Grand Bazaar or ‘Büyük Çarşı’ in Istanbul, Turkey, is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world. It has been listed as one of the world’s most visited tourist venues attracting up to 90 million visitors every year. Grand Bazaar is home to almost 4,000 shops selling everything from rugs to jewellery, aromatic spices and Turkish ceramics.
Grand Bazaar is a labyrinth of over 60 streets, fortunately for visitors, the stalls are usually grouped by type of goods. There are special areas for jewellery, leather, spices and carpets. Four main gates allow access into the Bazaar. The first “Second-hand Book Sellers Gate” lies to the north of the market. The second, “Skullcap Sellers Gate” lies to the south. Those seeking jewellery should enter via “Jewellers’ Gate” to the east and for fashion “Women’s Clothing Gate” to the west. The Bazaar is home to two mosques, several hammams, fountains and myriad cafes and restaurants. Visitors can sip Turkish coffee while soaking up the old-world atmosphere as tourists haggle for the perfect souvenir. Many visitors come to Grand Bazaar to shop for traditional hand-woven carpets and rugs for which the market is famous. These can be found along the street of ‘Sahaflar Caddesi’ and travellers looking for a gold trinket or piece of exquisite jewellery should focus their search around the streets of Kuyumcular Carsisi and Kalpakcilar Caddesi. The architecture in the market is also incredibly striking, with drinking fountains, decorative ceramics lining the avenues and 17th century kiosks which double up as small cafes. With so many streets in a concentrated area, tourists bargaining with stall holders for the best price, and millions of unique items to choose from, it’s an experience any visitor to Istanbul won’t want to miss. The Grand Bazaar is closed on Sundays and Turkish holidays.
The best way to reach the Grand Bazaar is via tram, as stops at Beyazit and Çemberlitaş are closest to the covered market. Trams operate from major city attractions including the district of Sultanahmet. Visitors can also walk in around 15 minutes from the Blue Mosque.
Grand Bazaar has been an important trading centre of Istanbul since 1461. The area expanded in the 16th century and has since undergone major restoration after the city was hit by an earthquake. Grand Bazaar became popular with international tourists in the early 1900s, each seeking an “Oriental market” experience. Today, the Grand Bazaar has around 26,000 people working there, it is one of the main tourist attractions of Istanbul, be prepared for fun haggling, and expect to spend plenty of Turkish Lira.