How to buy superb Turkish bath accessories in Turkey
If you would ask what are some top Turkish souvenirs, textiles and especially the famous Turkish towels and Turkish bath accessories come top of my list. Of course, the bazaars and souvenir shops have tons and tons of souvenirs, from sweets, jewellery, lamps, ceramics and the ubiquitous T-shirts and fridge magnets, but for something useful, beautiful and sustainable, you cannot go wrong with Turkish bath accessories.
In my five or so trips to Turkey in the past few years, I stocked up on some great Turkish bath accessories and I will share the best places to buy them here, what prices to expect and what to steer clear off.
Turkish bath accessories you can buy
Turkey is famous for its high quality textiles, and quite rightly so. There is sizeable cotton industry ( one of the ten largest in the world) and a lot of it is processed inside the country.
Also, there are pockets of silk productions, historically around Bursa province and also in the Southeast around Hatay. Most of the silk is still made in the traditional way, but especially in Hatay, projects to produce “peace” silk, where silkworms aren’t killed are underway. Flax linen is also grown in Turkey although to a lesser extent and Hatay is well known for its sturdy and supremely comfortable fabrics, either made from cotton, flax linen,silk, or a mixture of these natural fibres!
You recognize good quality inherently by soft, often somewhat thicker cotton, vibrant but not garish colour, and the hand-loomed items have a somewhat irregular weave.
Below is a selection of places I happened to visit, and what you can buy there in terms of bath articles, and it is by no means comprehensive. I would recommend that if you want to buy everything in one place, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar or Cihangir/Cukurcuma areas are best.
What Turkish bath accessories to steer clear of
Okay, not one for big resorts here, so I only skirted major resorts like Fethiye, or smaller ones like Dalyan or Alacati. That I saw in shops on resorts did not impress me at all – the towels were thin and just did not feel great. Steer clear.
Visit a proper city where locals shop and you can almost be assured of decent quality and decent prices. Or follow my recommendations for Istanbul, Izmir, Bursa and Southeastern Anatolia.
I don’t think there is a better place in Turkey to shop than its largest city, Istanbul. The Grand Bazaar makes a great focal point for visitors and you should find plenty high quality Turkish bath accessories here.
Jennifers Hamam in the small but pleasant Arasta Bazaar behind Sultanahmet Mosque is my reference point for high quality Turkish towels. If you only have time for one good shop, go to Jennifers HAmam. It is also within a short walk of the Hagia Sofia and the Sultanahmet Mosque. The small shop is packed to the gills with organic cotton, linen and silk hamam towels, the thin pestemal, scarves, thick towels and robes and a small selection of bed linen and bath accessories.
Prices are higher, but the quality is amazing – all organic, hand woven, great quality and lovely designs. Expect to pay about 15-20Euro for a large pestemal, 10 Euro for a smaller towel or scarf. I would say the quality is worth it. If you require anything cheaper, there are at least two or three other shops adjacent that do decent machine-woven pestemal for approximately half the price, still good quality.
Other places I can recommend are in the Grand Bazaar. Chances are you will be visiting anyway – and honestly, it is much less intimidating than you might think. Especially if you start your visit early when it opens at 10am.
For textile shopping, best way is to take the tram to Beyazit, enter at the Beyazit Gate into Kalpakcilar Caddesi, a large lane full of jewellery and gold shops, then turn sharp left a few metres after entering into Yaglikcilar Sokak. Towards the end of the covered bazaar there are many textile shops with good quality lopped cotton towels and pestemal.
I bought from both Egin Tekstil , which is hugely entertaining, as the owner is extremely knowledgeable and has tons of interesting textiles in his cavernous shop (and some Byzantine foundations). Also, the central domed area of the Ic Bedesten is filled with classy carpet and antiques shops and the occasional soap and bath accessories shop – with higher prices given the exclusive location. The Grand Bazaar makes for a much nicer trip if you know where to rest after an hour or two of browsing… the Sandal Bedesten is the classiest place for that, having recently been renovated and now turned into upmarket shops and restaurants. Ikbal is a confectionery chain offering reasonably priced drinks and sweet in a comfy airconditioned environment, while the neighbouring Nusr-Et Restaurant is very elegant – and pricey.
And former Grand Bazaar stalwart Abdulla Natural is now in a shop opposite Nuruosmaniye Mosque – natural bath products store and cafe in one. I haven’t personally been there, but their website prices indicate this is definitely one for the wealthy visitor, with prices much higher than, for example, Jennifers Hamam.
Another great place to check out, should you be based in Beyoglu, is to get off the tram at Tophane. Walk up the fairly steep road opposite the Kilic Ali Pasa Hamam ( a great hamam for visitors, by the way) for about 200m and visit Dervis Natural Textile. The shop is on the first floor above a “Sok” supermarket. They have the traditional towels, soaps, bathrobes. A further 100m or so, turn right into Cukur Cuma Road, a beautiful steep cobbled road filled with antique shops where you can find stacks and stacks of vintage and antique hamam bowl at reasonable prices as well as the lovely classy Cukurcuma Hamam.
Turkey’s second largest city undoubtedly offers some very atmospheric and great value shopping, too!
While Izmir has its fair share of malls, usually outside the city centre, Izmir’s Kemeralti Bazaar is the most entertaining and traditional place to shop in Izmir. The best way to get there is to go to Konak Square, then follow any lane inland. The Kizlaragazi Han is the historical heart of the bazaar, with some superb atmospheric cafes. Sort of Southeast to Kizlaragazi Han are lanes of textile shops with both cotton and man-made fibre textiles, some in very pleasant classic stripey patterns, with cotton throws as cheap as 5 Euros. If I am honest with you, finding quality stuff is more a bit hit and miss, but when you do, it certianly won’t be expensive.
Start in Kizlaragasi Han with a cup of tea or coffee. OMer Usta is the “famous” one, and it is very picturesque, the coffee is good, and I am sure others are just as good, but this appears to be where the mostly local visitors gravitate.
Then, take a little look around Kizlaragasi Han. The oldest on most central part of the bazaar, this is where a lot of jewellery shops and more tourist-oriented shops are. You will also find these very colourful glycerine soaps. I tend to steer clear and buy more natural styles – which were available in this massive soap shop, too.
This is the traditonal cotton throuw I found in one of the many shops just outside Kizlaragazi Han. It is much larger than a towel, so after I bagged that, I decided it’s time to catch a bus and go home. The cotton is super soft, and washes well. The price? Jus tunder 5Euro.
Hardly an international tourist finds their way to Bursa. Big mistake! From skiing in winter to a handful of UNESCO world heritage sites, Bursa is worth a trip. And while you are there, the choice of fabrics is wonderful. Admittedly, it is mostly silk and fancy fabrics, but the bazaar and silk shops of Koza Han will have plenty of traditional towels to choose from. My favourite shop in Bursa is Elele Ipek opposite Koza Han. The top floor of Koza Han has at least 20 shops, all of which have decent quality textiles, among them cotton and silk pestemal.
Bursa being a famous silk city, most of their offerings are, naturally silk. The shops in Koza Han sell mostly accessories like scarves in all sizes, but also pestemal made from silk or cotton. Prices were decent, as most visitors to Bursa appear to be domestic travellers who won’t fall for foreign toursit prices.
After Istanbul the best place for Turkish bath accessories! Hatay is where many high quality hand-loomed textiles made in Turkey come from – it is famous for a special “raw” type of silk, but also linen. Hatay is a small city close to the Syrian border, has a small international airport and flights to Hatay outside the summer months, when Turkish expats return on home visits, can be quite cheap. Hatay has an excellent Archaeological Museum, with extensive and detailed findings from the Roman period found in the province, which makes the trek there worthwile.
While you are there. pay a visit to one of the textile shops in town. There aren’t that many, and most offer high quality textile. Yilmaz Ipekcilik is perhaps the one with the greatest variety, from bolts of silk fabric to cotton and silk pestemal. I really liked the product, but the prices were so haphazard, I couldn’t be bothered to try and figure out their actual prices. Opposite is Tyche-O , a much smaller shop with good (and probably fixed) prices where a huge cotton pestemal cost about 8 Euro and a silk one about 20 Euro. Bahtiyar Ipek is another large store that has a huge range (including some silk probably not made in Turkey) at all price points. Because of the raging inflation of the Turkish Lira, prices can change every few weeks, and hardly any one bothers to put price labels on any more.
Another Hatay export is natural soap. It is little surprising that some Aleppo Soap is actually made in Turkey, or finds its way to Hatay’s bazaars from nearby Aleppo. You can buy the soaps in the silk and souvenir shops of Hatay, but the largest choice is sold in the atmospheric “Long Bazaar” (Uzun Carsi), outside the Archaeological Museum and in random shops all over town. Most popular are “Defne sabunu” (Turkish Laurel Soap), “Bittim sabunu” (Turpentine pistachio) and “Zeytinyagi sabunu” (Olive oil) and then, of course the “Halep” (traditional Aleppo Soap containing between 5-40% laurel oil ). Turkish bath accessories galore.
Not many textiles here, but the region is known for its metalwork throughout the country. Are you looking for a custom hamam bowl? A large metal basin? The Eskici or BakircilarCarsisi (Coppersmiths Bazaar) in Gaziantep’s huge bazaar area, is the place to go! Prices are so good I did not even bother haggling for the small items I bought there.
The choice of metal work, usually copper alloy, brass and steel, is huge, and the place is mostly locals and Turkish tourists. Of course, you would not travel all the way to the Southeast for the metalware alone, but with the massive Zeugma Mosaic Museum, Gaziantep is a great mid-sized city and unmissable for history fans.
All in all, Gaziantep is a great destination with pretty cheap accommodation and some superb shopping, including malls. You will find a modest number of soap makers and cotton pestemal in the central bazaar area for your Turkish bath accessories needs. It felt very safe, and although I considered skipping it at first due to time constraints, I am glad I went! There are little cafes and restaurants everywhere, and the central bazaar area is picturesque and unhurried.
Last not least, Mardin is a most dreamy destination, popular with mostly Turkish tourists, less visited by foreigners, perhaps because it is so close to Syria and Iraq and deemed “unsafe”. For me, it was an easy 3-hour bus trip, skirting the Syrian border all week on my way from Hatay, and I honestly felt very safe, what with the regular police checkpoints and general openness of Turks. I always found someone who spoke English to ask, and happily walked around Mardin in the dark. I found that flights back to Istanbul were plentiful out of the small but very busy Mardin-Kilitepe airport.
The more populous new Mardin is pleasant but the real attraction is “Old Mardin” against a hillside, which is where most visotors spend all their time. I spent two very pleasant days wandering round the city, visiting a few churches and mosques and also the bazaar. Due to the proximity to Syria, soap making is big business here, partly the traditional soap cooking as well as cold process soapmaking, and there are tons of shops in both the bazaar and the main Cumhurriyet Cadde, with prices ranging from about 50 cents to 3Euro apiece. In terms of Turkish bath accessories, it’s the soaps that shine here, good textiles are rather rare.
I bought most of my soaps in a bright friendly shop on Cumhuriyet Caddesi called Aselcioglu. The seller was lovely, I even could have tried the soaps in store, and from loose traditional soaps to all kind of natural flavours soap (with percentages of oils given on their web site), this certainly had some of the largest choice in all of Mardin.
A well known and reputed shop is Tek Sabuncu Mehmet Dede, with Master Dede himself proudly telling me that he supplies soaps to the British Royal Family, so has an inofficial Royal Warrant, really. The shop is also quite rustic, with stacks of drying soaps to be admired.
There wasn’t so much in terms of textiles and other Turkish bath accessories, although the bazaar has a small section with vintage and antique items to rummage through.
The Small Print
I have visited all these places, and all recommendations for Turkish bath accessories are personal yet somewhat subjective recommendations. I have not received any discounts, monetary or non-monetary rewards for any recommendation, nor are any links in this post affiliate links. Everything you read about is an honest recommendation. I visited Turkey in 2015, 2019, 2021 and 2022 to compile these recommendations. All recommendations except Izmir are up to date as of January 2022.