GRAND BAZAAR, ISTANBUL
Being one of the most visited sites in Istanbul not only by foreigners, but also locals; Grand Bazaar welcomes 92 million visitors annually in its 64 streets, two bedestens (vaulted and fireproof part of a bazaar where valuables are kept), 17 Hans (inns for travelers), many gates (see below) and 3600 shops where mostly the same category of commerce is carried out in the same street.
Being the oldest shopping mall in the world with 550 years of tradition, it was the heart of both Istanbul and the Ottoman Empire for long centuries. The mentor -protégé tradition was commenced in the guilds in the bazaar which has been transformed into new commercial structures with time.
By Sultan Mehmet II, the first bazaar was built out of wood as a part of the old bazaar after the conquest of Istanbul. By adding more shops eventually, it then consisted of two bedestens (warehouses) by connecting individual buildings within the main streets. As a result of too many fires and restorations; it was always well-taken care, but after the final fire, it was rebuilt this time out of stone.
In time, the location of each vendor had better planning; today the shops are not very far from their origin:
- Jewelers and gold at Kalpakcilar Caddesi
- Turkish Carpets along Sahaflar Caddesi
- Gold bracelets at Kuyumcular Carsisi
- Leather goods at Perdahcilar Caddesi
- Leather and clothes at the Bit Pazari
- Furniture etc. at Divrikli Caddesi
While there are 22 entrance gates; 4 most-used main gates are Oruculer Gate, Mahmut Pasa Gate, Nuruosmaniye Gate, and Beyazit Gate. Some of the other gates are Carsikapi, Cuhacihan, Kuyumcular, Sepetcihan, Takkeciler, Tavukpazari and Zenneciler...
Today, it welcomes more than 250,000 guests daily on a usual day while this number can go up to 400,000. To serve such a crowd; there is more than 25,000 staff working in the covered area and surroundings.
Quick tips for Grand Bazaar hassle & bargaining:
- Do learn how to say "no, thank you" in Turkish. Learn this to use generally for whole your time of shopping in Turkey.
- Try to visit the bazaar after little after 11:00.
- There is no guarantee for the quality of goods you buy vs. its price.
- Take your time to visit a few similar shops to compare.
- Beware of pickpockets as a universal rule in crowds. Note the population of Istanbul is more than 15 million.
- While bargaining is a custom; you have a chance of %35 to %50 in most shops.
- Do never rush the bargaining, take it easy.
How to get there: If you are taking a tram; look for Sirkeci or Beyazit. If you are in the old city already, it is only 10 min. walking distance from Hagia Sophia.
Grand Bazaar visiting hours: Open Monday - Saturday between 09:00 to 19:00. Closed on Sunday and public holidays.