Turkey: Asia vs Europe in Istanbul’s markets

In Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar men sit passing the time of day on low stools, prayer beads dripping from their fingertips. Tea is delivered in tiny glass and filigree cups, delivered on a tray.

Nearby at this extensive covered market a rug seller sits on a great pile of kilims, completely surrounded like an Arabian Nights story.

Turkey: Istanbul markets

Outside the bazaar, through the haberdashery quarter and into the Christmas decoration street, I soon find the fragrant delights of the Spice Bazaar. There are towers of nougat, pyramids of spices, dishes of chestnuts, baskets of dried flowers and tubs of Turkish delight.

Turkey: Istanbul markets

But there are also an overwhelming number of souvenir shops and a surprising sense of tacky glamour.

Turkey: Istanbul markets

Exploring the local markets is an essential part of travel in Turkey, and nowhere more so than in the capital of Istanbul. The European side of Istanbul has so much to see that many visitors fail to cross the Bosphorus to discover the Asian side.

This fascinating geographical point has traditionally divided Europe and Asia. The ferry is a solid old thing, with wooden seats and panelling and vendors selling cups of fresh yoghurt dusted with icing sugar.

Turkey: Istanbul markets

The Asian side of Istanbul was actually settled a few years before its neighbour across the straits on the Golden Horn. Pulling in next to the impressive Haydarpasa Station, the sun pours through the beautiful stained glass windows of the elaborate 1908 building.

Up the hill is the massive Selimiye Barracks, where Florence Nightingale famously walked the wards with her lamp during the Crimean War. But it’s plunging into the market streets that reveals the true contrast.

Turkey: Istanbul markets

On Istanbul’s Asian side the shopkeepers take great pride in displaying their wares in the lovely streets of Kadikoy up the hill from the bustling waterfront.

Turkey: Istanbul markets

Stacks of giant broccoli and celery are carefully arranged alongside shoals of shining fish and layers of vine leaves.

Turkey: Istanbul markets

The streets are festooned with reddening grapevines and meals of pilaf and kebab come with glasses of sherbet and black mulberry. Loads are carried by basket on a special carpet-covered harness.

Istanbul markets, Turkey

This is where Istanbullus live and, although the Asian side of Istanbul may not have the famous sights, it is all the more authentic for that.

By Natasha von Geldern

Have you been to Istanbul? Did you cross to the other side?

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14 Replies to “Turkey: Asia vs Europe in Istanbul’s markets”

  1. [email protected]

    I enjoyed reading your post.One of our favourite restaurants in Istanbul is in Kadikoy so we often walk through the markets to reach it. I love that the store owners here are very friendly and love to chat about what they are selling.The boat trip is also a bit of fun!
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    • Natasha von Geldern Post author

      I feel like I just dipped a toe in the water by visiting Istanbul – so much more to explore in Turkey!

      Reply
    • Natasha von Geldern Post author

      The opposite to me – thoroughly explored Istanbul but not the rest of the country! I think you’re well ahead 🙂

      Reply

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