- Shops: 13
- Restaurants, bars, cafes: 11
- Walk from shops to gates: Up to 15 minutes
- What to look for: Liquor, fashion, Turkish products.
- Interesting shops: Old Bazaar.
- Terminals: 2 (domestic and international)
- Currency: New Turkish Lira (TRY)
- Dialling Code: +90
- Duty Free Allowances: Turkish Allowances
- Passenger traffic 2011: 37.3m
Anyone who travelled through Istanbul Atatürk airport before 2006 would not recognise the international terminal today. While the building remains largely unchanged since it opened in 2001, the shopping on offer has been revolutionised. Don’t let the small number of shops listed above deceive you; the airport now boasts the biggest duty free shop in Europe, at 2,500sq m, and one of the biggest ‘souvenir shops’ anywhere in the world.The extent to which shopping pervades the terminal, and enhances it, is only possible because the airport authority and retailer are engaged in a long-term partnership • 15.5 years to be precise • that has allowed retailer ATU Duty Free, itself a partnership between the airport and global retailer Gebr Heinemann, to invest heavily in presentation. It invested €3.5m in the main duty free shop alone. The result is a portfolio of shops that are as irresistible as they are unavoidable.Calling the Old Bazaar a souvenir shop is to do it a gross disservice • as the name suggests, this really is more like the famous Turkish market than an airport shop. Set amid a labyrinth of columns and arches, several individual stalls offer everything you would look for in the famous Grand Bazaar downtown. Turkish textiles are a strong draw, and of course sweets including Turkish delight, halva and dried fruits. Also worth picking up, if you have a strong constitution, is the thick Turkish coffee that serves as daily rocket fuel for many Istanbul residents. But don’t drink it before your flight, or you may find it impossible to sit still.
The Old Bazaar is a remarkable shop, a rare example of a place that makes you forget you are in an airport. It even smells authentic. The only thing missing is persistent multilingual harassment • although the staff here are helpful in several languages • and receptiveness to haggling.In an unlikely juxtaposition with the hustle and bustle of the market, Atatürk also boasts a string of luxury fashion boutiques that are most likely intended for the big numbers of high-spending Russian visitors to Turkey. And although the shops • Hermes, Bvlgari, Salavatore Ferragamo and Versace • are well presented and appealing, the high prices of the products (plus an airport premium) will probably deter all but the most fashion conscious of passengers. That will not be a problem for these shops; it is exactly the kind of customer they want.The vast main duty free shop, built to last 15 years compared to the usual five-year lifespan of most airport shops, is an impressive example of modern shopfitting design. Different flooring materials, ceiling heights and lighting effects • along with well spaced, eyecatching fittings • help passengers to identify the different product groups easily. And the sheer size of the store means you will find a greater range than just about any other airport shop in Europe, if not the world.
Passengers should be aware that, while Turkey is part of Europe geographically, it has yet to join the EU. This means that duty free privileges for passengers travelling to EU destinations are intact, and savings on liquor and tobacco in particular, but also on perfumes and cosmetics, are considerable.
Turkey’s domestic duties on liquor and tobacco remain quite low • although the EU is demanding that they be gradually raised before the country becomes a member. This means that these products can be bought very cheaply on the Turkish high street, a fact that may dissuade arriving passengers from using the arrivals shops. However, it is worth considering using the good arrivals shops to stock up. Prices may be similar to downtown, but the authenticity of the product • often in question at some of Istanbul’s less formal establishments • is guaranteed. You will also find one of the finest wine selections of any arrivals store, definitely better than anything else you will find in Istanbul.If you are travelling from Europe, the convenience of a decent range of liquor available on arrival • and not having to carry heavy bottles with you on the flight • is very welcome.
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