Istanbul: A perfect destination for hunting antique treasures

SENA ALKAN @senaalkan
Istanbul: A perfect destination for hunting antique treasures

Istanbul, the biggest city in Turkey, is full of antique paintings, coins and hand-written books that guarantee to mesmerize with the stories behind them

Turkey is like a paradise for antique collectors because the country is geographically situated in an area of the world where civilizations date back thousands of years. Also Turkish people are very fond of antique heirlooms.

Since Istanbul has been the center of trade for many empires for many centuries, it is one of the most crowded cities in the world. You can find the most precious antique gems in the province.

There are hundreds of antique shops in Istanbul both on the Anatolian and European sides where you can find antique belongings to fit any price range. Furniture, coins, paintings, statues, sculptures, hand-written documents, coins and maps from Ottoman times to the beginning of the modern Turkish Republic are among other antiques that may draw your attention.

Many antiquities from Turkey were illegally taken abroad in the 1900s, so in the last 20 years, the government has imposed strict sanctions on the relevant countries. Before you buy an antique in Turkey, you must be aware that it is strictly forbidden to export products that are more than one or two centuries old. So, it is highly advised that you either consult an antiques expert and examine the artifact in question, or take it to a museum and ask an expert to write a document for you to show customs officials in the event that you are traveling. There are serious sanctions in place for preventing highly precious and old products from being exported, as well as prison sentences for having an antique which was made before 1900 with you. If you are about to buy a carpet or paint a souvenir, it is possible that they are from the last century or the last 50 years, but when it comes to statues and sculptures, it is very risky since many farmers and antique hunters are trying to sell the precious antiques illegally. The best option for you is to ask a seller to see ifan official document that is given with the antique belonging and indicates it is suitable to export.

For precious antiques, there is usually an auction that is organized by remarkable firms, if what you are looking for is a reasonably priced antique, the shops around the historical peninsula and old bazaars are the perfect destination.

Antique shops in Çukurcuma

Çukurcuma Square is the most frequently visited destination for antiques lovers. Located on the Anatolian Side, Çukurcuma is an antiquer's haven with more than 150 shops selling antique products and various accessories, carpets and little artifacts.

All antique shops are side-by-side and there is a unique crowd in this old-fashioned Çukurcuma neighborhood, so it is like taking a trip back in time to buy some antiques. The square is located close to Istanbul's İstiklal Street and renowned for its own hustle and bustle. "A La Turca" in Çukurcuma is the perfect place for antique enthusiasts who are looking for extraordinary items such ascandelabras from the palace of a Sultan or hand-written Ottoman diplomas.

Must-have products that are really hard to find in famous touristic districts are located in A La Turca. To buy old souvenirs, "A La Turca" should be on the top of your list. Another renowned antique shop in Çukrucuma is "Nostaljik Antik" (The Nostalgic Antique) which mainly features pieces from the mid-20th century. Armchairs, chandeliers and vintage products are among the pieces you can find in "Nostaljik Antik."

Antique shops in the Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar - Kapalı Çarşı in Turkish - located on Istanbul's historical peninsula, is a tourist hotspot which offers the biggest selection of antique items. Since the Grand Bazaar is the oldest and largest place to shop in Turkey, it is usually the first stop for antique hunters. Built after Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror conquered Constantinople, the bazaar was once a hotspot for Istanbul's upper social class. It only had two warehouses, "the Inner Bedesten" and "the Sandal Bedesten." But over the centuries it expanded to accommodate the demands of an increasing population and ultimately became a huge market not only for locals but also for foreign merchants who come to the peninsula to sell goods. The open streets around the "bedesten" are covered with domed roofs that are connected to each other.

Today, it has more than 3,000 shops, 17 inns, 60 streets, 22 gates and millions of visitors. While it is a little bit hard to find extraordinary antiques in the bazaar, if you want to discover both the bazaar and Turkish antiquity, the best destination to visit first is the Art House. This shop is a hidden jewel offering genuine goods which are not counterfeit or poorly made, unlike other "tourist traps." The Art House features many types of porcelain from the province of Kütahya, which is a city renowned for its copper that dates back to ancient times. Another must-see for antique lovers is Şişko Osman, who sells antique Turkish carpets. When foreigners ask for an expensive souvenir from Turkey, the first thing they usually ask for are Turkish carpets. In this old-fashioned carpet shop, you can find different types of rugs that are made using the ancient loom method. The shop offers a small number of high-quality, traditional Turkish rugs that won't overwhelm the shopper. Osman is an experienced shop owner who understands what his customers are looking for and he sells rugs catered to your unique taste and to your budget. He also informs his customers the historical significance of each individual rug that he sells.

Bookshops in Beyoğlu

On the European side, Istanbul's district of Beyoğlu is the first place that comes to mind when you intend to buy antiquarian books, maps or documents. Collecting books rather than other antiquities is a completely different interest area, and the bookshops in Beyoğlu know how to feed your desire for old-style books very well. "Denizler Kitabevi" in Beyoğlu is perfect destination for you to buy engravings as well as books. When you walk into this bookshop, the window display and interior design will grab your attention immediately and you will get lost in this book heaven. The bookshop has various eye-catching displays which include posters from the Berlin-Baghdad railway and antique maps from the Byzantine period. The bookshop also organizes an auction for antique books on Sunday mornings, so if you are an auctioneer, do not skip for a visit! The Aslıhan Passage in Beyoğlu is another destination for bookworms. There are hundreds of second-hand books sold in the passage ranging from European to Turkish literature. You can also find old books and magazines in foreign languages.

Workshops you can take to learn traditional Turkish arts

Turkish art is influenced by a mixture of Eastern and Western culture, resulting in unique crafts that intrigue artists and amateurs alike. Turkey's art culture is well known for Ebru marbling and Islamic calligraphy, which Ottoman history lovers know very well. It's easy to find courses in Ebru marbling and Islamic calligraphy at the beginner level and if you plan to be in Turkey for more than one month, you can potentially advance and continue practicing your craft in your own country. Turkish art workshops are a great way to create unique, handmade souvenirs for your friends and family back home.

When visiting a foreign country, there are many things to explore - from culinary and cultural traditions to dialects and language. Traditional art can be the most valuable among all of these.

Paper marbling

Developed during the Ottoman period in the Middle Ages and transferred to the Balkans and Europe from Turkey, marbling is a precious art in the Muslim community's heart because it stresses the significance of beauty, purity and love.

Known as Ebru Marbling in Turkey, this ancient art form originated in Turkey and is also known as "paper marbling" or "water marbling." Ebru Marbling is like a magic that mesmerizes viewers at first glance.

All of the colorful tulips and roses you will see around Turkey have a soul that Turkish paper carries. People are eager to learn Ebru marbling because it is a reflection of the soul with a vast array of colors and patterns that are unique to the individual.

Les Arts Turks, located in the Blue Mosque region, is a friendly place currently offering workshops in Ottoman Ebru Marbling. The course is around 75 euros and you can choose between weekends or weekdays, according to your availability.

Turkish-Ottoman Calligraphy

Aesthetics, patience and imagination are key characteristics of Ottoman-Turkish calligraphy. Calligraphy not only belongs to the Turks, but to the Ottoman culture which combines calligraphy with geometric decoration.

When you visit Turkish mosques or museums, you will see how calligraphy found a different soul during the Ottoman Empire. In calligraphy art, both the Latin and Arabic alphabets are used in Turkish calligraphy courses.

Among places that offercalligraphy courses, the most well-known is Kaligrafi Hat. There are two branches of the calligraphy center as one in Kadıköy district and the other is in Ümraniye district. In Kadıköy and the course is available on Wednesday and Saturday while you can learn calligraphy on Sunday in the center's Ümraniye district.

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