Exploring the Forbidden Places of Istanbul


Everyone talks about wanting to find local experiences when you travel – strangely one of my best local finds in Istanbul was a place where the locals tried to convince me to stay away from.

Were they trying to hide it’s greatness?!  I honestly don’t think so – instead they were simply trying to ensure I was safe and saw the nicer sides of the city.

Just down the hill from the glitz of Istiklal Streetis what many locals might refer to the ‘wrong side of the tracks.’

I’ve heard Tarlabasi referred to as the ‘”bad part of town” and the “Istanbul Slums”.  I was also told that “gypsies live there, it’s not safe”.  Of course that made it all the more interesting to me in some ways.

Sometimes you need to trust your gut and go to the places that they tell tourists not to go…and that’s what I did this Sunday.

I grabbed a few shopping bags, my camera, sunscreen, and walked to the place people told me to stay away from so that I could see what real life was like in the city of Istanbul.

And the best part about it – since this wasn’t really a market where tourists shopped, they were overjoyed to see me – a camera toting tourist – walking through the stalls!

This is an Istanbul neighborhood that has not quite succumbed to gentrification yet – but I’m pretty sure in a few years it will look very different. However, if you are looking for an authentic experience in Istanbul – this is it.

I spent a few hours at the Tarlabasi Sunday market shopping for produce and taking photos. Every single vendor and person there were a joy to interact with. I’m pretty sure I was even proposed to at one point!

I was constantly stopped and asked if I would take a photo or simply try food.  As a foreign traveler, I was definitely in the minority. Plus the best part is that I walked away with bags of produce that I would use to cook in my apartment over the next week – saving me loads of money.

In fact, for fun – take a look at this first photo of everything I purchased at the market that day and determine what you think it should cost if you were to buy all of these things in your city.  Get that number in your head and I will reveal what I spent at the end! 

My market purchases

market stalls

Market vendors

a car turned into a showroom

market vendors pose for pictures


suspended shoes for sale

man at the market


corn vendor

watermelon truck

So – how much did my market shopping cost me in the ‘bad part of town’?

Drum roll please….in Istanbul I bought all of that produce/food for about $8US!

Sometimes it pays to shop on the ‘wrong’ side of town!



Sherry Ott
Sherry Ott is a refugee from corporate IT who is now a long term traveler, blogger, and photographer. She’s a co-founder of Briefcasetobackpack.com, a website offering career break travel inspiration and advice.

Additionally, she runs an around the world travel blog writing about her travel and expat adventures at Ottsworld.com.com.
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