With its domes, minarets, skyscrapers and towers, Istanbul has one of the most eclectic and memorable skylines in the world. It’s one of the largest cities in Europe and you don’t need us to tell you that it’s an out-and-out giant when it comes to shopping. Haggle in the bazaars, hit the hip boutiques in Beyoglu, go High Street in Pera, or do designer in Nisantasi.
To really up the shopping ante, for 20 days every year this remarkable city hosts a retail bonanza. This year, from 9 until 29 June, the Istanbul Shopping Festival (“an annual festival of shopping, culture and entertainment”) will draw visitors in their thousands. Shopping centres will stay open for 24 hours a day, and there will be performances in locations across the city, including incredible acts like the truly whacky Flying Madmen.
Shop… Stroll the sassy streets of Nisantasi where, on grand Tesvikiye Avenue, international brands are housed in old palaces. Here the Guccis, Ferres and Armanis jostle for attention alongside old favourites: Diamond, the oldest jeweller’s in the area, and Konak, loved for its candied fruits and pastries.
Drop… The Sofa NisantasiThe Sofa in Nisantasi pushes the envelope on almost every level. Expect loads of space in the 82 rooms and suites, as well as A-to-Z luxury and trip-over-ourselves-to-serve-you gusto. It tries – with amazing success – to be everything to everyone, giving new meaning to your bedside ‘Anything, Anytime’ button.
Shop… Ten minutes from Taksim Square (the ‘Piccadilly Circus’ of Istanbul) is Pera, the atmospheric old European quarter. Its main shopping street, Istiklal Caddesi, is lined with high street stores, boutiques and bars.
Drop… House GalatasarayThe House Galatasaray, 10 minutes’ walk from Istiklal Caddesi, is a design maven’s dream. A sensitive restoration of this 19th-century Ottoman mansion has preserved the original features – lofty ceilings, ornate plasterwork, tiled floors, a sweeping marble staircase – and complemented them with luxurious interiors from uber-cool Turkish designers Autoban.
Shop… The Grand Bazaar is noisy, claustrophobic, chaotic – and one of the greatest covered markets in the world. It sells everything exotic, from carpets and kilims to “aphrodisiacs for sultans” – even fashionably organic cotton towels – and the haggling is fast and furious.
Drop… Hotel Ibrahim PashaTucked away down a side street and walking distance from the Grand Bazaar, Hotel Ibrahim Pasha is in the heart of Sultanahmet, the ancient hub of the city and home to one of the richest concentrations of ancient relics in the world. This classy conversion of two four-storey 19th-century Ottoman townhouses has a fabulous roof terrace with unbeatable views of the Blue Mosque and the Bosphorus.
Shop… Veer off into once-seedy-now-trendy Beyoglu, whose tangle of alleyways and streets teems with hip bars and cool boutiques. Dip into Halide (Turnacibasi Sokak 71) for uber-cool minimalist furniture, and the postage stamp-sized 180 at No. 28 for clothes. Just remember to come with space in your suitcase!
Drop… Lush HotelSteps from the entrance of Lush Hotel in Beyoglu, you’ll be swept into a hub of shopping, dining and partying. Hip, inventive and luxe to its smallest detail, Lush is a destination in itself. The below-ground brasserie has fabulous food and drinks, plus live music on Friday nights.