Grand Bazaar of Istanbul

We’re still not quite over our love affair with Istanbul! Who could blame us, really? Istanbul is a beautiful country that comes with centuries of established culture, heritage, and history. Our previous post garnered some responses and most of them were asking about the grand bazaar! Never let it be said that we don’t respond to our readers, so today, we’ll have an in-depth discussion about the Grand Bazaar.

Details

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is arguable one of the largest covered markets in the world. It boasts over 59 streets and more than 5,000 shops that garner the interest of over 300,000 visitors daily. So, like us, you’ll probably spend the first several minutes gawking at the sheer rush of people present.

This market is best known for their jewelry, carpets, hand-painted ceramics, embroideries, spices, and antique shops. If you’re concerned about getting confused with all the type of wares available, don’t be–the stalls are grouped by the type of goods they sell. So if you’re looking for leather goods or gold, they’ll all be in one place.  What you need to arm yourself with is your bargaining skills and a firm but polite “no”. The salesmen are quite pushy but just bring along your good humor and you’ll be fine.

Bargain Tip: If you ever try to buy anything and the seller gives you a price, knock off 50% in your counter-offer. Most of them will laugh and come with a story of having to feed a family but keep bringing up a lower price than their initial one until you both land on a price you’re both happy with.

History

The foundation to, what the Grand Bazaar’s core is today, started during the winter of 1455 after the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople. The Sultan at the time, Mehmet II, had wanted a location devoted solely to the trade of textiles. It was named Cevâhir Bedestan or “Bedesten of Gems”. The word ‘bedested’ is taked from the Persian word bezestan which means “bazaar of cloth sellers”.

The bazaar grew in size in the 16th century, under Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. It also underwent massive restoration efforts after a rather strong quake.

Design

The entirety of the complex contains two mosques, two hamams, four fountains, and various cafes and restaurants. At the heart of the bazaar is the high domed hall which kept the original name of the bazaar Cevâhir Bedestan.  In the past, the dome only housed the most valuable and unique of antiques–this tradition is continues today albeit with the addition of copperware, amber prayer beads, old coins, inlaid weapons, furniture, etc. There are four main gates placed at the ends of two major streets that intersect at the southwestern corner of the bazaar.

How To Get There

We were rather spoiled since from our hotel, it only took a 10-minute walk to get to the grand bazaar. For others, the usual way is to take a tram to Beyazit or Sirkeci. The bazaar will be around 15 minutes away on foot from the Blue  Mosque area. You can always ask the concierge of your hotel for details about any buses that pass in that direction.

The bazaar is open from Monday to Saturday at 9 in the morning to 7 in the evening. They happen to be closed on Sundays and bank holidays–something to remember if you’re ever planning on going.

If you ever find yourself there, gander a visit to Develi Baklava to have *the* best tasting Baklava we’ve ever had. There will be a lot of stalls claiming that boast but the locals will tell you that Develi Baklava is the one to beat!