Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, known as the Kapalıçarşı, which means “covered market” in English, is the largest enclosed market in the world. Covering an area of 30,700 square meters, Grand Bazaar has some 60 streets and around 4,000 shops that sell pottery, clothing, accessories, sweets, and home decor items.
Stretching from west to east between the mosques of Beyazit and Nuruosmaniye, Grand Bazaar lies in Istanbul’s Fatih district and is a famous tourist attraction. The place is so huge it is impossible to explore the Grand Bazaar in one visit. You will have to make many visits before you can finally say: “Ah, I have seen it all!”
A peek into Grand Bazaar’s history:
The Grandeur of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar!
Constructed in 1455 on the orders of Ottoman Sultan Fatih Sultan Mehmet, known as Mehmed the Conqueror commonly, the Grand Bazaar was a place for trading cloth and jewels. What started as a two-stone building quickly became larger with the tremendous demand of merchants and transformed into what we see it as today.
The structure of the Grand Bazaar is the same as in ancient times. Thanks to its unique architecture, Grand Bazaar is still standing solid and unshaken by any natural calamity to this day. It is a wonder in itself.
One such reason why Grand Bazaar became a trade center is because of its location, which made it accessible to Europe, Asia, and India. It soon became a center point for Meditteranean trade.
With trade prospering, the Grand Bazaar gained more significance in the trade market, and many merchants started selling their goods here. Today this Bazaar has several streets dedicated to metal items, ceramics, carpets, lamps, Turkish delights, baklava, spices, and much more.
The Grand Bazaar sheds light on the Turkish culture and Ottoman trading system. The architecture is phenomenal, and the vibe is still ancient. You will definitely get a feel of the old times while strolling through the streets of Grand Bazaar.
What to shop at Grand Bazaar?
What and what not to shop at Grand Bazaar Istanbul can puzzle many. People often question if the things sold at the Grand Bazaar are overly pricey or if they are authentic at all. Art is always expensive. And if something is hand woven, such as carpets and stoles, these items can get costly. But at Grand Bazaar, there is value for the money spent. Things are original, so you do not have to be worried about being looted. For every piece sold at Grand Bazaar, quality control is very high. From spices to towels, everything comes with an original guarantee.
List of things you should definitely buy at Turkey’s Grand Bazaar:
Beautiful Lanterns and Lampshades:
If you love antiques, especially lamps, and lampshades, go to the center of the Grand Bazaar, the oldest part of the building, called Iç Bedesten (Old Bazaar). You can find myriad varieties here in lampshades and other antique objects you can use to decorate your house. For more modern-looking lamps, chandeliers, and other such articles, head to Cebeci Han street. Here you can find more chique designs with a modern touch.
The lamps come in all sizes and shapes and are very colorful. You can choose a lamp design according to the interiors of your house, garden, or workplace. There is something about the lamps that add that vintage vibe to a place. For those looking to add a rustic charm to their indoor or outdoor patio or other spaces, a lampshade is one such element that will have a stunning impact.
Colorful, handwoven, and unique carpets:
Turkey is famous for its beautiful carpets all over the world. Handwoven kilims (flat weaves) are very famous in this part of the world as village women weave and sell them here. At Grand Bazaar, you can not find traditional Turlish carpets, and also from other parts of the world, especially from Asia. The rugs from India, Persia, and Pakistan are also famous here. Takkeciler Sokak and the Zincirli Han street is the place inside the Grand Bazaar that will take you to the world of carpets.
Shopkeepers are quite accommodating in keeping the choice of your carpet aside while you browse through the other shops. You can choose and get the best deal out there. Carpets will usually be pricey, so do bargain if you can.
Seeing the designs on these carpets hanging in the shops will surely put a smile on your face. Seeing so much artwork on these carpets will make you want to buy one.
Stunning ceramics from which you can’t take your eyes off:
Kutahaya is one such place in Turkey famous for its ceramic artworks. Women in the villages handmake these ceramics used in the kitchen or decorative pieces to hang on the walls. Iznik is another such place from where ceramics of good quality come for selling at the Grand Bazaar.
These ceramics, decorated with tulip motifs or other flower patterns, especially in contemporary style, are always in high demand by tourists. You can also find Hittite-style jugs and carafes, which will take you back to the Bronze Age. The Grand Bazaar and the Arasta Bazaar, which lie behind the Blue Mosque, are the two places famous for ceramic items.
You will probably find what you are looking for at Grand Bazaar itself, as there are so many items you can pick and choose as per your taste.
Stroll through the street selling Nargile or Hookah:
Are you a hookah lover? Even if you are not, still you won’t be able to resist buying one just for the sake of decoration in your house. Turkish nargiles are symbolic of Ottoman culture, and many places in Turkey offer nargile. These hookahs, used for smoking fruit-flavored tobacco, make one feel royal.
You can find these traditional nargiles throughout the Grand Bazaar, but the traditional ones are sold at Iç Bedesten street. A traditional nargile includes a long pipe, a vase for water, and a flask for burning fruit tobacco.
Textiles such as cushions, pillows, stoles, and more:
The Grand Bazaar is probably the best place to buy textiles such as cushion covers, pillow covers, bed sheets, and other similar items.
Intricate works on these beautiful cushion covers will change the vibe of your drawing rooms. With different prints of peacocks, elephants, tulips, and other floral patterns, these textiles are no less than artwork.
These cushion covers can be a great souvenir item as they are easy to pack and carry with you back to your home country.
Stoles and other fashion accessories:
With a tinge of traditional marks, these stoles and fashion accessories in fabric sold at Grand Bazaar will make any shopaholic drool. These are worth buying and are of quality. The stoles are warm and come in various lengths as per your choice. They can have sequence works or embroidery or printed in vibrant colors. You can also find some in milder tones as per your taste.
Apart from stoles, there are other fashion accessories, such as bags, slippers, scarves, and hats, which you can buy for a reasonable price. Scarves can be worn around the neck or used to tie hair. You can also form a knot around your hats with scarves to give them a more modern look. There are plenty of items you can use as accessories.
Remarkable jewelry pieces and items:
The main street of Kalpakçılarbaşı Caddesi is your one-stop destination for buying jewelry items. From imitations to real gold or silver items and precious stones, you can find all that you need.
You can find fantastic wedding jewelry collections at the Grand Bazaar, depicting old Turkish and modern designs. There is a big market for precious and semi-precious stones here, especially the Zultanite. This particular stone is extracted from the Anatolian mountains and is famous for its color-changing effect. Other Turkish stones, namely chrysoprase, sepiolite, smoky quartz, and blue chalcedony, also adorn these stories.
Don’t forget to buy some Turkish delight and baklava at the Grand Bazaar:
A trip to Grand Bazaar is incomplete if you don’t buy some Turkish delight, called “lokum” in the local language, or dry baklava. Though the spice bazaar in Tukrye, called the Egyptian market or Mısır Çarşısı, is more famous for spice, you can also buy some at Grand Bazaar.
From stuffed with nuts to simple “lokum” varieties, you can get a box to take back home and share a taste of Turkey with your family and friends.
Things to keep in mind while visiting Grand Bazaar:
- Grand Bazaar remains open six days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. The market remains closed on Sundays.
- Beware of pickpocketers! Istanbul is a tourist place, which means scores of people come to visit it. Whether visiting Grand Bazaar or any other touristic site in Istanbul, keep your purses and backpacks near you as you might get robbed.
- Don’t be shy to bargain at the Grand Bazaar. The items are pricey, so it is only logical to bargain. Most of the time, the shopkeeper will agree to the price you say. But if a shop says “no bargaining,” there won’t be much luck.
- If you come with a tour guide, know that for the items you’ll buy, especially carpets, there will be some commission your guide and the shopkeeper might have agreed on. So it’s better not to have a tour guide along.
- Don’t be afraid to get lost at the Grand Bazaar. With 4,000 shops and 60 streets inside the Grand Bazaar, you will likely lose the way. But don’t be afraid, just follow directions on signboards and you’ll find your way out.
- Do try cafes and hammam houses at Grand Bazaar. For a relaxing experience, a hammam is best. And if you are hungry, try some old cafe places that still serve at Grand Bazaar to taste authentic sweets of Turkey, such as “tolumba” and “halka tatli,” with hot tea served in traditional tulip-shaped glasses.