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Better than the Grand Bazaar: the Beşiktaş Saturday Market

Better than the Grand Bazaar: the Beşiktaş Saturday Market

“Her şey bir lira! Her şey! Her şey!” Yells the stallholder, his hard voice splitting through the tangled murmurs of the crowd. I squeeze my way to the front table to be confronted by piles of trinkets: leather bracelets, colored twine with drops of silver-plated pendants, glittering plastic gems, and nazarlık – “evil eye” charms. Everything one Lira.

Seeing that I’m not choosing, another lady leans over to examine the necklaces laid out before me and I slink away.

Local living: Colorful costume jewelry at a steal

No, I’m not at Istanbul’s famous (and honestly, rather sterile) Grand Bazaar. Instead I’ve made my way to the Beşiktaş Saturday market, a bazaar set up in a plain old multi-storey carpark.

From my first step inside it is clear that this is a truly local haunt. I am the only foreigner, not a single English sign or voice is to be found, and – best of all – there’s hardly any oily salesman charm or haggling going on. Sellers are too busy packaging goods and handing out change to be ripping anyone off. The only time I get a stallholder’s attention is when I pull out my camera, and when he looks over I break into an embarrassed smile.

Local living: Gaudy scarves

He smiles back, then continues with business.

The Old City area of Istanbul can be a pain to explore. Especially if you’re a solo female traveler. Especially if you’re not Caucasian. But here at Beşiktaş, it’s strangely comforting to be able to let my guard down and shop around without wondering if I should be paying less.

Even though I can’t understand a single word I hear, even though I’m forced to use English as I explain the amount of strawberries and dried figs I want, I somehow seem to get more for less money than I expect. I’m usually averse to crowds but here I feel relaxed, inching along with the current of jostling bodies. No one tries to actually sell me anything. I feel, well, like a local.

Local living: Pick and mix

When I hesitate at a pastry stall trying to figure out the fillings of various cakes, it takes the owner a whole minute to notice me even though there are no other customers. She casually offers me a slice of pancake so generous I thought I’d have to pay for it. “Try,” she says. “Cheese, spinach.”

Local living: Foodielicious baked goods

It is so delicious that I end up buying some, and again I’m surprised by how much cheaper and better it is than the stuff in Taksim, especially considering that Beşiktaş isn’t that secluded. It makes me wonder what I’ve been missing out from the wet markets back home while I shop in the comfort of air-conditioned, 24-hour supermarkets.

Local living: Making the rounds, serving fresh hot Turkish tea

Needless to say, I’ve found a great place to buy sweets and gifts for folks back home.

Other things to do in Beşiktaş, Istanbul

Beşiktaş lies just outside of Istanbul’s tourist districts; the downtown area near Beşiktaş Pier is a web of cobblestone streets lined with all manner of local shops, boutiques, alfresco cafes, and bars. Beşiktaş Fish Market, which was rebuilt in 2013 with a sleek contemporary facade, is a favorite spot for locals to buy fresh fish and seafood.

Getting to Beşiktaş Saturday Market

Being a local attraction, Besiktas Saturday market isn’t highly accessible: it’s 20 minutes’ walk from Beşiktaş Pier, where you can travel by ferry along the Bosphorus, or also 20 minutes’ walk from Osmanbey metro station.

As the name implies, the Besiktas Saturday market is open from dawn to dusk on Saturdays.

View + save my Istanbul map for the market’s location and more things to check out in Istanbul!

Have you been to Beşiktaş? What other neighborhoods and local markets in Istanbul would you recommend?

5 Comments

  1. 6 years ago

    Besiktas! It’s an amazing place to explore with so many good places to eat and to chill. It’s especially fun to walk from Besiktas to Ortakoy, one of my favourite places as well. Enjoy!

    • 6 years ago

      *Nods* I live at Sisli and walk all the way through Besiktas to Ortakoy. It’s a lovely place to unwind by the sea. Only grumble is the walk back uphill is exhausting!

      • 6 years ago

        *Laughs* You’re right. Infact, none of the apartments have elevators either so I always end up huffing and puffing all the way, from the hills, right up to the 6th floor of the apartment! Have you seen Light of Babylon performing at Istiklal Caddesi? They’re friends of my boyfriend! They’re amazing musicians and they know of the best live music places to go to! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKJvbTEnp0I

  2. 6 years ago

    great article…matches my experiences in Turkey. Once i escaped the tourist haunts, i found the “normal” Turkey to be friendly, welcoming, and honest. Eventually ended up (a first for me) getting invited to dinners and people’s homes. Was a transformative country for me – where i finally learned what complexity and travel really meant.

    • 6 years ago

      Yep, my housemate and her friends have been most hospitable – making me local meals, showing me around, and sharing their way of life.

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