Grand Bazaar Istanbul
Trade has been critical in a city linking the continents of Asia and Europe. Nowhere is this more evident than in warren of streets lying between the Grand Bazaar and Galata bridge.
Everywhere, goods tumble out of shops onto the pavement. Look through any of the archways in between shops, and you will discover courtyards or Hans containing feverishly industrious workshops. With its seemingly limitless range of goods, the complex Grand Bazaar is at the center of all this commercial activity. The Egyptians Bazaar is equally colorful but smaller and more manageable.
Up on the hill, next to the university, is Suleymaniye Mosque, a glorious expression of 16th-century Ottoman culture. It is just one of the numerous beautiful mosques in this area.
The narrow streets around the Egyptian Bazaar encapsulate the spirit of old Istanbul. From here, buses, taxis, and trams head off across the Galata Bridge and into the interior of the city. The blast of ships’ horns signals the departure of ferries from Eminonu to Asian Istanbul. It is the quarter’s shops and markets, though, that are the focus of attention for the eager shoppers who crowd the Egyptian Bazaar and the streets around it. These shoppers are sometimes breaking for a leisurely tea beneath the trees in its courtyard. Across the way, and entirely aloof from the bustle, rise the domes of the New Mosque. On one of the commercial alleyways that radiate out from the mosque, a modest doorway leap upstairs to the terrace of the serene, tile-covered Rustem Pasa Mosque.
Located in the heart of Istanbul’s tourist district, the Grand Bazaar is one of the world’s largest and oldest indoor markets. This large market includes 61 covered streets and about 4,000 shops, covering about 30,700 square meters. Every day 250,000 to 400,000 visitors visit this tourist attraction in Istanbul. In 2014, with more than 91 million visitors a year (according to data provided by http://www.travelandleisure.com/), it was recognized as the most visited tourist attraction in the world. This market, founded in 1455 AD, is one of the oldest indoor markets in the world.
History of the Grand Bazaar
(One of the oldest photographs of the interior of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul taken by an Armenian photographer named Jane Pascal in 1890)
The construction of the Grand Bazaar’s original core, known as Bedestan, began in the winter of 1455 by the order of Sultan Mahmud II. Sultan Mahmud was one of the Ottoman kings. They had a particular interest in trade and wanted to make Istanbul the center of the textile and clothing trade. For this reason, it established the core of the market, which is still the center of the textile trade. Construction of Bedestan was completed in the winter of 1461. It became the center of the textile trade in the region. Over the years, the market developed. Many segments were added to the market until the final marketplace was formed in the early 17th century.
As the beating heart of trade for the great Ottoman Empire, which was at the height of its power and controlled many areas, the Grand Bazaar was of particular importance. Also located in a specific geographical area, the junction of Europe and Asia, over time, became one of the world’s most strategic trading centers. Many merchants were attracted to this great place for trade. Many segments were gradually added to the market. In addition to the textile trade, merchants of carpets, jewelry, spices, etc. began to operate in the market.
Grand Bazaar today
Although the Grand Bazaar has suffered many natural and unnatural disasters over the years, such as earthquakes and fires, it still stands today. It is recognized as one of the most important tourist destinations in Turkey and all over the world. There have also been several renovations to this historic market in recent years, some of which are still ongoing. Many efforts have been made recently to improve the infrastructure of the market as much as possible.
Modern shops, new millennium technology, up-to-date tourist facilities, and advanced infrastructure give way to their old equivalents in almost every tourist destination globally, and Turkey and the Grand Bazaar are no exceptions. The passage of time and the advancement of technology have changed the grand bazaar’s face, which is an inevitable issue.
Of course, it is true that the Grand Bazaar does not have the former economic prosperity and has been replaced commercially by huge commercial skyscrapers. It is still essential as a traditional market and a symbol of part of the Turkish people’s history and civilization. If you want to know Turkey’s history and culture, Grand Bazaar is a place not to be missed.
Market architecture and structure
Not only in terms of tourism and trade but also in terms of architecture and sociology, the Grand Bazaar is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Turkey. A vast indoor market dating back more than three centuries contains important historical and sociological facts. The unique architecture of this building has a lot to say, so it has attracted architects worldwide.
One of the most attractive things about Grand Bazaar is that you can see shops of only one class in some streets of this market. Security is one reason for this structure (the presence of similar stores next to each other increases the security). Another reason is the ease of access to each other, so traders do not need to travel long distances to communicate with their fellows. Another reason is easy access for customers. Customers have easy access to all sellers in a class and can easily decide by comparing prices and qualities, and do not need to be confused in the market. For example, the jewelry market is available along Kalpakçılar Caddesi, home appliances at Divrikli Caddesi, carpets at Sahaflar Caddesi, and traditional leather and clothing Bit Pazarı.
Navigation in the Grand Bazaar
The main area of the Grand Bazaar has a total of 61 streets and 22 entrances. However, the whole area around the historic central core is also part of the bazaar.
Prepare yourself to get lost in a tortuous historical market and, as a valuable experience, consciously step away from modernity in this strangest historical tunnel and embrace history. Adventures like the heroes of fairy tales, discover and experience new things, and have fun.
You should set aside enough time to explore this historic maze. Also, it is better to check the time on this tour. In this way, you do not waste time, which helps you make the best use of your time and get the most out of this visit.
If your time is limited, you are looking for a specific item; the best way is to enter through a particular gate to reach your destination more quickly and not get confused in the market corridors. Two of the most popular goods in the Grand Bazaar are gold and jewelry and carpets. In the following, we will provide you with a brief guide to reach these two goods.
Suppose you are going to buy gold and jewelry. In that case, the easiest way is to enter through the Beyazıt Gate and cross the Kalpakcılar Caddesi, which is the main way to reach the Nuruosmaniye Gate. Exiting this gate will take you to Nuruosmaniye Caddesi, with many interesting shops. Halfway between the Beyazıt and Nuruosmaniye gates is the Çarşıkap is, which is the best way out if you want to get out of the entire Grand Bazaar complex.
Zincirli Han is a part of the market that carpet lovers should visit. Not only carpet lovers but also history lovers should not miss this section. The easiest way to get there is through the Nuruosmaniye Gate, then continue to the Mercan Gate. If the sign at the entrance is incomprehensible to you, follow Kalpakcılar Caddesi and cross the Sandal Bedesten entrance to the right at Terzibaşı Sokak and follow the other signs.
Shopping in the Grand Bazaar
Forget all your past shopping experiences. It does not matter if you are a shopaholic or shop hater. You will have a pleasant experience in the Grand Bazaar that you will remember for years.
The essential thing in the purchase is the final product purchased. Your relationship and conversation with the seller are of the least importance. Talking and bargaining with sellers, who are often fluent in several languages, will give you a different shopping experience in the Grand Bazaar. Several stores in a row may offer the same product, which will make it easier for you to buy and compare prices, as long as you do not rush to buy. Sellers may offer you tea, accepting this tea. It does not mean that you have to buy from that store. Instead, this is just a Turkish welcome to visitors, so feel free to accept the tea invitation if you wish. If you are not satisfied with this offer and do not intend to buy from there, leave that store and look for a better deal elsewhere.
Goods that are worth buying from the Grand Bazaar
Although there seems to be almost everything in the Grand Bazaar, only a handful of goods are worth buying. You should avoid buying products that you do not know much about, especially true for food. Here are some tips expressed by many tourists and locals for shopping in the Grand Bazaar.
If you enter through the Beyazıt Gate, you do not have to travel a long distance to find jewelry. Although you may think that all those shops are the same, some of them are very special to others. One of these specialty stores is the Topkapı Avzavar store, where you can find a wide range of colorful jewelry. The snake pin displayed in the shop window is a replica of Madeleine Albright’s famous jewelry collection piece. Address: Kalpakçılar Caddesi No.10
Another of these famous jewelry stores in the Grand Bazaar is Timuçin Jewelry. Rare cut diamonds, jewelry with unique designs produced by the most skilled Turkish jewelers, and a collection of rare watches decorated with the most beautiful jewelry pieces are available at this place. These features make this place a real paradise for treasure hunters. Address: Kalpakçılar Caddesi No.24-26
Bedç Bedesten, the host for most antique shops, is one of the most visited sights in the Grand Bazaar. There are many antique shops everywhere in Istanbul, so if you plan to buy an antique, one of your most important missions is to find a reliable antique shop. Especially if you do not have enough antiques, it is crucial to find a reputable antique shop to buy.
One of these places is Şalabi Antiques, serving its customers in the Grand Bazaar since 1880. In this store, all kinds of antiques and old items can be seen, including old jewelry, old personal items such as mirrors and chests, and items for arranging tables related to the Ottoman period. Address: Sandal Bedesten Sokak No.6
In Epoque, you can find iconography with distorted surfaces, Turkish antique rings with emeralds, and valuable pocket watches. This antique shop is full of hidden and undiscovered treasures from home appliances to silverware, watches, and dishes. Address: Sandal Bedesten Sokak No.38
If you are interested in sailing, especially ancient sailing, do not miss the unique collections of Minyatür’s Nautical Instruments. A wide variety of maps, globes, compasses, naval equipment, quilts, and sailor equipment, all dating back hundreds of years, are now decorative and await you. Address: Bedç Bedesten No.241
A collection of small antiques from different countries that once formed the Ottoman Empire is available at Eski Fine Arts and Antiques. Paintings, calligraphy, hookahs, backgammon sets, seabed pipes, and items made of silver, ivory, and amber are all available in this store. Address: Cevahir Bedesten No.152
Are you interested in decorative silver objects? You can find Sait Asil outside the main market area in Çulhacı Han, which focuses on decorative silver objects, Address: Çulhacı Han No.8-9.
Carpets and kilims:
In the heart of the Zincirli Han area, finding Şişko Osman is easy, a fourth-generation family business offering different kinds of hand-woven rugs and kilims. This is a family store that has years and generations of experience and reputation with it. Address: Çeşme Sokak, Zincirli Han No.15
You will find unique hand-woven rugs and kilims made in a variety of colors in Ethnicon. This store specializes in presenting traditional patterns with modern icons. Address: Takkeciler Sokak No.58-60
Şengör is a carpet shop where time is meaningless. Six generations of a family have run and continue to run it. Rare pieces of carpet from the beginning of the Republic of Turkey and family photos displayed on the walls attract every visitor’s attention. Address: Takkeciler Caddesi No.65
In the Oruculer Gate in Eğin Tekstil, an old textile shop in Grand Bazaar, you can find Turkish bath towels and other Turkish traditional textiles. The store has been operating since 1861. The classic approach and the wide range of products it offers are of interest to the local people. Textiles used in some of Hollywood’s newest products, including The Hobbit, Troy, The Last Samurai, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Address: Yağlıkçılar Caddesi No.1
An ideal place to make all-natural products, including towels, blankets from southeastern Anatolia, emeralds, and scarves, is Abdulla. Also, soaps made from pure olive oil and scrub wipes are other famous products of this store. Address: Alibaba Türbe Sokak No.15
A lovely collection of scarves, stockings, gloves, and other ethnic items, mostly handmade and have Turkish patterns, can be found at Sivaslı Istanbul. Address: Yazmacısı. Age Lines No.57
Ottoman Scarves are the only product found in Ottoamano, but the variety of colors and designs will amaze you. In this store, you can see a variety of high-quality scarves made of silk and cashmere. Address: Sandal Bedesteni No.10
Crafts in the Grand Bazaar
One of the main reasons’ locals visit central market locations is the customized services offered by many shops. While the shop windows are full of ready-to-sell products, artisans have workshops behind the shops. These workshops have run by several generations with skills passed down from generation to generation. Today’s goldsmiths and jewelers in Istanbul draw their knowledge and inspiration from centuries-old traditions. The true origins of the business go far beyond that, thousands of years ago. Ordering customized handicrafts take a lot of time. They will probably require your command of the Turkish language, so this option may not be suitable for visitors who do not want to spend a lot of time.
In Ottoman times, Istanbul-style handicrafts were widely recognizable using precious materials, making Istanbul the hub of industrial and handicraft centers. These days, there are five groups of handicrafts, which are from Istanbul. These five A masterpieces of art are gold chains, pieces with rose diamonds, pearls, jewelry made of gold coins, and belt buckles. Many artisans work on pre-designed designs, while others design and produce at the customer’s request.
Many goldsmiths and jewelry makers are near the main thoroughfare near the Mercan Gate. Since each craftsman’s skills, from setting up a stone to casting and polishing and engraving, are different, It may take more than one specialist to finalize the design and create your dreams.
Grand Bazaar restaurants and cafes
The restaurants in the Grand Bazaar complex are the best and most famous restaurants in Istanbul. The reason is simple: these restaurants and cafes have been serving their customers for decades and maybe hundreds of years. The Turks also care about the quality of food. Therefore, the durability of these restaurants indicates their quality.
A restaurant specializing in homemade and traditional Turkish food, called Esnaf, is located near the market. This restaurant offers a wide variety of delicious food (in this restaurant, food taste is more important than its decorations). This variety is such that on two consecutive days, this restaurant does not have the same menu. Address: Vezirhan Caddesi No. 70, Çemberlitaş; phone: (0212) 513 76 10
A traditional restaurant called Havuzlu, which offers many vegetarian and grilled meats, is available at the Grand Bazaar. Besides, this restaurant, founded in 1960, is one of the most popular restaurants in the Grand Bazaar.
Address: Gani Çelebi Sokak No. 3; phone: (0212) 527 33 46
A cup of Turkish coffee at Sark Kahvesi, a traditional coffee house, can be hearty and multiply your energy. Address: Yeğlıkçılar Caddesi No.134; phone: (0212) 512 11 44
A small and intimate restaurant called Aynen Dürüm, located in a narrow alley offers customers only a few delicious classic options packaged in light flatbread.
Address: Muhafazacılar Sokak No.29, phone: (0212) 527 47 28
10 practical tips for great purchase in the Grand Bazaar
No matter what budget you enter the Grand Bazaar with, or how much time you spend in this market, or even how skilled you are at shopping, this will be a completely different shopping experience for you. Suppose you do not follow the practical tips about shopping in the Grand Bazaar. In that case, this will be a regrettable shopping experience for you. For this reason, in this section, we will provide you with 10 practical tips in shopping and bargaining in the Grand Bazaar.
Dedicate a full day to sightseeing and shopping in the Grand Bazaar. No worries at all; leisure facilities, restaurants, and cafes in the Grand Bazaar make this possible. Sometimes, relax in one of these cafes and restaurants, enjoy local food and drinks, and experience a pleasant outing.
Having a plan can help you to save both time and money. As soon as possible, provide a map of the Grand Bazaar. Determine your route according to the map, which will help you not get lost in this historical spiral. But you try to stay true to your plan.
As soon as a product catches your eye, start arguing about prices. Most likely, the seller’s first question is, where are you from? You may think this is just the beginning of a friendly conversation, but in fact, they will evaluate you based on your response. Where you come from is very important in determining the initial price by the seller. For example, if you are from a big city in the US or the UK, it means to them that you have a big budget and they can offer a higher price. So the best strategy at this stage is to give the seller as little information as you can and talk about the fee immediately.
Never tell the seller the best price you can think of. This will allow him to take the initiative. First, let the seller offer the price, and you are the final decision maker.
The more you buy, the more discount you can get. For example, suppose you are going to buy 12 items of a product. In that case, it is better to buy all 12 from one store because, in this way, you can convince the seller to investigate. Give you more.
You do not have to buy from the first store you enter. If you do not agree with the seller on the price or other items, go to the next store. You can find dozens of similar stores in Grand Bazaar that offer the product you are looking for. You can find the product you are looking for in another store according to your fashion conditions.
Be patient; shopping and bargaining with sellers can be tedious and tedious, so be patient and sometimes relax and enjoy the market’s beauties. Then continue.
Never feel pressured to buy a product, it is the sellers’ job to sell their product to you, and it is your job to go according to your original plan. So do not buy goods under the pressure of sellers, because you will regret it later.
Even if the price offered by the seller is much lower than your expected price, do not rush to buy. Compare prices, be careful about converting the price offered from Turkish lira to your currency. Consider all aspects and then buy them.
Enjoy bargaining, talk to the hot seller, laugh if the seller offers you tea, do not refuse it, and in short, enjoy buying in the Grand Bazaar.
Frequently Asked Questions about Grand Bazaar
When was Grand Bazaar built?
Construction of the Grand Bazaar began in 1455, and six years later, the core of the bazaar was opened. Of course, the final form of market structure was completed in the early seventeenth century and exploited. It is therefore known as the oldest and largest indoor market in the world.
How long does it take to visit the Grand Bazaar?
A non-stop walk in the Grand Bazaar takes 2 hours. Of course, keep in mind that this is almost impossible because, in addition to the colorful vendors and shops that will stop you, the beautiful and captivating architecture of the Grand Bazaar will make you fade away and stop moving.
Therefore, spending a full day to visit this tourist attraction, which includes rest and food in a unique restaurant in this market, is recommended.
Which days the Grand Bazaar is closed?
Except on Sundays and the official Turkish holiday, when the Grand Bazaar is closed, it is open on other days from 9 am to 7 pm.
Is Grand Bazaar Expensive?
Prices in the Grand Bazaar are reasonable, but you should note that you should not accept the first price you hear. You can usually get a 50% discount by bargaining.
Does it make sense to shop in the Grand Bazaar?
It does not matter what you intend to buy, going for shopping in Grand Bazaar is reasonable. Because so many stores offer the product you want in a row, comparing prices and quality will be comfortable. It is enough to perform bargaining techniques well.