“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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.