Interestingly, for years now there have been a number of holiday markets held to shop for gifts to ring in the New Year in Istanbul. Some are held as fundraisers and showcase handmade crafts, while others are blow out shopping events with leading brands. Either way, they are all great ways to spend the day, get in the holiday spirit and be inspired.
Dec. 1 – IWI 2019 Winter Festival
On Sunday, Dec. 1, the International Women of Istanbul (IWI) will be hosting their annual Winter Festival, which will have over 80 shopping stalls of holiday gifts, luxurious raffle prizes and a Santa Claus children's corner. This festive gathering to ring in the holiday spirit is one of the most highly anticipated holiday events among the expat community in Istanbul and is also one of the two major charity events held each year by IWI, which is a member-based organization for foreign women in Turkey. Taking place at the Marriott Şişli Hotel from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., this winter festival is open to all. Tickets cost TL 10 and will be available at the door, while admission for children under the age of 12 is free.
One of the highlights of this year's IWI Winter Festival is that there will be a stand devoted to "Expat Sofra," which is a newly released compilation of short stories in English centered on food and penned by 33 female expats touched by Turkey. Part cookbook and part travelogue, each story has a corresponding photograph and recipe, making for a beautiful gift for anyone, and the book will soon be released in Turkish. On Dec. 1, co-editor Francesca Rosa and contributors Lisa Morrow and Tanya Adman Akay will be signing copies of the book at their stall at the IWI Winter Festival.
Dec. 4 to 5 – Zubizu New Year's Shopping Days
Set to be one of the biggest blowout holiday gift markets this season is the Zubizu New Year's Shopping Days – in Turkish, Zubizu Alışveriş Günleri – which will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 4 and Thursday, Dec. 5 at Volkswagen Arena. Zubizu is actually a mobile shopping app for clothes, dining and anything and everything on-trend. The app teams up with the mega indoor arena, which hosts sporting events and concerts, to set up hundreds of stalls of different brands to invite shoppers to peruse for holiday gift ideas. Entrance is free, and the shopping stalls will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Christmas decorations are pictured at the opening of the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany, Nov. 25, 2019. (REUTERS)
Dec. 8 – Handmade Istanbul Holiday Market
Handmade Istanbul is a collective of foreign and local Istanbul-based artisans and crafters that make handmade products, which they share through a Facebook group page as well as hold seasonal markets to raise funds for the U.N.-registered refugees housed at the St. George Hostel. On Sunday, Dec. 8, the annual Handmade Istanbul Holiday Market will take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the St. Helena Chapel in Tepebaşı, located next to the Rixos Pera. This festive affair will have gift stalls of handmade crafts and tantalizing goodies and is a popular annual event among the expat community.
Dec. 14 – Bomonti Kermes for The Little Sisters of the Poor
On Saturday, Dec. 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., The Little Sisters of the Poor will be holding their annual holiday market entitled Bomonti Kermes to support this elderly home, which is also known as Fransız Fakirhanesi and is located in Bomonti. Held every year, this is another popular holiday market among members of the expat community as there will be crafts, clothes, accessories and international homemade food products to give you a taste of home.
Dec. 14 to 15 – Winter bazaar at Feriye Palace
Feriye Palace – which is a complex of Ottoman imperial palatial buildings stretching along the Bosporus in the heart of Ortaköy, and also has a spectacular restaurant – will be hosting a winter bazaar over the weekend of Dec. 14 and 15, from noon to 8 p.m. In addition to gift stalls and special seasonal treats, there will also be a number of creative workshops held over the weekend, including silk bracelet making.