Treasure hunting in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar

Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is virtually a city within a city; there is so much going on in there. Covering an enormous area, the bazaar’s 3,000 or so shops offer the intrepid explorer an opportunity to buy almost everything imaginable. Come on in. For those who thrive on bustle and activity the bazaar will be a highlight of your trip to Istanbul. It is certainly something to be in a good mood for and not pressed for time. The shopkeepers will banter with visitors and expect their customers to bargain for goods. This is all done in good spirits and often accompanied by offers of tea and coffee that should not be viewed with suspicion.

What to buy in the Grand Bazaar

Originally the Grand Bazaar was organised into areas according to the wares of the vendors, and the streets named accordingly. Nowadays this rule seems more relaxed. Some of the many articles on sale include jewellery, clothing, shoes, fabrics, art, ceramics, carpets, books, antiques, narghile pipes, glassware and souvenirs. It is sensible to take some cash with you for smaller purchases, but credit cards are often accepted for higher value items. Do not be surprised if your shopkeeper takes you to another shop to make a credit card payment. This is quite common amongst vendors who do not have their own machine and you can be sure he will get his money in the end.

Ceramics, Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

The history of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar

The Turkish name for the Grand Bazaar is Kapalicarsi, meaning ‘covered market’. Construction of the bazaar began in 1460 as a result of stallholders wanting to be able to trade no matter what the weather conditions. When another market was built nearby a century later opportune stallholders set up in between the two trading areas and so the largest and oldest souk in the world was created. It has been ravaged by fire and earthquakes over the years, but is always restored.

A street in the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

How to find the Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar is very centrally located in the district of Fatih and is slightly uphill from Sultanahmet. It is a 15 minute walk from Sultanahmet (follow the tramline and the bazaar is to your right once you crest the hill) or you can hop on the Sultanahmet – Sirkeci tram. It is near other tourist attractions and various accommodation options in the centre. For ideas on other things to see and do in Istanbul, check out Top 10 things to do in Istanbul here.

The bazaar is a busy place and attracts between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors each day. Have you been? What did you buy?


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