Places to visit in Istanbul: The Grand Bazaar
Worldwide famous Grand Bazaar or Kapalıçarşı in Turkish language (meaning closed/covered shopping street in Turkish) located between Nuruosmaniye and Beyazit was built by Mehmet II the Conquerer in 1461. The area of the bazaar was also a trade center during the Roman times.
The bazaar initially consisted of two bedesten, known as İç Bedesten and Sandal Bedesten. Later on open streets were covered with doomed roofs and separate buildings connected each other. Before the 19th century Topkapı Palace was regarded as the brain of the Ottoman Empire and the Grand Bazaar as the heart of the economy. However, this changed when the other side of the Golden Horn became richer with the bankers and banks in Galata which became the new heart of the economy of the empire beside the new brain of the empire in Dolmabahce, Besiktas.
Grand Bazaar Facts & Figures
16 Caravansaries, 22 gates, 60 alleyways, 3000 shops, 97 different varieties of products, 300.000 visitors a day, 20.000 employees, 4 fountains, 10 wells, 2 mosques
The Grand Bazaar is open between 7:00 and 19:00 all week except for Sunday and public and religious holidays. You can get to the Grand Bazaar from Beyazit, Sultanahmet or from Eminonu if you follow the tram line.
Did you know?
- Grand Bazaar is the oldest bank and the shopping center in the world.
- Grand Bazaar is the center of the gold market in Turkey.
- Grand Bazaar had faced more than 20 fires and eartquakes. The last disaster was the earthquake in 1894. It was renovated the last time in 1898.
Grand Bazaar: Survival Tactics For Tourists
Although the Grand Bazaar is one of the top must-see sights in Istanbul, it can get a little scary, though, so before you go in, make sure you know what to expect! The market is packed with vendors that will seem aggressive to you and tourists and locals of all sorts and nationalities.
It can get a little scary, though, so before you go in, make sure you know what to expect! The market is packed with vendors that will seem aggressive to you and tourists and locals of all sorts and nationalities.
These tips will help you navigate the Grand Bazaar and survive there, no matter where you’re from. Here are just a few of the main survival tactics for tourists in Grand Bazaar:
Get a map. Having a map of the Grand Bazaar is essential because street signs aren’t all that great. You know how you can get confused about where you came in on an anchor store in an American mall? Expect to get about a hundred times more confused here!
Even with a map, you need to pay attention to the name of the entrance you use – there are five main entrances and a whole bunch of smaller ones. Also, when you come in, check out everything that’s around you so you can more easily find your way back out the right entrance.
Have a place to meet. It’s really important if you’re planning on splitting off from your party that you have a place to meet. Some frequenters of the Bazaar suggest meeting in the jewelry section (most of the merchandise is arranged loosely by section), since it’s on a broader road and is more well-lit than some other sections.
It’s best to choose a specific area – not just a section – to meet in, too. If you just say “near the leather sellers,” you could still wander for hours trying to find one or two people!
Know the rules of etiquette. The vendors in the market will seem pushy to you, particularly if you haven’t been to some of the smaller towns where vendors want to bargain but aren’t quite as pushy. In the market, vendors will take any interest in an item as an invitation to bargain, and sometimes they’ll try to draw you in with unrelated comments, too.
One thing you need to know are that it’s okay to just say no and walk away. Vendors in the market like Americans, particularly, because they tend to meet most offers politely, which can suck them into making bad deals. It’s okay to just shake your head and walk on.
On the other hand, if you engage a vendor in a long conversation, it would be rude of you to leave without buying anything. Conversations with the vendors are interesting, but you’re also wasting their time and preventing them from speaking with other customers who might buy something.
Also, if you quote a price for an item that you and the vendor agree on, it’s considered a deal, and you should pay that price and take the item. It’s incredibly rude to reach and agreeable price and then walk away without buying.
Be prepared to haggle. Many foreign markets are all about haggling. There’s no such thing as a real price tag in the Grand Bazaar. However, most vendors here will quote you prices that are much too high. The basic tactic here is to undershoot your goal price – without making an insulting offer. Eventually, you can come to some mid-range price that will please both you and the merchant.
The Grand Bazaar is popular, in part, because you can get a good bargain on things like gold jewelry and leather jackets. For the most part, you should get between 25% and 75% off the original asking price.
If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of haggling, you might visit some of the smaller, less touristy areas in Turkey to practice first. Most of the time, these merchants won’t be so pushy, so haggling can be more fun and less intimidating. Just go with it, though, and don’t be afraid to try to talk down the price a reasonable amount!
Do some research before you get there. The Turkish currency is unstable, so don’t take older price quotes as reality. Ask around or check out up-to-date guidebooks to see what you should expect to pay for certain items you’re interested in. That way, you won’t get cheated with a high price, nor will you offer a vendor an insultingly low price for a valuable item.
Be safe. According to travel.state.gov, street crime in Turkey is relatively low, but it’s starting to rise in centers of commerce like the Grand Bazaar. Women, in particular, are more vulnerable and shouldn’t be alone in more dangerous areas. It’s best to keep your money on your person – not in a back pocket or in a purse without an over-shoulder strap. These small steps can help you stay safe and secure in the Grand Bazaar.
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