Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı)
The Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı) lies between the Bayezid and Nuruosmaniye mosques, and covers an enormous area. Once you enter one of its 21 gates and start exploring, it’s clear that this is one of the largest bazaars in the world. Under its seemingly endless roofs you can find glazed tiles, spices, pottery, brassware, leather accessories, belly-dancing costumes, pipes and ashtrays, among other curiosa and crafts.
The Grand Bazaar dates back to the mid 1400s, when Sultan Mehmet II ordered the construction of a special site dedicated to the trading of textiles. Today you can still see classic Ottoman architecture in the bazaar’s oldest building, the Cevavir. Originally every street represented a particular type of craft, which is still reflected in their names but no longer strictly the case.
Visit some of the more than 3,000 shops divided over 60 covered streets in this exotic retail paradise. The vast complex is a colorful maze that you’d happily get lost in. Allow yourself plenty of time to explore, because it is interesting... and extremely crowded.
Shop for a Persian rug or just witness carpet-weaving demonstrations. Serious haggling is expected, so don’t be shy to offer a much lower price if you suspect that an item is overpriced. Vendors can be very persuasive, so it takes a fair bit of determination to walk out empty-handed.
Even if you don’t have spare room in your suitcase, it’s worth coming here for the lively atmosphere of a typical Turkish marketplace. Admire the old mosque and fountain, or visit a café or restaurant in one of the hans (three-story buildings). Smell the spices and other exotic blends, take pictures of the attractive displays of Turkish slippers and taste sweet Turkish delights.
The Grand Bazaar is located in the Old City, in the Fatih district. It’s best to walk there or take the tram to the Beyazıt stop. The bazaar is open daily, except Sundays. As in any crowded space, pickpockets and bag-snatchers operate in the market.