Weekend in Istanbul (Part II)

October 20th, 2011

Earlier, I shared Part I of our weekend in Istanbul: Where we stayed, What we visited & What we ate.

Here’s more about that trip.

Where We Shopped

I wanted to buy something not available in Dubai, and I was set on Cukurcuma, the antique district in Beyoglu. Unfortunately, we had trouble finding the area. (Later, I discovered we were so close but had missed it!) The next day was Sunday and many shops were closed, and some streets were closed due to the Istanbul City Marathon. Alas, antique-shopping was not meant to be.

We settled on the Grand Bazaar, a famous and colorful souk, a sprawling labyrinth of over 4,000 shops. Here we found the usual Middle Eastern  handicrafts, carpets and kilims, pottery, jewelry, leather and more. There were even some antiques, but none called out to me.


I’ve been to other souks in Arab cities, and the Grand Bazaar reminded me most of the Muslim Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. However, the Grand Bazaar felt much bigger—downright overwhelming. It seemed to go on forever. I was buying things left and right because I was afraid I would never find that shop again. We entered at one gate, wandered, shopped and browsed for several hours, then left from another gate, exhausted and unsure of where we were.


This bazaar was the one place that felt Middle Eastern to me. The bargaining was intense. We had to go back and forth, back and forth, just to agree on the right price for one teapot. Here are a few things we saw in the Grand Bazaar. Lots of pottery.

Whirling dervishes.

More whirling dervishes. 

And pomegranates, too.

There were many beautiful things that I didn’t take photos of. Actually, I didn’t linger at any shop unless I planned to buy something because the shopkeepers were quite aggressive.

Where We Went

We also went to Istiklal Caddesi, a bustling pedestrian boulevard in Beyoglu, and near our hotel. We went twice; both times it was raining. Still, it was the weekend, and the promenade was filled with locals strolling under umbrellas.


This promenade was in sharp contrast to the bazaar. We found modern restaurants, boutiques, cafes and businesses like Starbucks, Nike and The Gap. This was the place to see the young people, who struck me as stylish and hip, and above all, European.

And the architecture was European, too. So quaint compared to Dubai. Here was one of many cute buildings.

The avenue had a streetcar running from one end to the other.


I noticed that shops were grouped according to type–jewelry shops, music stores, lighting boutiques, etc. There were lots of charming side streets. Off one of them was the antique area that we never found.

As always, we gravitated to Starbucks. I like to visit Starbucks in various countries. For me, it’s not globalization, but a little piece of home. As we sat by the window, keeping warm and watching people enter and shake raindrops off their umbrellas, I almost felt like I was in Seattle.

Meanwhile, I saw so few women wearing hijab, I was thinking that one sees more women in headscarf in Seattle than in this part of Istanbul.

Below are some of the more Turkish sights of Istiklal Street.

Coming up next: Part III: What we saw, What we bought, What surprised me & What I thought

Question: What is your favorite area of Istanbul?


  1. October 20th, 2011 at 11:08 | #1

    I’d love to go to the Grand Bazaar one day – it looks amazing. My husband went to Istanbul earlier this year. I can’t believe I let him go without me. Next time I will make sure I go too.

  2. Solimar
    October 20th, 2011 at 17:03 | #2


    I love your photos, especially the pottery. I enjoyed seeing the streets there in your photos. I can get a sense of what it was like to be there. It a very built up city, so many buildings. It looks like an interesting place to go back to and really enjoy more of though. Thanks for sharing.


  3. Danielle
    October 20th, 2011 at 18:52 | #3

    Great pictures, Holly! Glad you had a good time! Want to know my favorite area in Istanbul? It’s the hidden courtyard filled with YARN SHOPS that I found directions to on someone’s blog…down the labyrinthine streets behind the Grand Bazaar, you enter through a non-descript alley-way into a courtyard lined with shops selling clothing and underwear, then climb one of the narrow staircases to the mezzanine level to get to dozens of yarn shops. I had to haggle in sign-language as no one spoke English (I even negotiated in my pitiful German with one fellow!), and came away with bags and bags of wonderful yarns that kept me busy for months — and so cheap! Bliss! And my husband was absolutely thrilled that I didn’t make him go with me 🙂

  4. October 21st, 2011 at 07:31 | #4

    Two locations for you:

    http://g.co/maps/2ugjs This is for just relaxing, ignore the Mall up the hill, stay around harbour.

    http://g.co/maps/dvzhf Head inland and see true community shopping streets, seawards is a magnificent, in looks and location, Mosque.

    Finally just to the rear of the tourist trap Cicek Passage, excellent restaurants, if you like fish, caught by the restaurant owners boats: http://g.co/maps/nyngy

  5. Holly S. Warah
    Holly S. Warah
    October 21st, 2011 at 11:35 | #5

    @@rupertbu Thanks for the suggestions; they sound wonderful. Can’t wait to go back and explore more. I feel like I barely got a glimpse of the city.

  6. Holly S. Warah
    Holly S. Warah
    October 21st, 2011 at 11:38 | #6

    @Danielle Thanks for sharing your yarn-hunting story. I love that feeling of accomplishment, when I find exactly what I’m coveting in a foreign city.
    @Judith @Solimar Thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  7. October 21st, 2011 at 15:17 | #7

    I dream of a visit to Istanbul! Have missed your blog – happy to be back from Morocco and diving back into my reading habits!

  8. Francine
    October 22nd, 2011 at 01:59 | #8

    I have a hard time deciding what was my favorite part. The history was awe inspiring, the beautiful colors of the pottery and rugs were breathtaking, the Grand Bazaar was mind boggling. And the whirling dervishes–I thought about them for days after we watched them dance. I think I left a little piece of my heart in Istanbul.

  9. Holly S. Warah
    Holly S. Warah
    October 22nd, 2011 at 07:54 | #9

    @Francine You described the city very well. I think you saw more than I did. 🙂

    @Amanda Thanks for stopping by.

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