You could visit Istanbul for the shopping alone. The Kapali Carsi, or Covered Bazaar, in the old city is the logical place to start. This labyrinth of streets and passages houses more than 4000 shops. The names recall the days when each trade had its own quarter: the goldsmiths' street, the carpet sellers' street, the street of the skullcap makers. Still the commercial center of the old city, the bazaar is the original shopping mall with something to suit every taste and pocket.
Turkish crafts, the world-renowned carpets, brilliant hand-painted ceramics, copper and brass ware, and meerschaum pipes make charming souvenirs and gifts. The gold jewelry in brilliantly lit cases blinds the passers-by. Leather and suede goods of excellent quality represent a relatively inexpensive purchase. The Old Bedesten, in the heart of the bazaar, offers a curious assortment of antiques. It is worth poking through the clutter of decades in the hope of finding a treasure.
The Misir Carsisi or Spice Bazaar, behind the Yeni Mosque at Eminonu, transports you to your fantasies of the mystical East. The enticing aromas of cinnamon, caraway, saffron, mint, thyme and every other conceivable herb and spice fill the air. Sultanahmet has become another shopping mecca in the old city. The Istanbul Sanatlari Carsisi (Bazaar of Istanbul Arts) in the 18 th century Mehmet Efendi Medresesi, and the nearby 16 th century Caferaga Medrese built by Sinan both offer chance to see craftsmen at work and to purchase their wares. In the arasta (old bazaar) of the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, a thriving shopping arcade makes shopping and sightseeing very convenient.
The sophisticated shops of the Taksim - Nisantasi -Sisli districts contrast with the chaos of the bazaars. On Istiklal Caddesi, Cumhuriyet Caddesi and Rumeli Caddesi, you can browse peacefully in the most fashionable shops that sell elegant fashions made from Turkey's high quality textiles. Exquisite jewelry as well as finely designed handbags and shoes can also be found. The recently developed Galleria mall at Atakoy has branches of Istanbul's most elegant shops. Bahariye Caddesi, Bagdat Caddesi and Capitol, on the Asian side, offer the same goods.
In Istanbul's busy flea markets you can find an astonishing assortment of goods, both old and new. Everyday offers a new opportunity to poke about the Sahaflar Carsisi and Cinaralti in the Beyazit district. On Sundays, in a flea market between the Sahaflar and the Covered Bazaar, vendors uncover their wares on carts and blankets. The Horhor Carsisi is a collection of shops that sell furniture of varying age and quality. The flea market in the Topkapi district, on Cukurcuma Sokak in Cihangir, on Buyuk Hamam Sokak in Uskudar, in the Kadikoy Carsi Duragi area, and between Eminonu and Tahtakale, are open daily. After a drive up the Bosphorus on a Sunday stop between Buyukdere and Sariyer to wander through another lively market.