Shop till you drop in the Istanbul night

Text and photo by Nina de Groot – 

In Istanbul, the shopping experience is one of a kind, as most shops in the tourist areas close after midnight. In this big city in Turkey the life does not stop, and the streets of Istanbul do not sleep at night.

 Walking around in the streets of Besiktas in Istanbul, it is noticeable that there are a lot of people on the streets. In the morning, the streets are crowded but it is still very manageable to walk around. However, as soon as the afternoon is finishing, the streets become very busy.

The first thing you notice when walking around in Besiktas is that it’s a lively student hotspot, is that the stores stay open for a very long time. People go shopping at 1 at night, while other students are drinking their first coffee of the day at 11 in the evening. This made me wonder, why are the shops open until late and why are there so many people shopping at these late hours of the day?

According to Güventürk Gorgülü, who is a business journalist and a professor at Bilgi University, the difference between the closing times in Turkey and the Netherlands is because the Netherlands has a specific law that decides at what time the stores must close. “In Turkey there is no law that says that the shops have to close at a certain time, so the shop owners often decide for themselves when they close their store,” Gorlülü explains. He continues by saying that there are rules for regarding the closing time of the street shops in Istanbul, however, the municipality and the government turn a blind eye when shop owners ignore these rules. Nevertheless, you can’t find shops everywhere in Istanbul that decide to keep their doors open until after midnight. “You can go shopping in the very rich and tourist areas of Istanbul, like Besiktas or Taksim. The stores are open longer there because there are a lot of tourists and rich people there,” Gorlülü says. According to Cushman and Wakefield, there are approximately 123 shopping centers where the shops close their doors late at night.

Shops that stay open during the late hours are barbers, but also clothing and jewelry stores, souvenir stores and the little supermarkets. Kiliç Üzün (45) who works at one of the little supermarkets says: “I work night and day shifts. During the day there are a lot of older people, but during the night there are more younger people, who mostly buy alcohol.” He continues by saying that this shop does not charge extra money at night. However, his store is more expensive than the store across the streets, which is only open during the day and not at night, like his store.

Regarding the prices of the stores there is not really a difference between the day and the night, so it does not matter if you buy clothes at night or during the day. However, Gorlülü says: “Shops that stay open during the night are generally more expensive than the stores that close earlier.” He explains that this is because at night the rich people and tourists will still spend their money on the products in the shops. However, some shops, like barbers do ask a little bit more money in the evening hours. Tïmür Çelïk, who is a barber in one of the barbers around Besiktas, explains that: “The late hours are better for me. I can charge a little bit more money than during the day and people who do not have time at the day times, can still cut their hair here.”

The busy streets of Besiktas are filled with students. Gülya Öztürk (20), who is a second-year student at Bilgi University and who has a parttime job on the side in a drugstore, explains why she is one of the students that goes shopping during the late nights. “My classes often finish around 7 P.M. which means I do not have time during the day to do fun stuff. That is why I go shopping at night.” She also explains that she and her friends work far away from places like Besiktas, so that is why they go out together during the night to hang out and occasionally walk into stores.

In Holland I wake up at 7 or 8 in the morning and get ready for school. Then I follow my classes which mostly end around 3 in the afternoon, and most of the time I decide to go home after classes. However, sometimes I feel like going shopping after class which is possible until 8 in the evening in Amsterdam. I live in Hoorn, which is a small city in North-Holland. The shops there close at 6 in the evening and after that the streets of Hoorn are mostly empty. The restaurants in Hoorn close their kitchen at 10 in the late evening.

It is very convenient for the busy citizens of Istanbul that shops stay open until late at night. This way they can still enjoy some fun activities in the city after work or after school. For the tourists that love to go shopping it is also very nice, as there is enough time to walk around the busy street shops in Istanbul. You can literally shop until you drop.