Adventures & Travel

TMS Travels: Istanbul – Spice Bazaar


Quite by accident, we found ourselves in the Spice Bazaar which can be identified by, well, the massive amounts of spices in sacks everywhere. Quick tip: get in early before noon if you want time to browse and wander without being muscled along by the crowds – it seems that people don’t get up on the weekends much before then but when they do they are out in force.

Is it worth the trip?

Some of the stuff isn’t much of a savings from the UK, but the Iranian saffron and the Turkish pistachios are a couple of things I had to get. We’re talking hefty savings of 50% or more and that’s before attempting to get a bit of the price knocked down.

One thing definitely to look for is the pomegranate Turkish delight from the vendor at the end of the Spice Bazaar (opposite entrance from the one near the Yeni Mosque). This stuff is brilliant and you can taste the sweet yet tangy juices of the pomegranate in each bite. I’ve tried some of the pre-boxed stuff but it’s nowhere near as fresh and powerful – this guy knows what he’s doing.

Turkish Delight - that one in the middle is pomegranate and pistachio

Turkish Delight – that one in the middle is pomegranate and pistachio

You can haggle here but it’s worth going for a lap before you pick a place as often a stall two spots down will have the same product for 20% less – might as well start from a lower price! I can’t tell if they all get the products from the same wholesaler (they do look identical…) but they seem to be more or less the same.  Keep in mind that you should try to negotiate as that’s part of the game – even a 5TL decrease gains you a bit of respect from the merchant.

Haggling? How on earth do I do that?

A few bargaining tips: 1) Don’t go straight for what you want – actually make it the middle thing you look at and bargain a bit about something you don’t want before going back to it almost as a second choice, 2) try to avoid telling them you are from the US/UK as they will use the favourable exchange rate against you, and 3) don’t be shy about walking away – if you have a chance of getting the price you want then they will call you back.

Finally, given the similar products, if you screw up the bargaining process, don’t worry, just walk down a few metres and start again!

Any other tips?

Keep in mind, this is a mostly cash only place but some of the larger stalls will take cards. Also, make sure to get everything vaccuum sealed properly as it will keep fresh a lot longer! And every stall has a vaccuum packer – even the ones that look like a hastily erected tent.

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