Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is truly spectacular – with 60 covered alleys and up to 4,000 shops and around 25,000 employees, it’s no wonder this sprawling covered market (Kapali Carsi) holds the distinction of being the ‘largest covered market in Istanbul’.

Covering an area of about 30 hectares and under a beautifully painted ornamental ceiling and round arcades, Alibaba’s cave of treasures spreads.

When you enter, the intoxicating aroma of spices wafts over you, and the shouts of vendors trying to lure you into their shops and offer you traditional Turkish tea.

Thousands of colors and goods from the invention of the world – carpets, lamps, clothes, leather products, and gold and silver jewelry will immediately hypnotize you and you will see things that your eyes have never looked at. Let yourself be carried away by this hurray and keep your eyes open – there’s a lot to see. Don’t forget to haggle when shopping, it’s part of local etiquette.

Four gates lead to the covered bazaar from different sides of the city. Some have the sultan monogram of Sultan Abdulhamid II in the portal.

In 1894, the Grand Bazaar was rebuilt after an earthquake, and until then it did not have shops as the Western world knew. Traditionally, in the past, traders sat on the street in front of their stalls, and the goods were kept in cupboards, especially the more valuable items.

In the Orient, it was customary for individual crafts to be concentrated in one place. In the Western world, we are used to competition not being side by side. Here, the competition is perceived very positively. If the merchant does not have the goods, the neighbor will have them and will also receive a commission for mediation. After all, you don’t like to leave the customer empty-handed.

The names of the individual streets were derived precisely from the individual crafts, or guilds and associations that operated in this place.

Once upon a time, the Grand Bazaar was a public meeting place for people, one of the few places where even women could go, and where it was also possible to meet even members of the royal family.

The bazaar is visited by half a million people every day, twice as many during holidays. There is passionate negotiation in individual stalls, for sellers, it is a matter of honor. Many languages are spoken here, knowledgeable salespeople know a little bit about every dish. The tea offered everywhere is no longer a means of coercion to buy, but a sign of hospitality.

The Grand Bazaar may seem like a labyrinth to a person, but it has its own logical internal arrangement. The central area forms a regular network. There are two main streets here as if the imaginary axis of the bazaar.

Interesting facts about the Grand Bazaar

The construction of the Grand Bazaar began in 1455 and it opened for business in 1461, making it one of the oldest covered bazaars in the world. In addition to shops, there are also 2,195 workshops, not to mention the number of restaurants and new cafes that have sprung up over the years.

Within the Grand Bazaar complex, there are also 18 fountains and 2 bedesten (vaulted and waterproof areas of the bazaar where valuable goods are kept). And for merchants and their families, there are 40 inns, 12 small mosques, 12 warehouses, 1 school, 1 bath, and 19 wells.

In ancient times, each street was reserved for a different craft or profession, and the handicrafts produced here were strictly controlled. Business ethics and traditions were strictly adhered to, and merchants commanded such respect and trust that people asked them to protect or invest their money.

Shopping at the Grand Bazaar

If you’re planning to shop in Istanbul, it makes sense to start your shopping spree at the Grand Bazaar, as you’re likely to find everything you need here—jewelry, scarves, clothing, colored glass lights, copper and brassware, leather, carpets, you name it.

The Bazaar’s main street is lined with jewelry stores and enough gold, diamonds and glitter to dazzle anyone.

If you need to find gifts or souvenirs for friends and family, the Grand Bazaar is a good place to buy gifts.

Prices vary from shop to shop and haggling ( basilisk) is common. Be prepared to bargain hard or you can be sure you paid too much. If you intend to buy expensive jewelry, it is advisable to compare prices in several stores to get an idea of a reasonable price. Since the price of gold is universal, what makes jewelry in Istanbul cheaper is the processing cost.

Although the Grand Bazaar is sometimes crowded and busy, it is a place worth visiting. All shop owners try to lure you into their stores with promises of the best quality goods and prices. Be careful because the moment you show any interest you will be on their heels until you tell them flat out that you have no intention of buying.

The bazaar also includes a part of the Cevahir Badesteni or Antik Market, where the most expensive jewels and goods such as weapons, jewelry, and crystal were located. The Papuccular Pazari market (slipper and shoe bazaar) is also curious, where shoes were displayed on shelves up to the ceiling. Traditionally, yellow shoes were intended for Muslims, black for Orthodox Greeks, blue for Jews, and red for Armenians.

Sark kahvesi is an old Turkish-style cafe where you can have tea and coffee (cay, kahve), and see lottery ticket sellers or tabla players.

The so-called Hanas was also located in the Grand Bazaar. They were places for craftsmen in the workshops, for example, spinners of gold threads, and silver beaters. Many workshops have survived to this day.

While life, noise, and hustle and bustle are pulsating outside the Hanover space, here the visitor will find an oasis of peace in the art environment of metalsmiths, glassmakers, weavers, and other craftsmen who have existed there for hundreds of years.