There has never been a time when eating healthy has been more important for our bodies and maintaining a strong immune system. Luckily, in Turkey, the cuisine is seasonal and thus optimal for consuming the maximum amount of nutrients from our foods. In the Aegean region, the season of spring is famous for its wild greens, citrus and beloved vegetables such as asparagus, fennel and artichokes. In addition to offering the best of local produce and homemade products such as jams, pickles and bread, most of Turkey’s bazaars and farmers' markets also have stalls with a wide variety of textiles, decorative items, accessories and household goods, making the local markets a “one stop shop” for everything and anything you never even knew you wanted!
(If you'd like some tips on how to shop at these markets, head here.)
Ayvacık Pazarı: A culmination of products from nearly 100 villages
Starting from the western end of Turkey’s coastal region is Ayvacık, the main township serving upward of 90 villages dotting the Mount Ida region in Çanakkale. The region is known for its stunning coastline, untouched nature and top-notch produce famed for and sought after countrywide. It is here you can find the country’s most coveted tomatoes from Kösedere, the best cheese from neighboring Ezine and a wide variety of handpicked wild herbs. While admittedly, the town does not offer much for the foreign eye, the villages surrounding the coastline are a whole different story. The weekly market in Ayvacık, which is held on Fridays, spans the town’s streets, a proper covered market area and a lower level villager-specific market, where locals sell homemade cheeses and dairy products as well as handpicked wild herbs, mushrooms and wood-burning oven-baked bread.
Köyceğiz Pazarı: A sweet treat for honey by boat
Known for producing some of the best honey in the country, Köyceğiz is a town spread across a lake of the same name that stands between the popular holiday destinations of Akyaka and Dalyan and is in close proximity to Marmaris. The weekly market held on Mondays is famous for its vast variety of produce, mushrooms, wild greens, honey and even plants all produced or handpicked by local vendors. Another reason this particular market is extremely popular is its accessibility by boat. Yes, you read correctly, it is a regular practice for residents of Dalyan, yet another expat hub along Turkey’s southwestern coast, to board a weekly boat taxi that takes customers to this market to do their shopping. The boat ride itself is spectacular and among reeds and a breathtaking mountain range with ancient mausoleums carved into them.
Yalıkavak Pazarı: It’s so nice, it’s held thrice
Located on the western side of Bodrum’s vast peninsula, Yalıkavak is one of the most popular towns on the peninsula for expats, the rich and famous, and paparazzi alike. With the addition of the upscale marina (think helicopter pad for its diners), which houses internationally exclusive restaurants such as Mezzaluna and Turkish favorites such as Günaydın, Sait and Nusr-Et, Yalıkavak is well on its way to being the highlight for shopping, dining and people-spotting along what is dubbed as the Turkish Riviera. As one of the most well-established regions on the peninsula, luckily for locals Yalıkavak also boasts the best bazaar in Bodrum. Held in an expansive square in the center of town, the weekly market in Yalıkavak ended up growing to such a scale that they had to spread it out into three days in which on Tuesdays the market is devoted to seasonal fruit and vegetables, on Thursdays to textiles, decorative items and household goods, and on Saturdays (which has been rescheduled to Mondays due to weekend lockdowns) to secondhand pieces when it becomes a flea market. Dubbed the “Bez Pazarı” ("Cloth Market") by locals, the textiles market is especially not one to miss as you can find regional textiles, such as the cotton Buldan and Şile, a vast variety of clothing such as summer dresses as well as rugs and handmade jewelry in addition to cookery and household items.
Tire Salı Pazarı: Turkey’s largest farmers' market
Considered to be one of if not the biggest food bazaar in Turkey, the Tire Salı Pazarı is named after the day of the week it is held, namely Tuesday. While Tire is admittedly not located along the coast, it is housed by the province of Izmir and is thus a short drive from many popular holiday destinations, such as Kuşadası and Selçuk. In addition to having a vast variety of seasonal produce, regional herbs and greens, cheeses, olives and oils, this market is also famous for showcasing some of Turkey’s wonderful handcrafts, ranging from jewelry and accessories and home decorations such as felt carpets, bedding linens, saddles, copper and tinning.
Fethiye Pazarı: All roads lead to Fethiye’s Tuesday market
Flocks from neighboring expat hubs and holiday destinations such as Marmaris, Dalyan, Kalkan and Kaş flock in busloads, literally, to Fethiye’s Tuesday market for its extensive variety of fruits, vegetables and regional greens. In addition to peddling handpicked herbs such as thyme, sage and mint, local women also prepare hand-rolled stuffed grape leaves, pastries such as gözleme, jams and other preservatives and oven-baked bread. There is also a popular fish market from which you can purchase a selection of your choice and have it cooked for you at some of the neighboring fish restaurants.
Alaçatı Farmers' Market: Get there or be square!
There is no better time of the year than in spring to pay a visit to Alaçatı’s famous bazaar/farmers' market in Izmir's sun-and-beach resort town Çeşme. Not only are the region’s wild greens and herbs the highlight of this season, so much so that a festival devoted to them is going into its 12th year this week, and specialties such as artichokes soon to hit the stalls, but this ultra-popular vacation spot becomes so popular in summer that it is difficult to wade through the crowds making the pre-holiday season the prime time to visit this boutique town with quaint cobblestone streets that double as a windsurfing paradise. The Alaçatı Farmers' Market has it all, from fresh produce to cheese, to clothes, textiles and even antiques. Usually held on Saturdays, this weekly market has now been moved to Fridays to accommodate the weekend lockdowns and is situated in the square in front of a historical mosque that was once the Ayios Konstantinos Church.
The Alaçatı Herb Festival goes virtual
One of the most well-known spring festivals held annually in Turkey, the 12th Alaçatı Herb Festival, will be taking place online from April 10 to 12 this year, due to the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, in lieu of crowds flocking to this spectacular boutique town in Izmir, the chefs and culinary experts from and connected to Alaçatı will be uploading videos of local culinary specialties that will not only serve as examples for healthy dishes, of which their consumption has never been so important, but it will also act as an archive for Alaçatı’s regional cuisine. The videos, which will center on the region’s vast wild green varieties, will be made available on the @evdeotsenligi and @alacatiturizmdernegi social media accounts.
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