The Grand Bazaar (or covered bazaar known as Kapaliçarsi in Turkish) is an experience not to be missed it is comprised of 58 streets incorporating about 4,000 shops. The Grand Bazaar was built over many centuries and the end result is a kind of gigantic, beautiful and overwhelming shopping labyrinth. The Bazaar caters for both tourists and locals so you will find a good mix of authentic goods squeezed in between the stuff that’s really just for tourists, there are also plenty of eateries and it can be a fascinating place to sit and enjoy a cup of çay for anyone that’s into people watching.
There are four main entrances to the Bazaar and plenty of smaller ones but it matters very little because once inside you will almost certainly become lost, my advice is to just relax and enjoy the atmosphere and shopping, eventually you will come across another exit and it’s always easier to work out where you are on the outside than the inside. Asking the locals for directions can often be quite fruitless as they will not want to disappoint you and will politely direct you to where they think the nearest exit is, but the chances are unless they work in the Bazaar they are probably as lost as you, it’s all part of the experience. As is haggling, haggling is compulsory (or at least traditional) in almost every shop in the Bazaar; my Turkish mother-in-law will even haggle down the price of a cup of çay if she thinks it’s expensive. Again treat haggling as part of the experience its good fun once you get the hang of it.
Inside the bazaar you will find an overwhelming selection of goods that you might like to purchase; Persian carpets, Turkish kilims, intricately handmade highly ornate gold and silver jewellery, antiques, ceramics, leather goods, olive oil soaps, copperware, meerschaum pipes and a wide array of decorative items the list is endless, the bazaar truly is a shopper’s paradise. Whatever you decide to buy it’s always best to shop around if you want to get the best price. Whilst there beware of pickpockets or bag slashers, just like any other crowded place if you pay reasonable attention you should be fine.
Getting there:Avoid taxis because it is slap bang in the middle of a massive one way system and some of the roads are tram only (not that the taxi drivers pay much attention to this), in fact the tram that runs between Zeytinburnu and Sultanahmet is probably the easiest way to get there although if you’re in the Eminönü/Sultanahmet area its quite a pleasant walk. Don’t forget that the bazaar is closed on Sundays.
History: The Bazaar was originally constructed in 1461 at the behest of Mehmet II and consisted of the İç bedesten(large domed warehouse), Suleyman I had the Sandal Bedesten built to cope with rapidly growing fabrics trade in the 16th century. It appears it then grew unintentionally as the surrounding neighbourhood streets were covered effectively incorporating them into The Bazaar. It was the centre of trade throughout the Ottoman period, and is considered to be the largest and oldest bazaar in the world. Traditionally The Bazaar was split into sections whereby similar trades would generally trade together (a tradition you will find in the older parts of most Turkish city centres) this is reflected in street names like Fesciler Caddesi (Fez maker Street).The Bazaar was restored after the 1894 earthquake. Areas not to be missed in The Bazaar are the two bedesten, particularly the İç bedesten which is one of the original domed buildings from the 15th century; most visitors will also be struck by the architecture, beautiful pillared streets and high ceilings with attractive tiling. Basically the whole bazaar is a classically beautiful example of Ottoman architecture.