Shopping on the Wrong Side of Town

September 14, 2012 19 Comments »

turkish woman at the market

The turkish woman suggest to me to take her photo – that makes my job easy!

Everyone talks about wanting to find local experiences when you travel – strangely one of my best local finds in Istanbul was a place where the locals tried to convince me to stay away from.  Were they trying to hide it’s greatness?!  I honestly don’t think so – instead they were simply trying to ensure I was safe and saw the nicer sides of the city.  Just down the hill from the glitz of Istiklal Street is what many locals might refer to the ‘wrong side of the tracks.’ I’ve heard Tarlabasi referred to as the ‘”bad part of town” and the “Istanbul Slums”.  I was also told that “gypsies live there, it’s not safe”.  Of course that made it all the more interesting to me in some ways.

Sometimes you need to trust your gut and go to the places that they tell tourists not to go…and that’s what I did this Sunday.  I grabbed a few shopping bags, my camera, sunscreen, and walked to the place people told me to stay away from so that I could see what real life was like in the city of Istanbul.   And the best part about it – since this wasn’t really a market where tourists shopped, they were overjoyed to see me – a camera toting tourist – walking through the stalls!

This is an Istanbul neighborhood that has not quite succumbed to gentrification yet – but I’m pretty sure in a few years it will look very different. However, if you are looking for an authentic experience in Istanbul – this is it. I spent a few hours at the Tarlabasi Sunday market shopping for produce and taking photos. Every single vendor and person there were a joy to interact with. I’m pretty sure I was even proposed to at one point!  I was constantly stopped and asked if I would take a photo or simply try food.  As a foreign traveler, I was definitely in the minority. Plus the best part is that I walked away with bags of produce that I would use to cook in my apartment over the next week – saving me loads of money.

In fact, for fun – take a look at this first photo of everything I purchased at the market that day and determine what you think it should cost if you were to buy all of these things in your city.  Get that number in your head and I will reveal what I spent at the end! 

My market purchases

My market purchases…fruit, veg, mint, parsley, bulgar…what would this all cost you in your home town?

market stalls

Thanks goodness for the tarps as it was a very hot day in July!

Market vendors

These guys asked for their photos to be taken and then I’m pretty sure asked for my phone number!

a car turned into a showroom

This could be my favorite market photo ever – the car wasn’t moved – so instead of having it towed, it was simply turned into a showroom! Ingenious!

market vendors pose for pictures

Market vendors ask for the photos to be taken


A man poses by his produce at Tarlabasi Market

suspended shoes for sale

It’s raining shoes!!! The market has a bit of everything!

man at the market

All of the vendors asked me to take a photo of this man – clearly they were all friends and lived in the area and used the Sunday market as a time to socialize


Colorful cartons of eggs

corn vendor

This corn vendor chased me down for his photo – he was quite proud of his corn!

watermelon truck

Watermelon were in season while I was in Istanbul…trucks of them everywhere!


So – how much did my market shopping cost me in the ‘bad part of town’?

Drum roll please….in Istanbul I bought all of that produce/food for about $8US!

Sometimes it pays to shop on the ‘wrong’ side of town!

Please share in the comments what you would have paid in your city for all of that produce!

See all of my Istanbul market photography



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