Grand Bazaar Istanbul: The Complete Guide and Shopping Tips for Visitors
From 1460, when Fatih Sultan Mehmet started its construction, until the 1990s, the Grand Bazaar was an important shopping place in the lives of Istanbul residents. The Grand Bazaar was the first to come to mind when a special gift for a valuable person was to be bought, when the house was furnished, or when something was needed that is not readily available on the market. Even today, it is the world’s largest historical covered bazaar with 4,000 shops, 500 stalls and 21 gates.
Over the years, it lost its popularity with the opening of shopping malls, the entry of international brands into the market and the change in people’s consumption habits. But the streets were never empty, because the places left by Istanbulites were already filled by tourists.
With the customer portfolio, of course, the supply-demand balances have also changed. Once upon a time, the bedestens selling carpets, gold and antiques were filled with stalls selling imitation watches, bags and soccer jerseys to tourists. Although its customers, products, tradesmen, all have changed, it is still possible to find quality and authentic products for a couple who know these places. Do not worry, you are one of us, and in this article, we will share our favorite shops with you.
To be honest; We don’t really like the new texture of the Grand Bazaar. However, the Grand Bazaar is still an important symbol of national identity, an international competition area and the place where the pulse of the country’s economy is kept. As you can understand, the Grand Bazaar is an expression of power in every way. Whether for shopping or for a cultural trip, everyone should see this place at least once. Here in this article, you will find all the useful information you need to know about the Grand Bazaar, from its history to the most beautiful shops, to make your visit the best.
- History of the Grand Bazaar
- Grand Bazaar Working Hours
- Information for a visit to the Grand Bazaar
- How to Visit the Grand Bazaar?
- Interesting Facts About the Grand Bazaar
- Covered Bazaar of the Grand Bazaar
- The Inns of the Grand Bazaar
- Grand Bazaar and Gold Markets
- What to Buy from the Grand Bazaar & Famous Shops
- Where to Eat in the Grand Bazaar
- Coffee Break at Grand Bazaar
- How to Get to the Grand Bazaar?
There are two theses about the core part of the Grand Bazaar called the Inner Bedesten: Some claim that it was built from scratch by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror in 1461, others were built on a Byzantine building. In every way, the official establishment of the Grand Bazaar is considered to be 1461. In the following years, with the additions made by different sultans, the bazaar expanded as it expanded and evolved into a complex of 31,000 square meters with 61 streets and around 4,000 shops.
At that time, the Grand Bazaar was not made of wood and the fire threat was never missing from the beginning. The first one broke out in 1546, and then it survived many fires, five of which were major, over the years. The Grand Bazaar has been reborn from its ashes every time. It was shaken by devastating earthquakes. After the earthquake in 1766, II. During the period of Mustafa, the bazaar was repaired and Beyazıt and Nuruosmaniye gates, which have the characteristics of the Tulip Era, were added. In 1894, it became unusable after a big earthquake. During this period, trade stopped when the Grand Bazaar could not be used. II. The bazaar, which was rebuilt with the financial assistance of Abdulhamid, has taken its current form.
Products from the four corners of the Ottoman Empire, the Silk Road and Asia were sold here. According to a census made in 1880, it is stated that there are 4399 shops, 2 covered bazaars, 24 inns, 1 bathhouse, 1 tomb, 1 mosque, 10 masjids, 1 public fountain, 8 wells, 2 fountains, 16 fountains in the Grand Bazaar. From these documents, we see that many buildings have not survived.
Grand Bazaar Visiting Hours & Days
The Grand Bazaar used to be closed for its markets. It was open 6 days a week. Now it is open every day from 8.30 in the morning until 19.00 in the evening. Shops are closed during religious holidays.
How Much Time Should You Spend Visiting the Grand Bazaar?
You have to spend at least 3 hours to visit the Grand Bazaar, including a coffee and lunch break. If you say I will skip the meal, we say take at least 1.5 hours.
Is there an entrance fee for the Grand Bazaar?
No, you do not pay any entrance fee while visiting the Grand Bazaar.
There are many famous artisan restaurants around the Grand Bazaar. There are also places for a coffee break.
Which Way of Gate 21 Should You Enter?
The Grand Bazaar has 22 gates in total. So you will ask where to enter from. Beyazıt, Çarşıkapı, Çuhacıhan, Jewelers, Mahmutpaşa, Nuruosmaniye, Örücüler, Sepetçihan, Takkeciler, Tavukpazarı and Zenneciler doors are the biggest ones. But the two most used gates are Beyazıt and Nuruosmaniye gates. Because Kalpakçılar Street, the main street of the bazaar, stretches between these two gates.
If your type is average Turkish but your dressing is a bit European, you will have to get all greetings in Spanish. But if you have blond eyes and colorful eyes, you will be asked in every language from the western end of Europe to England and the eastern end to Russia. We hate the language skills of the craftsmen, but this interest can be overwhelming.
Your “Merhaba” (Hello in Turkish) answer is bad news for them because you lowered the prices before even before negotiating 🙂
Don’t be fooled by the tag prices. Remember that you can always bargain in the Grand Bazaar. If you are not satisfied with the offer, continue to other shops. As I said, there are very few shops selling rare products. You are likely to find the same or similar product in 10 more shops. But please, just take a photo of that shop and its business card. If you ever want to come back, you can only find it this way. Do not rely on your memory.
Resistance to insistence
Grand Bazaar shopkeepers are geared. In fact, “Growing up in the Grand Bazaar” is a title, like doing a PhD at Harvard for a salesperson. Even if you look at a product with the corner of their eye, they’ll take their chance to sell it to you. Teas and sodas are wetted and the conversation is progressed. Child and grandchild photos are taken out of the wallet…. There comes a moment, if you leave without buying after so much attention, it will be a shame, you will enter the psychology. So if you don’t really think to buy something, don’t sit down. But remember, despite all the attention and insistence, you don’t have to buy anything.
The best thing is to get lost in the Grand Bazaar without thinking too much. If you are already new to the Grand Bazaar, it is inevitable that you will get lost. There are dozens of streets and frankly they all look very similar to each other. If you are trying to go to a certain street in the Grand Bazaar, which is more than a maze, getting help from the tradesman will make your job easier.
As a general idea, it is enough to know that; There are two main streets that pass uninterruptedly along the vertical and horizontal axis; Kalpakçılar on horizontal, Yağlıkçılar on vertical.
– Kalpakçılar Street connects Nuruosmaniye and Beyazıt gates and has Sandal Bedesten on it.
– Yağlıkçılar Caddesi, on the other hand, connects Çarşıkapı and Örücüler gates. On this street, there is one of the two prayer squares of the Şark Kahvesi and the Grand Bazaar (the area where shopkeepers pray together before starting work in the morning).
– In the Grand Bazaar, each street was divided into a professional group. Therefore, the street names were in the form of Aynacılar, Wasircılar, Kilitçiler, İpekçiler, Kürkçüler, Quiltcılar, Slippers and Fesçiler. The names continue today, but some occupational groups have disappeared. Thanks to the gathering of the same products in one place, the professional guilds that supervise competition, commercial ethics and master-apprentice relations were able to work efficiently. The products could only be sold at the price stated by the government and advertising was prohibited.
Most professions and shops were passed on from father to son. As a result, families have had credibility accumulated over generations. So much so that the public would give their money to shopkeepers to keep it as a bank. The Grand Bazaar was a place with high security measures with its day and night guards.
At that time, shops were not room-shaped as they are today. The shelves served as showcases, and ensaf sat on the bench right in front of him. That is why the shops were called lockers. Their width would be 1.8 – 2.4 m, and their depth would be 0.91 – 1.22 m. At the end of the day, the closets would be closed by pulling the curtains.
– Precious products such as jewelery and weapons were sold in İçbedesten. In the Sandal Bedesten, on the other hand, the silk trade would return. Sandal is the name given to the fabric made of silk and cotton.
– According to the law in the Ottoman period, Muslims were supposed to wear yellow shoes, Orthodox Greeks blue, Jews black, Armenians red shoes. These purchases were made at the Pabuççular Bazaar, where thousands of shoes were found.
– The Grand Bazaar was closed at night due to security measures. Only the sultan could get him hungry. The first and only night opening in its history was in 1867 to celebrate the return of Sultan Abdulaziz from Egypt. The Sultan greeted the people by walking through the streets on horseback.
– Grand Bazaar was one of the richest and safest places in the Empire. An Englishman who came to the Grand Bazaar in 1870 wrote that this place could get several Rothschild families out of his pocket. They had very strict security measures. Evliya Çelebi, who included the Grand Bazaar in his Seyahatname, likened it to “an enormous strong castle”. Theft was a very rare occurrence. Therefore, when 30 thousand gold was stolen from İçbedesten in 1591, Istanbul was shaken. The Grand Bazaar was closed for 2 weeks due to inspection, and as a result of torture and interrogations, a thief was found: He was an Iranian musk seller. Thanks to Sultan Murat III, he was punished by torture and hanging instead of death.
– There was no restaurant in the Grand Bazaar in the Middle Ages. Everyone was bringing their own food at the bus. The foods that could be found were doner kebabs and chicken breasts, which were sold in kiosks on Halicilar Caddesi and Acı Çesme Caddesi. It is said that Sultan Mahmut II secretly joined the public and came here to eat dessert.
The Grand Bazaar was one of the rare places where Ottoman women could participate in social life. As of the Tanzimat period, women in the Sultan’s family and in the harem were also able to come to the Grand Bazaar.
The Bedesten, which is called Bezzazistan in Ottoman Turkish, means the place where cloth is sold. Over time, it becomes a general term for the covered bazaar, which is used for all covered bazaars, in which fabrics, jewelery, weapons and similar valuable goods are sold.
In the covered bazaars of the Grand Bazaar, there were purchases and sales of valuable goods and sometimes auction sales. At the same time, the covered bazaars also served as depositors. The cellars inside the walls and underground were used as safety deposit boxes. Having a place in the bedesten was the highest point a tradesman could reach. The valuable items in the bedestens were protected by the guards called the division chief. In fact, the thin roads on the roof of the Grand Bazaar, which you will remember from the James Bond movie, were built for these guards to patrol.
Another interesting aspect of the Grand Bazaar is that it is too complex to classify: It is a historical but actively used, protected but living, private but public space. It has an interesting management mechanism where its shops belong to the tradesmen, the walls to the state, and the roads to the municipality.
Inner Bedesten (Cevahir Bedesten)
We can call Bezzazistan-ı Atik, İç Bedesten, or Cevahir Bedesten, the heart of the Grand Bazaar, which consists of cut stone with 15 domes and covers an area of 1.365 m2. The bedesten, the original bazaar built in 1461 during the reign of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, is the most special part of the entire Grand Bazaar where jewelery shops, jewelers and antique shops are located today as it used to be. Cevahir Bedesten pioneered the formation of the current Grand Bazaar with the new shops built around it. A place where you can feel the traditional atmosphere to the fullest.
It is thought that the Sandal Bedesten, formerly Bezzazistan-ı Cedid, which is located on the side of the Nuruosmaniye Gate, was built during the time of Fatih or the time of Kanuni. The area of 1280 m2 was the place where fabric, yarn and carpet were exchanged. Already, Sandal Bedesten takes its name from a special fabric produced in Bursa. Nowadays, it is a place where there are more shops selling imitation clothes and bags. Until the 80’s, this covered bazaar continued to function like an auction house. There were auctions of carpets and other valuable items every Monday and Tuesday.
Inns (Han) were also built to accommodate buyers and sellers from all over the world in the Grand Bazaar. 11 fully closed inns, namely Rabia, Yarimtas, Evliya, Aga, Astarci, Sarraf, Big Saffron, Little Saffron, Cukur, Zincirli and Varakci in the Grand Bazaar, 5 inns, Sorguçlu, Bodrum, Cebeci, Çuhacı and İç Cebeci. There is an open inn where everyone can enter and exit, which is also defined as the inn that passes the road. The main inns of the bazaar that have reached today are as follows:
Zincirli Han is the most famous and most photographed inn of the Grand Bazaar. When you enter the Nuruosmaniye gate of the Grand Bazaar, turn right into the second street and go to the end of the road. Standing out with its red facade, dark green shutters and courtyard, the inn now has jewelery workshops. It is thought that the construction date of the inn coincides with the end of the 18th century. The oldest inhabitant of the inn is Şişko Osman’s carpet shop. Do not go without stopping by while you arrive. Click for location.
Cebeci Han is located on Yağlıkçılar Street in the north of the Grand Bazaar. The inn, which has two courtyards and two floors, which is thought to belong to the 18th century in terms of construction technique, used to be a place where merchants stayed. The inn, which was severely damaged in the earthquake of 1894, was repaired after being in ruins for a long time and was opened for use again. Click for location.
Çuhacı Han is the inn between Kılıççılar Street and Çuhacı Han Streets of the Grand Bazaar. The inn, which is dated to the 18th century, though it is not certain, was built by Damat İbrahim Pasha during the Tulip Period. Broadcloth, a type of woolen fabric, was traded here. Therefore, the name Çuhacılar Han remained. Damaged heavily in the great Hocapaşa fire in 1755, the inn was partially renovated, but the current building has completely lost its original features. Click for location.
Kalcılar Han is located at the entrance of the Grand Bazaar’s Mahmutpaşa Gate. It gets its name from the goldsmiths that extract the gold pieces from the dust left over from the jewelers’ tools and recycle them. It is estimated that the building was built in the 18th century. Today, it is an inn with silversmiths, silver and casting workshops. Click for location.
Yes, the rate is fluctuating. Why are these television players in love with the Grand Bazaar when there are Central Bank, stock exchanges, Eminönü tradesmen and marketers?
The Grand Bazaar has a great influence on the markets, as it is the hottest place for gold from the Ottoman to the Republic. It is said that even the smallest jeweler has 20 kg of pure gold in it. As foreign currency and gold are bought and sold here, even the stock exchanges and banks are closely following the gold prices in the Grand Bazaar. Even before the Internet era, the Grand Bazaar was called a free-standing stock market, as foreign currency sellers were traveling with walkie-talkies and reporting the best prices. Is there any other historical place in the world that can direct the national economy?
Don’t be fooled by the neglected conditions of the Grand Bazaar and the economic power of insecurity. It is rumored that; During the Cyprus War, a war plane was bought with the money collected by the Grand Bazaar tradesmen.
There are hundreds of shops in Grand Bazaar and also various items sold. The main things you should buy from Grand Bazaar are below;
- Glass Products
- Leater Products
- Textile products
- Carpet and Rug
- Traditional Arts
- Custom Made Jewelry
- Turkish Delight
In the Grand Bazaar where 22 thousand tradesmen work every day, you can imagine that restaurants are also in a race for the loyalty of their customers. They try to gain regulars by giving good taste at good prices. You can expect to find humble but delicious places.
Nusr’et Steakhouse, one of the most popular places that comes to mind when talking about the Grand Bazaar. Newly opened by Nusret Gokce, is a well-established flavor stop of the bazaar. There are options such as kebab, shish, burger and steak. Address: Beyazıt Mahallesi Çarşıkapı Nur-u Osmaniye Caddesi Sandal Bedesteni Çarşısı 34126 Fatih Tel: (0212) 512 01 36
Gaziantep Burc Ocakbasi
Burç Ocakbaşı, one of the first places that comes to mind when talking about the Grand Bazaar, is a well-established flavor stop of the bazaar. There are options such as kebab, shish and lahmacun that will teleport you to Gaziantep. Everyone who works in the business has to be from Gaziantep. Address: Beyazıt Mah, Parçaacılar Sk., 34000 Fatih Tel: (0212) 527 15 16 Click for location.
Kofteci Mustafa (Meatball Restaurant)
Kofteci Mustafa is an approved meatball restaurant from Vedat Milor. Their meatballs are juicy and soft, and their blarney is quite famous. Lamb chops and lamb skewers are also liked. Address: Mercan, Mercan Cami Çk. No: 6, 34126 Fatih Tel: (0212) 512 35 25 Click for location.
This is a restaurant especially preferred by foreign tourists, but it is also a frequent destination for the Grand Bazaar travelers who want to eat something different. It is one of the places where you can eat Turkish dishes such as sarma, stuffed meat, meat dishes and halva. Address: Beyazıt Mah., Yağlıkçılar Cad. Cebeci Han D: 55, 34126 Fatih Tel: (0212) 522 43 33 Click for location.
Located on the street behind Şark Kahvesi, the Havuzlu Restaurant is one of the few restaurants in the Grand Bazaar, not around it. It is one of the addresses where you can experience authentic Turkish cuisine, especially lamb dishes such as Saray kebab and Caucasian kebab. Good option for taking your foreign guests. Address: Beyazıt, Gani Çelebi Sk. Grand Bazaar No: 3, 34126 Fatih Tel: (0212) 527 33 46 Click for location.
Bahar Restaurant, run by the owners of Havuzlu Restaurant, is an artisan restaurant preferred by the Grand Bazaar tradesmen. Credit cards are not accepted in Bahar Restaurant, which is located by the Nuruosmaniye gate. Prices are affordable. Address: Kapali Carsi next to Nuruosmaniye Gate, Yağcı Han No: 13 Tel: (0212) 512 74 39 Click for location.
The comments of the Subasi Restaurant are so bad that we stayed in between for a long time, whether we should put it or not. However, we did not want to remove this historical artisan restaurant, which has been operating in the Grand Bazaar since 1956, as it is a classic of the Grand Bazaar, but we should also state that its customers are full of reproach. Generally, the complaints are that the more touristy this place gets, the more the prices increase and it doesn’t have the same taste. We haven’t had a bad experience. Eggplant dishes, lamb dishes, pilaf and lamb kokorec, which is only 1 month a year, are famous. It also has a branch in Sirkeci. Address: Mollafenari, Kılıçcılar Sk. No: 2, 34120 Fatih Tel: 90 212 522 47 62 Click for location.
Fahri Usta is one of the places suggested by Vedat Milör, but his comments are not very good. A different flavor to each day, a surprise option when you go, is a place suitable for lunch after a tiring Grand Bazaar tour. If smiling face is important to you, this place may not make you happy. Address: Fevzi Çakmak, 1121. Sk. No: 7, 34220 Click for location.
Aslan Restaurant is a classic artisan restaurant near the Grand Bazaar. Since it is on the first floor of an apartment building, you can watch people passing by from the window. Whether you eat your grilled fish or eat a portion of doner, it is a place where you will be satisfied in every way. Address: Mollafenari, Vezirhan Cd. No: 66, 34120 Fatih Tel: (0212) 513 76 10 Click for location.
Located in the heart of the Grand Bazaar, Şark Kahvesi is the place where you should take a tea / coffee break in the bazaar with its rabbit blood tea from copper samovar, nostalgic pictures on the walls, and music playing in the background. Address: Beyazıt, Yağlıkçılar Sk. No: 134, 34126 Fatih Tel: (0212) 512 11 44 Click for location.
Founded in 1996, Fes Cafe is a cafe selected as the “World’s Best 4 Independent Retailer” by the famous British Monocle Magazine. Until 2018, its only place was its branch in the heart of the Grand Bazaar, but later it opened a new place in Abdulla, which is located on a street near it and we can count among the shops to visit above. Design products are also sold in its second branch. Website 1. Branch Address: Halçılar Cad. No: 62 Kapalıçarşı, 34440 2. Branch Address: Mollafenari, Ali Baba Türbe Sk. No: 15, 34120 Fatih Tel: (0212) 526 30 70 Click for location.
Due to its location, the Grand Bazaar is close to touristic places and has different entrance gates. Transportation is very convenient for visitors, you can get there without any traffic.
– If you are going to use public transportation, the tram is the most practical method. You will get off at Beyazıt Stop, no matter which stop you take on the Kabataş-Bağcılar tram line. Municipal buses also move directly to Beyazıt Square from many parts of the city.
– If you are coming from the Anatolian Side, Marmaray will get you to Sirkeci in a very short time. You can transfer from Sirkeci to the tram as I mentioned above and get off at Beyazıt.
You can also prefer the ferry if you say, “Let me just enjoy it a bit, time does not matter”. There are direct ferries from Üsküdar and Kadıköy to Eminönü, and the tram right in front of the ferry pier. You should get on the tram in the direction of Bağcılar.
– If you will come with your own vehicle, there are parking lots around Beyazıt Square. A little behind, there is a parking lot close to Topkapı Palace. There are also some parking lots around the high schools in the Sultanahmet area.