Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest covered markets all around the world with its history over 500 years located within the heart of Istanbul. This unique place should be on your top at the place to see the list during your time in Istanbul. There are more than thoughts of small shops at Grand Bazaar were are selling a variety of goods, mostly jewelry, silk garments, carpets, and leathers. You can see from the video given below how the Grand Bazaar is big!
History of Grand Bazaar
Actually, although controversial there is a building at the center of the bazaar with dimension is 48 x 36 meters which thought belongs to the Byzantium period of Istanbul. After the conquest of Istanbul, Mehmed the Conqueror ordered the construction of a “bedesten” which means a bazaar in Turkish. His aim was to create a new attraction and commercial center for the new capital of the empire. You may encounter “bedesten” almost every historical Turkish city but this one is the biggest in the country maybe even the world. This second building the new bazaar calls as a “Sandal Bedesten”. Here, the fabric called Sandal sold that contains silk and cotton. The year of 1460 when the construction of the Grand Bazaar started, accepted widely as the establishment time of this historical bazaar. The main big bazaar by using wood constructed during the reign of the Suleiman the Magnificent.
With its 66 street, over a for thousands of shops and 30700 square meters covered area Grand Bazaar is a place to travel through the history of Istanbul and the Ottoman Empire where is located at the heart of the historical peninsula of Istanbul. Until recently, there were 5 mosques, 1 school, 7 fountains, 10 wells, 1 fountain, 1 fountain, 24 doors, and 17 inns. When you take look to the image given above you will see the main building. it was surrounded by a thick wall from the 15th century, covered with a series of domes, became a shopping center in the following centuries by covering the developing street and making some additions to it. Basically, Grand Bazaar grew and added the neighboring street to itself during the time. But today, its growth stopped as you expect 🙂
In this past, this bazaar where certain professions took place in each thematic street and their controls was under very strict control by the empire. Also, commercial ethics and ceremonies were highly respected. Grand Bazaar was and is the center of all kinds of fabrics, jewelry, antiques, weapons past and today. Expect, today there are no shops selling guns at the bazaar 🙂 Also there was another tradition which today still stand partly, selling goods were offered by the families who were specialized over them by the generations. So, that was very normal for a good which is selling by grandfather and a grandson after him.
All shops at the bazaar built to be with the same width. In every street, expert sellers of the good were found in the guild. For example, there were a guild for the people who were selling jewelry of slippers. Competition between the guilt was strictly forbidden. Each seller was helping each other. Even, a master could not process the product by bringing his counter in front of his own shop to show the crowd and attract customers. Also, it was forbidden to sell the goods with prices over the empire has set. There was no free market 🙂
How is It Today?
Grand Bazaar became more like a shopping center for tourists from the 1970s. Today, tourists visit the bazaar more than locals. Because locals can buy anything from anywhere in Istanbul but tourists also came here to see the long-standing history of Istanbul and the Ottoman Empire. You can find almost anything to buy at the bazaar. Also, the bazaar tradition changed over the years and centuries. Unfronuatly shop owners may hassle and try to scam you which is really bad for Turkish tourism. But always there are tourist police and officials around the bazaar who are waiting to help you. By the way, if you see a tourism police and officer with a badge be sure that they can speak at least one foreign language.
Where is The Grand Bazaar?
Grand Bazaar is located at the historical peninsula of Istanbul at the Fatih district with other unique heritage of Byzantium and the Ottoman era, like Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, Beyazit Mosque, Nuruosmaniye Mosque, Grand Viziers Mosque, Gulhane Park and many more. You can use the interactive map given below to have more idea about the location of the bazaar and important spot to see while your time in there.
How to Go to The Grand Bazaar?
It is very easy to go to the Grand Bazaar because of its central location. There are multiple ways to go there. I will ignore the bus lines because you have a Marmaray suburban train line, metro and, tram options which are more way faster and comfortable. My suggestion is to take the T-1 tram line (Kabatas-Bagcilar) from Kabatas, Karakoy or Eminonu and get off at the Beyazit station which is near the bazaar. Also, it is possible to go to the Grand Bazaar by using the M2 metro line (Haciosman-Yenikapi) and get off at the Cemberlitas or Vezneciler station near Istanbul University Beyazit Campus. From here you just need to take 5 minutes to walk to reach the bazaar.
Your last option is to use the Marmaray suburban line which operates between the east edge of Istanbul to the west, Gebze-Halkali. Sirkeci Station is the place that you will get off from the Marmaray train. From here you can take the T1 tram line but I’m suggesting to take 20 minutes to walk through the history of Byzantium and the Ottoman era. You may find all the options on the interactive map given above. Also if you have a question please ask them in the comment section. By the way, you need a taxis to go there at least before the shopping 🙂
Shopping Like an Expert at Grand Bazaar
As I wrote above Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest and biggest ancient markets in the world. With its gigantic size and labyrinth style, it gets more and more complex. So, you should know where to go and how to shop 🙂 There is around more than 25000 full-time staff working at over 4000 shops. Also, Grand Bazaar covered 66 street and 18 gates each one is opening the different points of the historical peninsula of Istanbul. There are also mosques, fountains, rest houses that still keep the old atmosphere. Especially during the summer, there will be around half a million visitors per day which is quite high.
Where to Start?
If you know what will you buy from the Grand Bazaar you may use the specific entrance to handle everything fast and easily. For example, if you want to buy gold and jewelry you should use the south-eastern entrance of the Grand Bazaar, Nuruosmaniye gate (Gate 1) where is the closest entrance to the streets of these kinds of shops. Or, if you are looking for a fabric you should use the northern entrance Oruculer Gate (Gate 14). I think you get that you have knowledge about a bit about Grand Bazaar layout to shop like an expert 🙂 I’m going to guide you for an all-inclusive Grand Bazaar experience. So if you are looking for specific suggestions please write your question to the comment section. Also, I added this information to the interactive map which you can use anytime, anywhere.
Start with Gold, Silver, and Jewelry
Ok, let’s start! So based on my plan you should get off at the Cemberlitas tram station where is very close to our starting point at Grand Bazaar voyage 🙂 From here you just need to take a walk which only 250-300 meters long. You may find your route on this link. If you took the right path you should see the Nuruosmaniye Gate (Gate 1) just in front of you.
Just a second later when you enter from the Nuruosmaniye Gate you will see the Sandal Bedesten just on your right. Sandal Bedesten has more than 2000 square meters of area. From time to time some organizations held at the place. You may see from the first image of this post at Sandal Bedesten have 20 small domes. There are lots of shops selling silk carpets, paintings, antiques, jewelry, Turkish delights, nuts, teas, Turkish coffees, and other traditional Turkish souvenirs. There are also places to eat and drink at Sandal Bedesten. Zinrcli Han is also another spot them at this part of the Grand Bazaar. It is located the very north of gold, silver and jewelry shops. It is also possible to go to the Zincirli Han directly by using the Sari Odalar Gate (Gate 17) or Mahmutpasa Gate (Gate 18).
At the beginning of this part of the post, I told you that you will enter start with gold and jewelry. But inside Sandal Bedesten you may find a variety of things to buy. To the north of the Sandal Bedesten, you will go to the gold, silver and jewelry shops. These shops are mostly located between the 4 parallel (Aynacilar, Aga, Muhafazicalar, and Kalpakcilar) streets from north to south.
- Check the interactive map: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd stops
Ic (Interior) Bedesten
Now, I think it is better to go to the Ic (Interior) Bedesten. You will see the location of the Ic Bedesten in the first image, the center of the Grand Bazaar. There are lots of shops that are selling antiques and copperware at Ic Bedesten. It is thought and also controversial but most historians think that the Ic Bedesten built at the Byzantium era. You will also see the heavy, giant doors of the Ic Bedesten. All of those doors closed every night by the Grand Bazaars officials.
At the northern street from the Ic Bedesten there are shops that sell carpets, copper, souvenirs and leather. To the southern side of the Ic Bedesten, you may find a shop that are selling gold, carpets, and souvenirs. It is also possible to find small places to eat and dring around the Ic Bedesten. Also, there is a small furry’s bazaar (Kurkculer Carsisi) at the southern of the Grand Bazaar where is the center of leather at the Grand Bazaar.
- Check the interactive map: 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th stops
Kalpakcilar Street is the most famous street in Grand Bazaar. It is located in the very south of the bazaar. Over the street, it is possible to find wide selection of jewelry from traditional harem styles to modern settings. This street may be very crowded during the day. Don’t forget to be careful about your belongings while you are walking.
- Check the interactive map: 8th stop
Denim and Fabric
The west side of the Grand Bazaar reserved for the shops selling denim and leather. It is always possible to find anything made from blue jean material in this part of the bazaar. Also, you will buy one of the colorful T-shirts. Dontforget to bargain! There are also a couple of Hans at the western side of the Grand Bazaar worth to visit; Bodrum Han and Evliya Han.
- Check the interactive map: 9th and 10th stops
End of The Shopping
After spending a couple of hours shopping and journey through the centuries it is time to finish this experience. You should find the Sipahi Street before you leave. From the starting point of Sipahi street, you just need to walk to the north. On your right side, there will be souvenirs shops and the left side leather and denim shops. While you are walking to the north you will see the shops both on your right and left selling fabric. Follow the street until you reach the Oruculer Gate (Gate 14). From here you can turn left to reach the Fuat Pasha Avenue where you can get in a taxi. Also, it is possible to take a downhill walk to the Eminonu ferry and tram stops.
I try to be as brief as short as possible. Because I can write thousands of words for each street of Grand Bazaar. My main aim is giving an idea of how to visit Garand Bazaar and giving the pleasure of discovery to you. Please share your own experience in the comment section.
Grand Bazaar Opening and Visiting Times
Grand Bazaar is not like a regular shopping center. It has its own opening times. You can find the Grand Bazaar opening times below. By the way, Grand Bazaar closed on Sunday. It is possible to visit and shop at the Grand Bazaar from Monday to Saturday between 10.00 and 18.00.
Grand Bazaar Shopping Traditions
While you are shopping at Grand Bazaar you always follow these traditions. If you do, it will be lucrative for you. It is not really possible to see the all part of the Grand Bazaar in a couple of hours. You should share your entire day for this historic part of Istanbul. Sleep well before you came here because you will get tired. You will talk a lot, a lot and a lot if you want to buy the thing at reasonable prices. Considering the number of shop at the Grand Bazaar you will encounter numberless of sellers.
- Always chat and bargain to get the right price.
- Never say your final price and don’t show the money.
- They may hassle you to sell the things.
- Feel free to leave and move on to the next shop. They are used to this not get offended.
- Don’t forget to go to Kalpakciler Street, a place for high-quality pieces of jewelry.
- See antiques at Sandal and Ic Bedesten.
- See carpets and kilims at the Zincirli Han.
- It also buys things made-to-order.
The video given below is the opening scene of the James Bond Skyfall (2013) at Grand Bazaar. Some of the scenes dramatized of course for the promo worries. You won’t see most the type of people, cars, and places when you visit the Grand Bazaar 🙂
Istanbul Tourism Police
Also, it may be helpful for you to know the contact information of the tourism police in Istanbul. They also have an active Instagram account.
I just added to the interactive map below for you. I hope that this post will help you visit and shop at Grand Bazaar. Please share your own experience and thought in the comment section. Also, feel free to ask a question about Grand Bazaar.