If you want to return from Istanbul with truly memorable souvenirs, simply ditch the Grand Bazaar and head over to the winding streets of Çukurcuma, Istanbul's antiques district.
Located in the heart of Istanbul’s artsy Beyoglu district, considered to be the city's west-thinking quarter, Çukurcuma has been experiencing a certain gentrification for several years. However, the neighborhood has managed to keep a balance between its newfound respectability and its original flea market charm, with musty shops where you can get anything from floral-carved wooden door to old wooden birdcages and colorful ceramic dishes.
As Çukurcuma showcases an eclectic mix of new and old, of history and development, it is recommended to set aside some time in order to fully explore everything that Çukurcuma has to offer.
Çukurcuma has long been known for its collections of antiques, and clusters of antique shops are found at either end of the main street. The whole area is wonderfully irregular, with a dozen pokey streets meandering their way around grand buildings with uneven rooftops, crumbling structures with exposed bricks and also cutting edge shops and restaurants. Goods from the shops spill out onto the streets, tempting shoppers to spend more time, and of course money, by stepping into the treasure troves.
There are many highlights in Çukurcuma - the most lively antique hunting experience lies, however, close to the bustle of Istiklal Caddesi. Some stores worth a mention are:
- Pied de Poule - a vintage clothing store with simply delightful owners, it is clear that many of the items on sale have great sentimental value and therefore history behind them. The owners of this shop make the visit worthwhile, even if it may not be possible to afford the items on sale as prices can be a little high. There is some beautiful clothing to be seen though.
- A la Turca - this store features a glorious collection of Turkish antiques, which is probably the richest in Istanbul. A whole day can easily be spent in A la Turca, no matter the extent of the customer's knowledge of Ottoman antiques and art.
- Modern Tarih - this store has a more exotic theme, displaying pieces of art from further afield. Chinese, Russian, Mongolian and African histories are represented in the exquisite pieces here, ranging from tapestries to statues. Browsing through this shop is like walking around a museum.
- Popcorn - found among one of the clusters of antique stores, this store holds an excellent mix. Vintage boomboxes share shelf space with antique clocks and Ottoman ceramics.
When eyes and feet are exhausted, Algeria Street is within the Çukurcuma neighborhood, where one of Istanbul's best alfresco dining scenes can be found. Whether collecting specific antiques or simply looking for an amazing way to spend a day, Çukurcuma should not be missed.
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