 villages in and around Bergama, which is about 40 miles north of Izmir, that still make these wool carpets. You will find them in shops in Izmir. Usak rugs are made around the city of the same name that is about 130 miles west of Izmir. If you are visiting Konya or Antalya, look for Milas carpets. Hereke carpets, made with silk, will be found in the district around Istanbul. You will see priceless examples of these from the time of the Ottoman Empire in the city’s museums. There are also exquisitely crafted pieces of gold and silver jewelry available.
Your Turkey shopping may also include leather goods for which the country is famous. One of the biggest importers of Turkish leather is Italy, and you will find these especially in the markets and shops of Florence. You might also do some shopping in Turkey for meerschaum pipes. This soft white mineral originates in the Black Sea and is found in the coastal regions between Istanbul and Ankara.
Your Turkey shopping may also produce Iznik tiles, ceramics, and porcelain. These are the beautiful tiles you will see on the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. You might also see less grand Iznik tiles decorating the doorways and windows of more humble places. Bargaining while shopping in Turkey is customary almost everywhere for almost everything. Generally, start at 25 to 50 percent of what you’re willing to pay and work your way up until you both agree on a price.