Touring around Istanbul’s many antique markets to convene with the memories of bygone eras and fall happily into the knowledge-depths of the owners who collect them, is a one-of-a-kind experience.
In the past, things were made to last. Unlike today, when we quickly replace a broken item with a new one, past objects often used to outlive the people who owned them. But today those rare items that silently withhold their memories are sought after by those who appreciate craftsmanship and quality. They can be found in several resourceful locations around the city.
Horhor Antique Market, Aksaray
For furniture pieces and accessories from all styles and epochs that add a bit of finesse to any interior.
There is no more complex place for antique shopping in Istanbul than Horhor. Located just a short walk from Aksaray metro station, its six levels serve as a cross section of all design styles and tastes. If you’re looking for something in particular, trying to locate it by yourself in this infinite storage space is an impossible mission. However, when it comes to research, local shopkeepers are way more efficient than digital catalogues: not only do they know their own shops like the back of their hands, but they can also send you the right direction if what you’re looking for is outside of their range.
Curated collections for connoisseurs, and polished pieces for those who don’t like to get their hands dirty, are mingled with the underappreciated, broken items that hope for a second chance. With shoppers, as well as set designers looking for objects to rent for films, the place gets quite busy during the day. The item you’re looking for is most likely there, all you need to do is ask around. Horhor Caddesi, Kırma Tulumba Sokak No.13, Aksaray
- Durak Antikacilik (No.141-142), where Art Deco and modern pieces from the middle of last century bring to mind the MI6 headquarters from classic James Bond movies. T: 0532 725 92 79
- Merih Uman’s space (No.154-155) creates a magnetic effect on the wandering eye with a bright glow that reflects off the restored and polished surfaces of her selected pieces. Two separate showrooms offer mostly European antiques from the eighteenth and nineteenth and centuries. T: 0532 321 86 93
- Horhor Sanat Galerisi (No.138-139) is where you can find the artistic finishing touches as well as statement pieces to complement your interiors. T: 0532 316 72 68
- At Selçuklu Antik Mobilya Tasarım (No.66) you can order handmade pieces featuring Selcuk motifs and patterns, known for their eye-catching qualities if you had the chance to see them in Istanbul museums. T: 0533 729 82 39
Kuştepe Antique Market, Şişli
To find decorative items from Ottoman palaces for the opulent look of your already not-too-shabby waterfront mansion.
Centrally located just a short walk from Şişli metro station, yet giving out a slightly abandoned vibe is the four story building of the Kuştepe Antique Market. Don’t let the quietness of the place fool you; the best customers might come in as rarely as once a year, but when they do, the shopkeepers know it was well worth the wait. Necdet Islamoğlu, who owns several spaces within the market, and is at the same time the head of the antique sellers board, has photos of Rahmi Koç, Erdoğan Demirören, and several foreign CEOs to prove it. Kuştepe Yolu, Abide Sitesi, Antikacılar Çarşısı, Mecidiyeköy
- Çintemani Antik Numbers six and 61 is the address for one-of-a-kind gifts, such as: Bohemian crystals; Çanakkale ceramics; Chinese vases; Ottoman palace cutlery; centuries-old, framed paintings and embroidery; Soviet era statues; furniture; and musical instruments. T: 0532 775 32 06
- Dede Müzayede (No.4) mostly stocks items from the first half and early second half of the last century, including radio sets and matching cabinets, pharmacist drawer systems, as well as a wide variety of busts immortalizing the leaders of a bygone era. A second shop under the same name sells mostly antique and contemporary art pieces. T: 0534 238 26 12
Üsküdar Antique Market
Crossing the Bosphorus means taking the antique hunt to the Üsküdar Antique market where some very unique objects, as well as renovation services, await. Most of the places are dotted along Büyük Hamam Sokak.
- Toygarlı Antik not only has a collection of items from Holland, Belgium, and France, but also offers furniture varnishing and restoration services to mother-of-pearl inlays. Kıroğlu Pasajı No.26, Üsküdar; T: 0533 413 85 65
- In the small shop of Celal Usta, Antik Varak (No.6), the focus of his work is made apparent by the wide array of antique gold-leaf frames on sale, while a restoration service is offered downstairs in the basement atelier. Kıroğlu Pasajı No.6, Üsküdar; T: (0216) 310 69 40
Feriköy Antique Market, Bomonti
To browse through gadgets and accessories you always wanted, but didn’t know where to find.
At the Antique Market in Feriköy, about 200 vendors set up stalls as early as 5am to secure their spots every Sunday. Since all items are brought in, it’s most likely you won’t find large pieces of furniture here. Instead, the lanes are filled with pocket-size treasures; ideal as gifts and souvenirs, sourced from Anatolia, but also from France, Italy, Germany, Austria, England, the United States, Greece, Russia, Egypt, and all the other countries that have played a part in Istanbul’s colorful history. Between well-loved books, threadbare costumes, and chipped china you can find rare vinyl records, watches, and sabers with curved blades, alongside nostalgic toys and iconic household items.
The most polished antique hunting experience lies in Çukurcuma neighborhood, close to the bustle of İstiklal Caddesi. Unlike in case of Horhor or Kuştepe markets, various shops are spread all around the neighborhood, making the time spent there a very unique experience.
- The store of Aslı Günşiray, a paragon of female elegance displaying Anatolian art and Ottoman architectural pieces, is a definite stop along the sloping cobble stoned paths of this historic neighborhood. Çukurcuma Caddesi No. 58-60, Çukurcuma; T: (0212) 252 59 86
- More appreciation for the Anatolian and Ottoman is present at Erkal Aksoy’s chic and sophisticated store, A la Turca. Here, an exclusive collection of antique carpets and kilims from Anatolia, and Ottoman embroidery textiles, kaftans and pillows, pottery, ceramics, and more are available. Faik Paşa Yokuşu No. 4, Çukurcuma; T: (0212) 245 29 33
- For those with a curiosity for the exotic, Modern Tarih offers art pieces that not only came from as far afield as China, Russia, Africa, and Mongolia, but are also mostly over 200 years old. Stunning tapestries, impressively detailed wooden doors and stone gates, as well as regal statues can all be found in an arrangement that exudes a museum-like exactitude. Faik Paşa Caddesi No.19, Çukurcuma; T: (0212) 292 72 96
- Şamdan has been open since 1990 and focuses on European pieces from the 1930s to the 1970s, such as furniture, lighting, ceramics, statues, and mirrors. A selection of Ottoman and Oriental objects can also be found with an emphasis on the locally produced. Ağakülhane Sokak No. 13/A, Çukurcuma; T: (0212) 245 44 45
Tellalzade Sokak, Kadıköy
On the Asian side, the equivalent of Çukurcuma shopping experience can be found on Tellalzade Street in Kadıköy. Wandering among the many shops is encouraged, especially if you’re looking for little pieces such as cutlery, personal accessories, and decorative objects. Although the storefronts display polished items in very good condition, many of the shops have storage basements, and they will let you look for pieces there if you ask them politely.
- Galeri Antik has a European outlook, whether in the form of a 140 year old closet from Brussels decorated with Asian inspired motifs, an end of the eighteenth century table from France made of rosewood, or a set for enjoying liqueur. Tellalizade Sokak No.24/A, Kadıköy; T: (0216) 345 50 91
- Slightly outside of the main area, on Moda Caddesi, you can find Hobim Nostaljik, the ultimate address for cutlery. If you’re willing to browse through the piles of knives and forks for hours, at the end of the day you might be able to collect a whole set at a very decent price. Moda Caddesi No.8, Kadıköy.
Antique shopping 101
Before you embark on your personal treasure hunt, keep these basic tips in mind:
- Browsing is ok: don’t be intimidated by the ‘antique’ label. If you believe that the pieces might be way outside your price range, visit the places simply to get inspired. The results might surprise you.
- Always ask: in Istanbul, workshops or stores specializing in similar objects are often found next to each other. A part of an old merchant tradition, this practice has nothing to do with existing rules of competition. In such settings, the shops work with each other rather than against each other, providing the customer with a quick solution through their network of contacts. All you need to do is ask.
- Get off the beaten path: Grand Bazaar and Istanbul auction houses are some of the most obvious addresses when it comes to antique shopping, but their sophisticated collections come with a higher price. If you’re on a bargain hunt, you might want to head to Balat antique auctions or one of the smaller neighborhood markets instead.
- Don’t get discouraged: the current state of an object that catches your eye isn’t necessarily what you should take home. Shop owners will happily assist in any restoration/refitting process you have in mind.
- Take your time: don’t expect to be done with shopping within a certain time frame. There is always a storage place or a shop that belongs to a friend of a friend that you will want to take a look at.
- Do your own research: if you have an eye on a very expensive item, it’s ok to ask for a second opinion to make sure what you’re willing to pay is the best price.
- Ask for a better deal: it is part of the process. Worst case scenario, you will spend a little bit more time in the shop before closing the deal.
- Consider alternative options: a polished item ready to be picked up will always cost more than its sibling with a missing leg, awaiting refitting.