Whether you are a first timer or a returning visitor to Istanbul, or even an inhabitant of the city, the magical atmosphere of the Grand Bazaar will carry you away every time you set foot in it. As the world’s first shopping mall, the Grand Bazaar is a rare blend of Islamic architecture, Ottoman culture and Turkish hospitality.
When it comes to the Grand Bazaar, the first thing that gets one’s heart beating faster is the glamorous jewellery, and when it comes to jewellers, Shalabi is the first name that comes to mind. Pol Shalabi, who runs this family business of gorgeous jewels and antiques, is a fourth generation jeweller. Having a chat with him is good enough a reason in itself for visiting the store. Shalabi has a vast collection of Ottoman and Art Deco jewellery, along with mesmerising antique porcelain and silver pieces.
Another jewellery shop that stands out from the crowd is Timuçin, which offers high-end jewellery with a focus on emerald and sapphire. The shop’s vintage collection includes unique examples of Ottoman and European jewellery dating back to the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as hand-picked sterling silver objects by Cartier, Garrard and Lalaounis.
Related: The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul: a guide
Amongst the numerous carpet shops, Dhoku is unusual for the way that it adds contemporary touches to the traditional. Founded in 2007, Dhoku represents a response to modern trends in home furnishing. But it remains true to its roots, and uses pure wool that has been spun by hand in Anatolian villages, in carpets that are hand-knotted by villagers in their homes on the Aegean mountains. www.dhoku.com
Iznik ceramics and tiles reflecting Seljuk and Ottoman culture are brought to life at Iznik Works. The bold colours and exquisite details in their products are a feast for the eyes. The shop's lead-free products can be used as kitchenware. Iznik Works mainly uses quartz as their raw material – the same quality as the tiles of Topkapı Palace. www.iznik-art.com
Sivaslı Yazmacı is a textiles store that supplies famous designers in the city. This narrow store packed with cloths resembles a Pantone catalogue in fabric form. At Sivaslı Yazmacı, there is a huge choice of pattern, embroideries and textures for all tastes.
Yazzma is another cloth brand that has been proudly present in the bazaar for 16 years. Their hand-woven work is principally based on Ikat patterns, and on embroidery inspired by Iznik ceramics. In addition to cloth, the shop also stocks pillowcases, bedspreads and lampshades. www.yazzma.com
If you are looking for a special shawl or a scarf, Ottoamano is another good address. The shop has been in the bazaar since 1983. Ottoamano mainly offers handcrafted garments in both ethnic and modern styles. You can find cotton, silk, cashmere, pashmina and shatoosh shawls orchestrated in a harmony of colour on the shelves. www.ottoamano.com
Located in one of the bazaar’s narrow passages, the stone walls of Nick’s Calligraphy shop are full of examples of a delicate art: leaves expressing tolerance and peace. Istanbul native Nick Merdenyan works with leaves from the Dieffenbachia plant. He dries them for one and a half years, paints them with liquid gold to portray symbols from every religion, and sends international messages to humanity through his art. www.nickscalligraphy.com
Related: Calligraphy in Istanbul
Opposite Nick’s Calligraphy there is an equally small shop with a whole world of history. L’Orient is a location selling portable cultural objects such as water-pitchers, incense burners and coffee grinders. Chatting with the owner Murat Bilir over the story of each piece is a true pleasure.