The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest (and oldest) covered markets in the world! The construction started in the middle of the 15th century and has been enlarged during the past centuries. Today, the complex has around 60 streets and more than 3,000 shops which are visited by between 250,000 and 400,000 people daily. Yep, the Grand Bazaar is grand! And it also has two mosques, several cafés and restaurants, banks, and its own police station.
If you want to do some shopping you'll find almost anything here... gold and silver jewellery, watches, icons, water pipes, Turkish carpets, glazed tiles, and all sorts of other things... But remember to bargain! And even if you don't want to buy anything, the Grand Bazaar is worth a visit.
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with more than 58 covered streets and over 4,000 shops which attract between 250,000 and half a million visitors daily.
The grand bazaar began construction in 1455 and opened in 1461. It is well known for its jewelry, pottery, spice, and carpet shops. Many of the stalls in the bazaar are grouped by the type of goods, with special areas for leather coats, gold jewelry and the like.
The bazaar contains two bedestens (domed masonry structures built for storage and safe keeping), the first of which was constructed between 1455 and 1461 by the order of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The bazaar was vastly enlarged in the 16th century, during the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, and in 1894 underwent a major restoration following an earthquake.
Here you can see more photos of this amazing Bazaar on my "Travelogue" ... :
Today, the grand bazaar houses two mosques, two hamams, four fountains, and multiple restaurants and cafes. The sprawling complex consists of 12 major buildings and has 22 doors.
A for sure must see area for the Istanbul visits, for shopping, dining and enjoying the day .. :)
It is only to be expected that the capital of the Empire would have a rather large marketplace or bazaar, and indeed the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul does not disappoint. This is a far cry from the chic, Europeanized storefronts of Istiklal Caddesi. The Grand Bazaar, also known as the Covered Bazaar, was first founded in the 1450s, as it performed an important function of accommodating the resumption of normal commercial activity following the Ottoman conquest of the city. It was constructed by the Ottomans and thus is entirely Ottoman in style and organization. While there have been various periods in which the market – actually two separate markets fused together – was devoted to various different types of merchandise, it is clear that the Grand Bazaar was always a hub for specific trades: textiles, leather goods, good, clothing, carpets, and luxury items. These were the preferred trades because of the difficulties in keeping the market lighted (it receives natural light through small windows only), increasing the cost of management of the space. The growth in the Empire and the relative attractiveness of Istanbul as an entrepôt for tradables meant that the market grew in importance and size over the 16th to 18th centuries, entrenching the merchants who were already present there. It fell on hard times in the 19th century, however, as the Empire waned and textile merchants in particular faced stiff competition from manufactured goods and European imports. It fell into real disrepair with the collapse of the Empire, and was only renovated and restored to its former glory in the middle of the 20th century. Today, the market still functions as a hub for its traditional traders, although much of the merchandise is cheap, lower-quality imports from China and East Asian countries. Nevertheless, it retains its initial air of exoticism, and is definitely worth a visit.
I can't even begin to describe how let down I was by the Grand Bazar. Just about anybody that you talk to will describe it as one of the "highlights" of Istanbul and "an absolute must do". I couldn't disagree more.
The Grand Bazaar seems to be created solely for the purpose of taking money from tourists. It is not authentic and has none of that exotic, intriguing, mysterious feel that you would expect from one of the world's oldest markets. Rather, it is clean, proper, even fancy. Merchants pull every trick in the book to try to get you into buying something from them. Prices aren't just doubled or tripled from their real value, but are quadrupled, quintupled.. you get the point.
Maybe if I had went in with different expectations I would have appreciated it more. I was anticipating some wild, free wheeling outdoor market place like I have experienced in the Middle East and Africa - the Grand Bazaar has absolutely none of the qualities that made those markets so special.
The Grand Bazaar is exotic, colorful, vibrant, and a rip off.
DO Walk around and feel the city vibe.
DO bring your camera and take pictures of the colorful lamps, charming trinkets, and vibrant charms.
DO NOT Spend your money here. Even when you haggle, and think you're getting a bargain, you are not. (Go to Kadkoy for shopping or other stores outside of the Grand Bazaar where locals shop)
Do NOT Talk to store vendors. They are friendly, want to strike a conversation with you, willing to give you directions, tips, advice....just to lure you into their store for the "best" prices. Don't do it, unless you want to pay for trinkets (made in China),for triple the price. Why encourage these greedy vendors by spending your money there.
I would like to tell you how fantastic Bazar is. I have never seen anything like that. Truth is, that the local sellers are little bit rude, but if you donť mind it, it is very good experience. Go there and try it:)
The Grand Bazaar can be a bit overwhelming not only because of its size but also the adamancy of the shopkeepers. There are also a lot of options and sometimes I think it's useful for someone to tell you what the best stores are before you go there so you can head to those directly and not waste time with products that might not be of such great quality or at prices that are a ripoff (yes that happens too sometimes).
I've been living in Istanbul for a year and one of the most helpful guides that I turn to is a magazine called The Guide Istanbul. There are only a few publications in the city that are in English (including Timeout Magazine and the Hurriyet Daily News). But in terms of content the Guide is pretty helpful. They did a great article about the best stores in the Grand Bazaar and it's a nice break down of the worthy stores. One of my favorites is Sevan Bicakci who designs some of the most beautiful Ottoman inspired rings I have ever seen.
With approximately 6,000 shops and restaurants and 60 alleys in the Grand Bazaar it could take many years to gain full knowledge of the Grand Bazaar. The alleys criss cross, up and down hill, noise everywhere and always the possibility of being seperated from your friend or partner.
I said to my wife Istanbul had the Shopping Mall hundreds of years before Western Culture developed the idea.
We just walked and looked into the shops, our first purchase being a bag of beautiful Turkish Delight. Free samples are offered, but one taste was enough for us to purchase.
By our third visit 20 days after our first we had much more confidence. We even found a nice cafe for lunch, a feat in itself as people are waiting beside your table, wanting to grab it as soon as you leave.
The Grand Bazaar is a must see, however I believe we were 50 years late as the bazaar is now very much "upmarket" in many areas.
We visited the Grand Bazaar 3 times during our 21 day visit of Turkey. The first and most probably the most enjoyable was by ourselves the day after arriving in Istanbul. We found our way there on the Light Rail and enjoyed the Hustle and Bustle as we weaved our way through the crowds for 200 metres until we reached the main entrance.
The largest covered bazaar in the world was extremely busy on our first visit. I was informed a cruise ship was in port with hundreds of passengers, if not thousands inside the Grand Bazaar.
I was also informed that many of the stall owners outside the bazaar were originally inside, however due to increased rents were forced into the streets and replaced by jewelers and carpet retailers.
Prices in the streets around the entrance appeared to be cheaper, but I cannot vouch for the quality.
The streets were very crowded as we left the Light Rail for the short walk through the Nuruosmaniye Gate, and then a minute's walk and we entered the Grand Bazaar.
Within a minute of leaving the Light Rail we were walking past this restaurant, which looked decent, I thought it best we eat before visiting the Grand Bazaar. We enjoyed a typical Turkish light lunch, chicken kebab, salad and soft drink. Excellent!
When we entered the Grand Bazaar it was so crowded we would have found it hard to find somewhere to eat.
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