Shopping on the Wrong Side of Town

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



Your Comments

19 Comments so far

  1. greg says:

    i love your photos… wife loves taking similar photos…..i do all the shopping in the house and there is a place called the Boys(produce/meat market)that has all the items and i suspect i would pay 10 bucks

  2. Carmel says:

    We have a great farmers market, but I still think it would’ve been around $20 for that haul.

  3. Efrutik says:

    OMG so my literal comment after reading your price tag was “WTF” lol! Sorry for vulgarity but that is super and it looks sooo good too. Lately Turkey has been on mind, I’m really thinking of Istanbul as a future destination. Great coverage of the “path less traveled” here! Thanks!

  4. Laura says:

    These are great photos! And I’m just a little jealous that I didn’t know about this market when I was in Istanbul. Definitely a steal for the produce.

  5. Nailah says:

    Oh – really wishing I’d gone there when I was in Istanbul earlier this year…next time for sure! Loved the picture of the car…I kinda hope the owner of the car was sitting near by having a glass of tea realizing he wasn’t going anywhere for a while.

  6. Alexa Hart says:

    Great post! I did a rough calculation in my head about the food, and I guessed between $16 and $20 for an average grocery store in the Los Angeles suburbs.

    Nice how the people were so friendly and wanted you to take photos. I love it when that happens. They look so happy to show off their food.

  7. jan says:

    I will definitely go to this market if and when we get to Istanbul. Great post, and great photos. I love markets and friendly people.

  8. I love it when I manage to find non-touristy markets when I’ traveling. you are absolutely right about how much and easy it’s to take photos take. And you really got a good bargain on that stuff!

  9. Wow, what a wonderful market experience and local encounter. I love the “raining shoes” and “car showcase” photos. In my city those goodies would cause me around US$18.

  10. The picture of a car with goods aroung is really extra ordinary. Please pull that car back! That is also my favorite market photo!

  11. Sara says:

    I used to live in Tarlabasi! I looked forward to going to that market every week. It’s a great neighborhood that has seen some improvements over the last few years. It’s definitely one of my favorite spots.

  12. Beril says:

    Great photos!

  13. Erin says:

    I love the pride in all of the faces of the merchants. They clearly love to get their pictures taken with their goods.

  14. Baron's says:

    The Bulgur alone would cost about $ 9.50 at Super Store in Vancouver…so you done a darn good deal sista …thanks for shring this wih us and also for injecting a shot of originality in reporting on overseas travelling… you are delectable.

  15. Carly says:

    THIS IS INCREDIBLE! I love these photos so much.

  16. We’re going to be in Isantbul in May 2013. I am a food and travel photographer at “thyme” blog ( If we can get to Istiklal Caddessi…can you tell me how long it would take to walk to this market. I’m trying to figure out how exactly to get there. Thanks!

    • Sherry says:

      The market is just down the hill from Istiklal Street – only about a 10 minute walk. There’s a famous private school along Istiklal Street where a street crosses it. If you just go down from there (into the ‘bad’ area) and cross under the big street (there’s an overpass) – then you are in the right neighborhood. Keep going down another couple of blocks and you’ll run into the market.

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