One of the most popular things in Istanbul is the Grand Bazaar. Istanbul Grand Bazaar is a historical shopping area that is surrounded by amazing shops and covered by domes. The bazaar is located in the middle of Beyazit, Nuruosmaniye and Mercan districts. It offers customers wide shopping arrange from local and famous spices to amazing hand-made crafts. In this post, I will give you everything you need to know about grand bazaar.
Historical Story of Istanbul Grand Bazaar
Istanbul Grand Bazaar is one of the largest, oldest and impressive covered markets and bazaars in the world. The bazaar is really huge that area contains over 60 streets, and 4,000 shops, 22 gates and 2 mosques in 30,700 square meters. The high ceiling of the bazaar is covered with roofs and domes that have hundreds of windows and the gates open to multiple central points of the city. So, it is easy to be lost in this huge bazaar that is like a labyrinth for a foreigner especially.
The history of the Grand Bazaar dates back to the 15th century. The bazaar was constructed under the command of Fatih Sultan Mehmet who was the conqueror of Istanbul. Originally, the name of Istanbul Grand Bazaar was Çarşı-yı-Kebir. The first bedesten,İç Bedesten, was constructed in 1461. (Bedesten refers to an indoor arcade in which several shops take part.)
Over the years, the Grand Bazaar had been expanded and became the inns for tradesmen and workshops and most importantly, became the main commercial and financial center of Istanbul. İç Bedesten or Cevahir Bedesten was constructed to provide income for upkeep and grant to Ayasofya Mosque (Hagia Sophia).
In the era of Suleyman the Magnificent, the bazaar was more broadened with wooden elements. Besides, precious goods, valuable articles of rich men and some amount of the state treasury were preserved in safe deposits inside the bazaar. Throughout history, the Grand Bazaar has endured catastrophes such as fire and earthquake but made it these days thanks to the aids of sultans. Unfortunately, the Grand Bazaar lost its big importance and no longer serves as the commercial center of Istanbul. However, this city-within-a-city remains as the best place to experience the life and experience of Ottoman-era Turkey and an important cultural site.
The Architecture of The Grand Bazaar:
The most beautiful part of the Grand Bazaar is its attention-grabbing structure which is full of colorful elements. It enchants you at first sight and channels you into a different kind of experience. The Grand Bazaar contains two substantial covered bazaars; Cevahir Bedesten and Sandal Bedesten.
Cevahir Bedesten is the oldest part of the Grand Bazaar and it is divided into 15 separate parts. Each section is covered with a dome. Cevahir Bedesten contains over 100 peculiar stores and 4 different entrances which are Sahaflar Kapısı, Takkeciler Kapısı, Kuyumcular Kapısı, and Zenneciler Kapısı. The entrances and streets names in Grand Bazaar refer to the original functions of the stores such as Aynacılar Sokak which is full of mirror sellers or Halıcılar Caddesi in which various shops for carpets are sold.
The bedesten was originally the jewelry center of Grand Bazaar but now contains much more peculiar stores and goods. However, Cevahir Bedesten is the main point for people who love the atmosphere full of history, thus it serves as the main center of antiques and jewelry. You can find the most precious gifts, old watches, silver and gold shops, calligraphy artworks, and beautiful handicrafts.
On the other hand, Sandal Bedesten or Küçük Bedesten is surrounded by 50 domes. This bedesten represents Turkish architecture in designs for domes. the name of the bedesten comes from the selling area of a fabric type which is composed of silk and cotton. In the bedesten, there are peculiar shops for silk carpets, antiques, Turkish delight and desserts, gift shops that reflect traditional Turkish culture and art.
Shopping at Istanbul Grand Bazaar:
With its enchanting historical atmosphere, Grand Bazaar offers you one of the most exciting shopping experiences in the world. This covered bazaar will be the perfect spot for you to find the perfect gifts that reflect the amazing atmosphere of this bazaar and Turkish culture for the beloved ones.
Istanbul Grand Bazaar awaits you for the worldwide known handmade Turkish carpets and kilims, souvenirs, leather goods, silver art, precious stones, handbags, textiles, glazed chinaware, and antiques. In addition, these handcrafts, you will be allured by the enchanting scents of spices and dazzling colors of goods and the architecture itself. So, it is likely to say that it is possible to shop for everything.
Istanbul Grand Bazaar is the most popular spot for tourist attraction of Istanbul. It is likely to reach the number of visitors half a million in some days, especially during the summer season. So, no wonder it is one of the most famous and attracted shopping areas in the world.
Shopping Etiquette in Istanbul Grand Bazaar:
Tradesmen of Istanbul, especially the ones in the Grand Bazaar, are known for their ability in a bargain. So, the bargain is a must in the bazaar for you. You should be prepared. The key to good shopping is to know that there are dozens of stores lined up next to each other that sell similar products. So, be sure that you have leisure time to wander around the shops and look for the best price or a better deal.
If you spend some time in a shop and start to chat and bargain or pleased with the offer, it is likely that the vendors serve you a cup of tea. This is the gesture for hospitality and a way of welcoming. Also, most of the vendors are fluent in more than one language. This is what makes Grand Bazaar experience different.
If you feel overwhelmed, uncomfortable or harassed by the insistence of a shopkeeper, just move on to another shop. The real tradesmen or, to say, owners of the trusted places don’t make you uncomfortable or insist you buy their products. So, always feel free to leave and look for better deal and service.
The Best Shops in Istanbul Grand Bazaar:
The names of the streets are divided according to referring the original functions of the stores such as Aynacılar (mirror sellers), Sahaflar (second-hand booksellers), Halıcılar (carpet sellers), İplikçiler (yarn sellers), Kürkçüler (fur sellers), Terziler (tailors) etc. Thus, these names direct you the category of goods you want to buy or look. However, there are more famous and high-quality shops than other ones.
Cashmere House started serving their guests in 1987. They offer beautiful, extraordinary, elegant and quality fabrics. You will be astonished by those handmade and hand-woven works of art. They say that they have discovered and brought these works of art from the ‘’hidden corners of the world’’. The owner, Ilyas Aksu, offer embroidered silk shawls and sheminas that personally brought from the makers in northern India and Nepal to his customers. In addition, you find quality fabrics in return to reasonable prices from this beautiful shop.
Location: Keseciler Caddesi No 49, Kapalıçarşı, Fatih, 34126/ +90 (212) 527 69 60
Abdulla sells all-natural hand-made linens, essential oil soaps, peshtemals, hammam bowls, woven fabrics, and towels. In this store, not only the goods are amazing and enchanting but also the atmosphere and design of the shop that influenced by the Grand Bazaar are stunning. All in all, the store is perfect to create own at-home hammam experience. In addition, the average price is between 10 to 500 USD which depends on the thing you buy.
Location: Mollafenari Mh., Ali Baba Türbe Sk. No:15, 34120 Fatih/İstanbul/ +900 (212) 526 30 70
Yazzma’s goods are principally based on Ikat patterns and inspired by Iznik ceramics. The shop is a cloth brand but besides cloth, they sell colorful silk and pashmina pillowcases, lampshades and bedspreads.
Location: Beyazıt Mh., Kapalıçarşı, Takkeciler Sk. No:48-50, 34126 Fatih/İstanbul/+90 (212) 527 23 22
CARPETS & KILIMS:
Şişko Osman is located in the heart of Zincirli Han. Şişko Osman is a fifth-generation family business and offers its customers an extensive selection of carpets and kilims from all over the country. Osman Şenel is the first owner of the company. The name Şişko Osman means ‘’Fatty Osman’’. The store is named like that because there were two Osman in those times in the Grand Bazaar and to distinguish these two men, people nicknamed the owner as Şişko Osman.
In later, Şişko Osman became the symbol of the location with its long history and extraordinary carpets and kilims. Also, the company gives products to exhibitions. There are carpets and kilims that over 100 years old, but the owners do not sell regarding them as special collections. The average price for these extraordinary carpets and kilims is between 90 to 250 USD. However, prices can be changed and you can find carpets for more high prices through the general carpet stores but I stated an approximate price that is reasonable.
Şengör is another six-generation family company. Şengör Halı has been hosted famous names such as Prime Minister of Holland Win Kok, SSSCB leader Mihail Gorbaçov, Prime Minister of Germany Helmut Kohl and Secretary of State Madeleine Allbright. The store is a place where time has stopped. They own rare and old pieces. On the other hand, sell priceless hand-woven carpets and kilims. You can see displayed family photos on the walls to take the visitors back in time. The average price of this priceless place begins from roughly 80-90 USD.
DHOKU & ETHNICON
The store is opened in 2007 in the Grand Bazaar. The owner, Memet Güreli, comes from a family experienced in Turkish rug. The uniqueness of these products is being the combination of the ethnic Turkish kilims and contemporary pieces.
Memet Güreli’s first and the other product line is EthniCon Vintage which reflects the idea behind the designs. The name stands for ethnic and contemporary. In addition, the dhoku means ‘’texture” in Turkish. The Dhoku product lines also can be found in some selected stores in Europe, Japan, the US, Middle East, South Africa, and Australia apart from the Grand Bazaar.
Location: Takkeciler Sokak No.58-60, 34126 Fatih/İstanbul/ +90 (212) 527 68 41- Dhoku
Location: Takkeciler Sokak No.51-53, 34126 Fatih/İstanbul/+90 (212) 527 68 41- EtniCon
The Grand Bazaar is one of the most popular places that attract people who are interested in antiquities. The bazaar serves as a gateway to the past of Istanbul. İç Bedesten is the spot in which you can find most of the antique shops. It is important to shop with trust to the vendor in terms of antiquities. Besides the vendor’s knowledge and understanding the value of an item is a must. thus, I recommend these rooted companies:
Şalabi Antique serves its precious customers at the Grand Bazaar since 1880. You can find lots of precious and priceless antiques that includes vintage jewelry, cologne bottles, mirrors, early Republic goods, and mostly Ottoman-era items. Besides, Şalabi Antique has a collection of wooden paintings and biblical scenes which offers a visual feast.
Location: Sandal Bedesten Sokak No.6/ +90 (212) 522 81 71
ZİYA AYKAÇ ANTIQUE
This antique shop is one of the oldest shops in the Grand Bazaar. Selection of antique silver and hand-woven items are beyond impressive as well as its historical and warm atmosphere. Besides these impressive items, you may find precious ceramics, hand-woven fabrics and other treasures. This place is an absolute gateway to the past.
Location: Tekkeciler Sokak No.68-70/ +90 (012) 527 60 82
Sofa Antique is a spot that you may find not only antique pieces but also contemporary pieces with full of pleasure. The shop presents unique and selected wide range of engravings, old maps, embroidery and needlework, ceramics and mosaics, vintage jewelry, paintings, textiles, and print media. You can just come and visit to smell this unique historical atmosphere.
Location: Nuruosmaniye Caddesi No. 53/A, Nuruosmaniye/ +90 (212) 520 28 50 51
NICK’S CALLIGRAPHY CORNER
Nick’s Calligraphy Corner is one of the most unique stores in the Grand Bazaar. The store is tiny but the value of the work is enormous. The owner of the shop is Nick Merdenyan who is an Armenian Calligrapher. He is known for his unique works that he painted on dried Dieffenbachia leaves. Besides, Nick Merdenyan produces miniature paintings and calligraphic works. Some of the works are motifs and include themes from major world religions. Some of them have the themes of universal nonreligious but meaningful messages. He is one of the oldest people in the Bazaar. He has been working in the Grand Bazaar since 1968.
Location: Beyazıt Mh., Şerif Ağa Sk. D:24, 34126 Fatih/ +90 (212) 513 54 73
Gramofon Baba (Papa Gramophone) is a shop that plays the tune of old melodies. If you are interested in Turkish classical music, this shop is the perfect spot for you. Mehmet Öztekin who is known as ‘’Papa Gramophone’’ is a person who has dedicated his life to producing, designing and repairing gramophones. When you enter the bazaar from the Nuriosmaniye gate and heading toward the silversmiths’ section, you will hear the sound of Turkish old records that coming out of Gramofon Baba. He is presumably the last gramophone artisan in Istanbul. He inherited the trade from his father and since then he exerts great effort to keep these precious gramophones alive. It is highly recommended to visit this magical and enchanting shop. Especially, if you have memories with gramophones then this store will be a gateway to your memories.
Location: Lütfullah Sk. Kapalı Çarşısı D.K:16 Beyazıt Mh. Eminönü, 34126 Fatih/İstanbul/ +90 (212) 526 15 84
If you are not a short-term visitor and want something handiwork, custom-made special product, then you can trust special craftsmen of the Grand Bazaar. To be kept in mind, commissioning custom-made work takes time and it would be better if you take a Turkish friend with you.
Most of the jewelry-makers have workshops in the back of the hans while the storefronts display ready-made products. These workshops and the skills of the craftsmen have been passed on from generation to generation.
The workshops in which jewelry makers and goldsmiths are working, generally located near the Mercan Gate, Zincirli Han, Varakçı Han, Kalcılar Han, and Çulhacı Han.
Where to Eat in Istanbul Grand Bazaar
Istanbul Grand Bazaar is not only a shopping destination but also a destination for food. The bazaar is a spot and a home to rooted restaurants of Istanbul. The restaurants host their guests to eat, drink and rest. There are beautiful spots for a break from shopping.
Aslan is a tradesman (esnaf) restaurant, hosting customers since 1988. In Turkey, the tradesmen restaurants are known for their cheap prices and home cooking meals. The hot and cold dishes change daily, and the cook creates a daily menu.
The restaurant offers not only home cooking meals but also a variety of classic and famous Turkish desserts and seasonal fish. This restaurant is highly recommended to taste Turkish home cooking meals and for their very reasonable prices such as between 2 and 20 USD. Aslan restaurant has a view of the Grand Bazaar. You may eat and rest while overlooking the bazaar.
Location: Vezirhan Caddesi No. 70, Çemberlitaş/ +90 (212) 513 76 10
Havuzlu Restaurant has been hosting its guests since 1959. Havuzlu is another place that you can taste Turkish home cooking meals and of course, döner and kebab. Also, the restaurant has a wide selection of menü for Turkish desserts. You may find around 20 types of desserts. However, you should come earlier times of the day because lunch begins before midday and will be finished around 3-5pm. Besides, you will eat delicious meals in return for very reasonable prices like between 2 and 20 USD.
Location: Gani Çelebi Sokak No. 3/ +90 (212) 527 33 46
GAZİANTEP BURÇ OCAKBAŞI
The restaurant is a grill house that serves tasty food originated from Gaziantep, a famous city for kebabs and baklava in South-east of Turkey. The service and the menu of kebabs are very generous. Dolma, künefe and Ali Nazik are highly recommended. The prices are between 5 and 20 USD.
Location: Beyazıt Mahallesi, Parçacılar Sokak No:12/ +90 (212) 5271516
GÜL EBRU KANTİN
Gül Ebru Kantin serves more likely to say as a buffet. You may find a few tables to sit thus it is more appropriate to order as take away. The place offers one of the best wrapped döners (dürüm) in Istanbul. I can recommend wrapped döner with cheese and do not forget to order ayran. The prices are between 2 and 10 USD.
Location: Acı Çeşme Sokak No.4, Grand Bazaar / +90 (212) 512 33 93
Şark kahvesi is one of the most popular spots for visitors to rest and drink Turkish coffee which is made traditionally on a stove filled with sand or a cup of tea that freshly brewed in a copper pot. The atmosphere and the design are very nostalgic with black-and-white photos on the wall and wooden furniture. In addition, the place serves delicious desserts and sandwiches.
Location: Yağlıkçılar Caddesi No. 134 Grand Bazaar/ +90 (212) 512 11 44
How to Go to Istanbul Grand Bazaar
Thanks to its central location, transportation to the Grand Bazaar is easy.
You can use public IETT Buses. You need to use buses that numbered as;
32A – CEVATPAŞA-BEYAZIT
35A – KOCAMUSTAFAPAŞA- BEYAZIT
36 – KARADENİZ MAHALLESİ- BEYAZIT
36ES – ESENTEPE MAH. – BEYAZIT
38 – YUNUS EMRE MAH. – BEYAZIT
38Z – ZÜBEYDE HANIM MAH. – BEYAZIT
46H – HURRIYET MAH. – BEYAZIT
61B – BEYAZIT – TAKSIM
82B – YENI BOSNA METRO – BEYAZIT
90B – DRAMAN – BEYAZIT
91E – GOZTEPE MAH. – BEYAZIT
92B – YENI MAHALLE METRO – BEYAZIT
93C – ZEYTINBURNU – BEYAZIT
94A – BAKIRKOY – BEYAZIT
97- GUNESLI – BEYAZIT
97G – YENI MAHALLE METRO – BEYAZIT
For subway, you need to use T1 ZEYTINBURNU- KABATAS destination.
If you prefer Uber ride, then destination from Taksim to Kapalıçarşı Beyazıt costs 5-7 USD. For other destinations: https://www.uber.com/tr/Fare-Estimate/
How to Dress to Istanbul Grand Bazaar?
There is no obligatory dress code around Istanbul or any part of Turkey but considering the location of the Grand Bazaar as conservative, you may prefer dress modest. The most important part is you need to choose comfortable clothes and shoes because the grand bazaar is really huge, and you need to spend hours for shopping.
Is the Grand Bazaar Open on Sunday?
All shops in the Grand Bazaar open from Monday to Saturday from 09:00 to 19:00. They are closed on Sundays.
How Old Is the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul?
Istanbul Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest shopping areas in the world and the bazaar is over 550 years old. This is the reason why it is like a gateway to the past.