Grand Bazaar: The World’s Largest and Oldest Covered Market
Within the walled city, in the district of Fatih, stretches the immense and impressive Grand Bazaar, a shopper’s paradise, with over 91 million annual visitors and recently ranked as the No.1 most visited tourist attraction. This Ottoman structure once housed traders of textiles and grew to encompass many unique and popular goods of interest for today’s visitors. Explore the story of the Grand Bazaar before your trip.
After the Ottoman Conquest
The core of the Grand Bazaar began construction in 1455-1456. Sultan Mehmet II wanted the structure built for the textile trade. At the time it was named Cevahir Bedestan and also known as Bezzazistan-I Cedid. The etymology of Bedestan comes from bez, or “cloth” and the phrase translates to “bazaar of the cloth sellers”. The location was near the Old Palace, or Eski Sarayi, the first sultan’s palace. Original construction ended in 1460-1461, with most of the brickwork from this period. A Comnenian eagle, a Byzantine relief at the East Gate, is a feature for sharp eyes to find that testifies to its history. Separate buildings, such as that for luxury goods and open air markets, were eventually enveloped in the Grand Bazaar. The area was viewed as the hub of Mediterranean trade in the 17th century until the start of the 19th century.
There are four main entrances to this covered market, the Sahaflar Kapisi (Second-hand Book Sellers’ Gate), the Takkeciler Kapisi (Skullcap Sellers’ Gate), the Kuyumcular Kapisi (Jewellers’ Gate), and the Zenneciler Kapisi (Women’s Clothiers’ Gate). It is a very large venue, so it is best to remember where you entered from as you orient yourself within the Bazaar, as its 61 connecting passages can create the sense of a maze. Multiple repairs without a general plan lend the market an unusual appearance and layout. Certain roads have a high concentration of similar businesses. There are over 3,000 shops housed in the Grand Bazaar and it is great fun for shoppers and visitors.
Preparations for Your Trip
Tourists can visit the Grand Bazaar daily except for Sundays, October 29th and on religious holidays. There is no entrance fee and the opening hours are from 9am to 5pm. A range of items can be found here, such as Turkish rugs, traditional Turkish delight- a type of sweet, jewelry, handbags and clothing. Very friendly sales people are on hand and welcome some haggling on price. Be aware that there will be times when you must be abrupt with salespeople as some are overeager and persistent. In addition, as this is a large tourist destination, it is best to leave only what you need on your person, in areas that are less likely targets of pickpockets (avoid placing wallets in back pockets.)
The Grand Bazaar allows visitors to sample the delights of Istanbul and bring home tangible memories of the trip including wonderful textiles and home décor elements. It is easily accessible and welcomes bargain hunters and those on a quest for the unique and exotic.