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A guide to Turkish bazaars

There's nothing quite like the atmosphere and hubbub of a Turkish bazaar. The strong colours and smells of the goods mixed with the sound of sellers luring you is enough to keep you coming back for more.

Actually known as a 'pazar' in Turkish or sometimes a 'han', meaning a group of traders, locals will know exactly what you're talking about if you asking for directions to the bazaar. They're the perfect place to pick up gifts for your family back home or grab a bite to eat.

Grab a bargain

Bartering to get the best bargain is the norm at Turkey's bazaars. Shops and stalls selling similar items tend to cluster in the same area and owners make it their challenge to entice you in so it can be a buyer's market, so to speak.

Visiting between 11am and 1pm is generally the best time to strike a good deal before the salesperson reaches their quota for the day and starts to inflate prices. What you should always do is get the seller to name the starting price and go down from there. If you give an initial price, there will be little leeway.

Istanbul’s double offering

Many people visit Istanbul just to experience the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, given it was built in 1461. But Istanbul actually has two vast markets which are open every day. With over 4,000 shops, the Grand Bazaar sells just about every product you can imagine, while the Spice Bazaar is dedicated to food, spices and edible souvenirs, especially lokum, or Turkish delight.

Open between 8.30am and 7pm every day, except Sunday, you'll need at least three hours to take in the Grand Bazaar's main areas. But if you want to spend some time browsing, drinking Turkish tea and exploring the narrow side lanes where you'll find artisans at work, this will take considerably longer. To get the most out of your experience you can book a guide to steer you in the right direction and help you with some bartering tips.

The Spice Bazaar is another sight to behold with bright displays of spices, herbs, fruit and nuts sitting beside pieces of equally colourful Turkish delight. Open daily from 8am to 7.30pm, it's worth just walking around and taking in the tempting smells.

A market a day in Bodrum

In the Bodrum peninsula you can visit a different market every day of the week, but the biggest one is in Bodrum City, which has separate areas selling food and clothing. Open on Fridays, the food market does an amazing line in fruit, herbs, vegetables, local cheeses, olives and olive oil. The traders start to set up on Thursday afternoons so you can shop without the crowds on an evening, but for the experience of seeing the bazaar in full flow head there on a Friday afternoon.

Tuesday is the day for low-cost clothes, textiles, carpets and kitchenware, plus this part of the market gets even busier than the food market, with visitors travelling from surrounding Greek islands to snap up a bargain.

Other options around Bodrum include the mixed market in Turgutreis on a Saturday, selling both clothing and food. As one of the biggest markets in the area, Turgutreis has a good choice of restaurants next to the harbour where you can grab a quick lunch or a lazy meal after all that shopping. Wednesday is another good day for Bodrum shopping as there are markets in both Gundogan and Ortakent.

Food, coffee and architecture in Izmir

Kemeralti Market is a maze-like bazaar stretching across the city of Izmir. Starting at Konak Square and not petering out until ancient Agora, it encompasses shops, places to eat and drink coffee, artisans' workshops, mosques and synagogues.

Focusing mainly on food and drink, the market is open 8am to 7pm, Monday to Saturday with a large produce market on Havra Sokagi, or Synagogue Street. The is also part of the city's historic Jewish quarter. There's a culinary tour of the bazaar you can sign up to, which will take you around the markets, bakeries and tea gardens. We recommend you try the delicious fincanda pisen Turk kahvesi on your way round – it's a delicious Turkish coffee boiled in the cup.

Sultan slippers in Antalya

Antalya City's traditional market area includes an old central bazaar where you can buy food, not to mention a street laden with busy stalls selling clothes, toys, electronics, household goods and pretty much everything you can think of. Walk to the east from the Attalus statue and there's a group of tiny lanes where you can get your fix of jewellery and souvenirs.

One place not to miss is the Ottoman Sultan Slipper shop in the Kaleici area, which has a range of hand-stitched, pointy-toed slippers that are made of ox or buffalo leather and dyed using natural ingredients such as pomegranate.

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