30 Minutes in Istanbul’s Spice Market

Love Tea

The Love Tea immediately caught my eye. Can’t hurt, right? Unfortunately the 250g I bought was left in a bag in my hotel room. And so it goes. I can only hope the next occupant made use of it as it was meant to be used.

This, and the pics below, were taken last week at the Egyptian Bazaar in Istanbul, popularly and more simply known as the Spice Market. It’s a massive L-shaped arcade-style building with 88 rooms located near the waterfront on the Golden Horn, in the shadow of the ‘New Mosque‘ on Eminönü Square.

Like the Grand Bazaar, which I didn’t particularly care for (more on that another time), the Spice Market is quite the tourist attraction as well, but it’s also a place where  plenty of locals shop. “More than half,” one shopkeeper told me. From the sounds of the non-stop lively commerce, I had no reason to doubt him.

Obviously, piles and piles of colorful spices abound. The colors are blindingly delicious, the scents delectably delightful. But there’s plenty more besides tea and spice.  Like shoes, unfortunately.

Istanbul 079


And LOTS of sugar, too. About half the shops in the Bazaar sell sweets, primarily a countless variety of Turkish Delight, or Lokum. These items aren’t as ‘gourmet’ as they appear – they’re mainly flavored jelly and cornstarch. But they’re good. The huge blocks are nuts glued together with a sweet gel.

And if it’s not spicy or sweet, it’s nutty or fruity. None of it is particularly cheap, by the way. Prices for various nuts, dried fruit and figs, for example, were on par with prices here in Slovenia or in markets I’ve visited in various cities in France, Italy or Spain.

But just as interesting to me was what was outside, mainly the handful of stalls with a nice variety and selection of fresh fish. But to get to them you first have to walk past a stalls where you could buy a machine to roll grape leaves…

.. and this display case full of hooves.

I had seafood in Istanbul six of the eight nights I was there, and couldn’t get enough. It’s reason enough to return.

Shopping tips? Just a few:

  • Taste and smell before you buy
  • Look for shops and stalls who clearly specialize in something
  • Go where the locals go
  • Avoid buying cheesy souvenirs here, and
  • Don’t leave your Love Tea behind.

By the way, I didn’t feel like fumbling around with my SLR, so these were all shot on my Sony HDR CX350VE video cam.


Last week I came across the travel blog Budget Travelers Sandbox which hosts Travel Photo Thursday (#TPThursday on twitter), and am delighted to join in this week. When you have few minutes to browse, check out host Nancie’s photos and those of others who take part. You’ll see some great photos and visit some wonderful places.



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  1. Nancie M says

    Welcome to Travel Photo Thursday, Bob. Love this post and your wonderful photos. Istanbul is high on my list and after reading your post and seeing the photos I think it has moved even higher!

    1. BobR says

      Thanks! I’m sure you’d enjoy, but you’d need a bit of time. It’s an absolutely massive city. It’s cliche at this point, but it truly is an interesting blend of Europe and Asia.

  2. Jade says

    Great photos! I love all the bright colors in spice markets. The fish heads kind of freak me out, but I think it’s the fish eyes that look like they are starring back at me!!

    1. BobR says

      Thanks! I find myself drawn to fish heads actually. 🙂

  3. Beautiful pictures! The Spice Markets and Grand Bazaar are two of my must visits if I ever make it to Istanbul. I love all the colors and they’re so enticing (well, except for the hooves). Thanks for sharing these. What a great experience!

    1. BobR says

      Thanks! This market was interesting and fun, but the Grand Bazaar I didn’t care for too much. The latter’s really mostly a tourist trap filled with stuff I’m not in the least bit interested in buying. But I’m not much of a shopper. 😉

  4. I love visiting markets. They are the pulse of any community.
    Great shots!

    1. BobR says

      Indeed. And this one, unlike the monstrous Grand Bazaar, is primarily locals.

  5. Michael Schurmann says

    Markets are always interesting, not only for the colours, the smells (of exotic spices and local food) but also for the chance to observe the locals’ daily lives

  6. Sophie's World (@SophieR) says

    Nice, bright colours at this market. And sword fish. Love it!

    1. BobR says

      Yeah, it did stick out. 🙂

  7. Country Skipper says

    Interesting how many things besides spices are sold on this spice market 🙂 Love all the colors, but I do wonder if they use fake colors on some of the spices to make them look more appealing.

    1. BobR says

      I thought the same thing but was assured by several people that that isn’t the case. The lighting does help, though. 🙂

      1. Country Skipper says

        Good to know! I once bought green pepper in Egypt and found out later it was colored 🙂

  8. Dick Jordan says

    Great colors in these shots!

    1. BobR says


  9. leigh_mcadam@telus.ney says

    What a truly wonderful set of photos. Bummer about the Love Tea but now you have a reason to go back. Your photos make me yearn to return. Curious as to what the lime green stuff is in one of the photos above the orange tea.

    1. BobR says

      Thanks, and thanks for stopping by. That’s Kiwi Tea. Never tried it.

  10. Octavia Bortes says

    Wonderful pictures and useful post. I’ll be leaving for Turkey next week and I can’t wait to visit Istanbul and the Spice Market. And of course get some Love Tea!

    1. BobR says

      Thanks, and enjoy. I’m sure you’ll have better weather than we did. Yes, be sure to pack that tea!

  11. What incredible colors. The Spice Market looks like my kind of place! Too bad about your love tea 🙂

    I’m glad to see you linking up with Budget Traveler’s Sandbox!

    1. BobR says

      Thanks! And yes, too bad… 🙂

  12. thetravelgal says

    What a lovely blog you have! Beautiful photos and perfect write-ups.

    And what a perfect post for me, as I am headed to Turkey next month and will be spending some more time looking through your posts. I’m eager to visit the spice market – it was on my list. After I’ve done some more looking through here I’ll probably be asking you some questions!

    1. BobR says

      Thanks, and ask away, I’ll do the best I can. I’ll be posting a few more Istanbul-related items over the next week.

    2. business insurance says

      That kind of thinking shows you’re an expert

  13. Cathy Sweeney says

    Love tea? Awesome. I clicked on that pic to get a better look — don’t think I’ve ever seen teas like that. Everything is so colorful and enticing at the spice markets. Great shots.

    1. BobR says

      Thanks! First time I’ve ever seen it as well. I’ve seen plenty of teas that claim to be various aphrodisiacs and such, so this is probably quite similar.

    2. Deswita says

      I have some darkroom phprogtaohy equipment that I’d like to sell. It’s worth something to someone who can really appreciate the value of it. I’ve tried selling it on Craigs List and Kijiji but didn’t get anyone serious. Could you advice me as to any Canadian Photography magazines or this one (Photo LIfe) where I could post my ad?Thanks,Lisa

  14. Yingying Xue says

    Wow,it’s amazing!

  15. Cheryl Howard says

    Fun pics! I’d love to shop in a spice market like this. Andddd oh too bad about the tea, guess you’ll have to go back and get more. 🙂

    1. BobR says

      Thanks! It’s so very nice to see so many people concerned about my bad stroke of luck with the love tea. 🙂

  16. Anwar says

    I liked the spice market, but I agree that it was too touristy. The area around there was fun, and eating fish sandwiches by the water in Eminönü was the best.

    1. BobR says

      Anwar, I had a few of those, too. They taste just fine and the price is definitely right. I’ve got some video of the sandwich makers working on very choppy water. 🙂

  17. […] The author ties much of the book to his own personal experiences, and except in those passages dense with unfamiliar names, his voice is conversational.  The final chapter emphasizes that Instanbul is no “dusty museum” but a fast-moving, fast-developing modern city.  The variety of goods that Bob Ramsak found in the markets emphasize this point. I particularly liked these shoes, modern tennies with a Mid-Eastern flair, near the traditional displays of spices in the Grand Bazaar. (You can see more shots of the Istanbul markets at Bob’s website, Piran Cafe. […]

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  19. […] für 209,00 € 7. Sky High Slip-In von swedish hasbeens für 179,00 € (Inspiration image via pirancafe.com) (© by wundergestalten.de) Dieser Eintrag wurde veröffentlicht in Fashion & Style, […]

  20. […] On a side note, when we were in Seattle (the last stop on our wonderful road trip), we ate at this amazing Mediterranean restaurant called Cafe Turko. While glancing at one of the newspaper clippings they had displayed around the place, I read a quote by the owner. He said of the Istanbul Spice Market that, “If you look it up in Google, you’ll see the colors of God.” (See photo of the Istanbul Spice Market to the bottom left; photo credit goes to PiranCafe Blog). […]

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