Grand Bazaar, Istanbul is the oldest and largest covered markets in the world. Some go as far as to say that Grand Bazaar is one of the first malls in the world. The Grand Bazaar is a microcosm of colors, traditions and commerce. Built in the 15th century, the Grand Bazaar is spread over 30,700 square metres and has over 60 streets and 4000 shops. It was listed as the most visited tourist attraction in 2014, bring in a whopping 91 million annual visitors.
The Grand Bazaar is a great experience for the shopaholics but also the ones curious in customs and traditions. The Grand Bazaar is well equipped with hammams, cafes and restaurants. It also has a mosque, a police station and a tourist help centre.
Let’s take a look at what makes this place so special
Getting around Grand Bazaar
There are 64 streets and 22 entrances to the Grand Bazaar. It is virtually impossible to cover everything in one visit. You will have to do your homework and plan your visit.
The one thing you will notice is that similar shops are usually in one place. So, you will have to decide the things you want to buy to help you make the best of your time. For example, for jewellery shops, you should enter through the Beyazıt Gate. Nuruosmaniye Gate is where you should enter through if you want to buy carpets at Zincirli Han.
The colour coding for the map is as follows:
- Yellow – Gold
- Green – Carpets
- Blue – Denim Wear
- Orange – Copper
- Purple – Fabric
- Pink – Souvenirs
- Light brown – Leather
- Brown – Antiques
- Grey – Silver
The Turkish street names often describe the kind of shops that used to be there. Takke means skullcap in Turkish, Takkeciler Caddesi is the skullcap shop street. Aynacılar Sokak is where one would go to buy aynas or mirrors.
In all of the rush to get your shopping time, keep some time to get lost and just marvel at the beauty of this old and colourful market.
What to Shop for in the Grand Bazaar
Carpets and Rugs
Turkish carpets are known for their vibrant colours and patterns. Most of the carpet shops here and generations old as is the carpet industry here which is at least 500 years old.
The carpets are usually made of silk thread. Different regions of Turkey produce their own unique form of patterns on the rugs and carpets. Some of the famous types of design are the Holbein design which was designed in the time of the Ottomans and the Kilim rugs which comes from Turkey’s rural areas.
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Hot Stops – Some of the famous shops to buy rugs are Şişko Osman, who is one of the most popular carpet sellers here. Other popular carpet stores here are Ethnicon, Dhoku and Adnan & Hasan. The average price of a carpet is around 600 lira
Foods and Spices
Foods, spices, and scents should be one of the top things on your shopping list at the Grand Bazaar. Some of the spices you can shop for at the Grand Bazaar are the Middle Eastern Saffron, meatball spices and curry powders. You can also shop for coffee and tea here.
Other interesting food items you get here are the lokum which is a local sweet. The Turkish version of baklava is also worth trying. You also get an anise-based liqueur here called which is worth a shot!
Hot Stops – There is a whole spice bazaar in the Grand Bazaar. They are beautiful and colourful shops. Be watchful here as some of the small shops are also the prettiest. For the Turkish delight, you could try Hacı Bekir, which is in operation since the 18th century.
With Turkey being such an important historical location and at the border of two great cultures, it is a great place to shop for antiques. You will find interesting antiques from the Far East and the West. You can spend hours shopping for antiques in the Grand Bazaar. It is a great place to buy metal pieces from the Ottoman Empire
Hot Stops – Sofa Arts and Antiques, a little bit outside the bazaar, is one of the most popular places to shop for antiques in the Grand Bazaar. Other good shops to look for antiques here are Alaturca, Eski and Ziya Aykac Antikaci.
Leather is one of the top things to buy at the Grand Bazaar. Though, you should understand the product and understand the quality you are purchasing. You will be able to purchase leather of all qualities here.
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Hot Stops – Koç Leather & Fur is one of the most popular and trustworthy leather shops in the Grand Bazaar.
Intricately painted mosaics and ceramics are a hallmark of Turkey. You will find these even in well-known landmarks of Turkey like the Hagia Sophia or the Blue Mosque.
Iznik, a town in northwest Turkey, is the most famous for these ceramics. The tiles from Iznik are used in mosques and palaces with their iconic cobalt blue patterns.
Hot Stops – There are lots of shops which sell pottery and ceramics in the Grand Bazaar. Sir Cini is a shop which sells both traditional and contemporary designs.
Turkish jewellery is another unique item that you should shop for in the Grand Bazaar. The tradition of the Turkish jeweller dates back to the Ottoman empire. They have a unique style of stone inlaying and patterns. You will be able to buy gold and silver jewellery here. There are many jewellery shops in the Grand Bazaar. Even if you have no intention to shop, you should enter the shop to admire the glitter and colours in these places.
Make sure you have a receipt with the number of carats in case you buy gold.
Hot Stops – You will find many good and high-end jewellery stores here. Some of the famous ones are Sevan Bicakci, Boybeyi, Gilan, and Tina.
You will be able to shop for high-quality cotton and silk items at the Grand Bazaar. You can also shop for wool and brocade here. Turkish textiles are known for the hand paintings, gold paintings and embroideries.
You can also luxurious bath products here. You will be able to get high-quality cotton bath and hand towels.
Hot Stops – Old Textiles and kaftan has a great collection of traditional fabrics. Try Gonul Paksoy and Tulu for contemporary designs. Head to Abdulla Natural Products for all your bath needs and scented hamam soaps.
Turkish Lamps are the most eye-catching item in the Grand Bazaar. The lamps here come in various shapes and forms. You will get lamps in the form of vases, drops and chandeliers. They come in various colourful designs.
Bargaining in Grand Bazaar
If you love shopping, bargaining is one of the top things to do at the Grand Bazaar. Since shops are in clusters (shops selling similar wares are close to each other) there is fierce competition between these shops to sell to every potential customer.
The salesperson at the shop usually have quotas for the day. The closer they are to completing their sales quota for the day, the weaker your hand in bargaining. This means that mid-mornings are usually the best time to strike a better bargain. Though, the salespeople take some time and a few cups of tea to warm up to the day. So, no point rushing in as soon as the gates open.
All Indians are more than familiar with bargaining. But, for the sake of a quick revision a few pointers that might help you are
- Don’t name your best price to start off with – The seller will start with his upper limit of the sale price and you should look to start at a really low price as well
- Be prepared to walk off – If the salesperson is not budging, be prepared to keep the product back and walk to his neighbour’s shop. There is a chance he/she might crack
- Never look over-enthusiastic about the product
- Stay calm – Getting angry and rude will turn off the salesperson and possibly other salespeople too
Though you might haggle a lot for a product, don’t be surprised if you are invited by the salesperson to a cup of tea at the end of or during the sale.
Also See: 7 Amazing Indian restaurants in Istanbul
Restaurants in the Grand Bazaar
The restaurants in the Grand Bazaar are known to be the best in Istanbul. Having a meal is a must-do at the Grand Bazaar. Like the shops here, the restaurants have been managed by the same families for generations.
Below are some the places to eat in the Grand Bazaar
Gaziantep Burç Kebap
Gaziantep is considered to be the culinary capital of Turkey. This unassuming little eatery in one of the busiest areas of the Grand Bazaar serves the cuisine from Gaziantep. This place to enjoy Turkish grills freshly cooked on the ocakbaşı (copper, hooded grill).
Some of the specialities of Gaziantep Burç Kebap are the Ali nazik – a beef dish served on eggplant puree and dolmas made of eggplants and red peppers and stuffed with rice and herbs.
Gül Ebru Kantin
If you are a fan of doner, then you should definitely stop by Gül Ebru Kantin. You should try the dürüm which is doner wrapped in thin bread and the ayran which is like a Turkish lassi.
Kara Mehmet Kebap Salonu
This hole in the wall outlet is not only one of the favourite restaurants in Grand Bazaar but in all of Istanbul. Located in one of the quieter corners of the Grand Bazaar, the Kara Mehmet Kebap Salonu is away from the bustle of the bazaar and adds to its charms.
There is a host of kababs that you can try here. You can also try unusual kababs of the liver, the brain. Some of the specialities of the place are the Adana kabab and künefe which is a must try dessert post your meal.
- Timings – Monday to Saturday 09:00 – 19:00. It is closed on Sundays and other Turkish holidays.