The Grand Bazaar (map) in Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops on a total area of 30,700 m2, attracting between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily.
The Grand Bazaar is opened each day except Sundays and bank holidays from 9:00 until 19:00. A visit here is not simply about shopping for souvenirs. With its grand arcaded main streets and narrow alleys leading between hans (old trader inns) and bedestens (market halls), it is one of the best places to visit in Istanbul to get a sense of Ottoman life.
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The construction of the future Grand Bazaar’s core started during the winter of 1455/56, shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople and was part of a broader initiative to stimulate economic prosperity in Istanbul.
At the beginning of the 17th century the Grand Bazaar had already achieved its final shape. The enormous extent of the Ottoman Empire in three continents, and the total control of road communications between Asia and Europe, rendered the Bazaar and the surrounding hans or caravanserais the hub of the Mediterranean trade.
- The Grand Bazaar is open 8.30am to 7pm Monday to Saturday.
- You cannot cover the breadth of the bazaar on one visit.
- Head off the main streets to seek out more interesting shopping.
- Expect to get lost. Half the fun of the Grand Bazaar is losing your bearings and stumbling upon one of the alley dead ends that open up into an arcaded han (old traveler inn).
Hand-loomed carpets and kilims (flat-weaves) are one of Turkey’s most famous handicrafts, and the Grand Bazaar is one of the country’s most popular shopping destinations to buy a rug to bring home. Good places in the Grand Bazaar to begin carpet shopping are Takkeciler Sokak and the Zincirli Han.
Lamps and lanterns have become a hugely popular handicraft to bring back home from your Turkey travels. If you’re looking for antique rather than modern lamps and lanterns in the Grand Bazaar, head to the Iç Bedesten (Old Bazaar) roughly in the bazaar’s center, where you can rummage amid the specialist antique stores. The Iç Bedesten is the original, oldest Grand Bazaar building. For modern filigree lamps and lanterns, hunt around the Cebeci Han.
For hand-painted ceramic ware, you need to head to one of the specialist ceramic stores within the market. For Istanbul ceramic shopping, make sure to check out the Arasta Bazaar (behind the Blue Mosque), as well as the Grand Bazaar, as the Arasta Bazaar specializes in ceramic stores.
Some of the best modern metalware in Turkey is produced in the southeast, and much of what you see sold in the Grand Bazaar hails from places like Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, and Mardin.
If you’re looking for jewelry in Istanbul, the Grand Bazaar is a one-stop destination. For gold work, head to the main street of Kalpakçılarbaşı Caddesi first, which is lined with gold shops. This is the street that runs between the main Grand Bazaar entrances of Bayazıt Gate, on the west side of the bazaar, and Nuruosmaniye Gate, at the eastern end.
You’ll find silver jewelry shops throughout the bazaar. The Iç Bedesten (Old Bazaar) has a clutch of stores specializing in silver jewelry, so it can be a good place to start a hunt.
Although Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar is famously the place to visit to purchase spice and Turkish delight sweets, the Grand Bazaar offers plenty of opportunities for buying edible gifts and souvenirs as well.
The Bazaar can easily be reached from Sultanahmet (map) and Sirkeci (map) by trams (Beyazıt-Kapalıçarşı stop, map).
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