You are planning a visit to the grand bazaar in Istanbul? Here are 10 things you should know before going to the most popular bazaar in Istanbul!
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul: Don’t miss out on these 10 insider tips
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul has a 500-year history and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the historical center of Istanbul. It is considered one of the oldest and largest covered bazaars in the world.
With its labyrinthine streets and alleys, more than four thousand shops, cafes, and restaurants, the Grand Bazaar is one of the most popular and visited places by tourists. You can find something for every taste and budget and shop in a historical place.
1. Where is the Grand Bazaar and how to get there?
You can find the Grand Bazaar in the popular Fatih district, located in the middle of the Beyazıt, Mercan, and Nuruosmaniye neighborhoods. The Spice Bazaar, Hagia Sophia, Sultan Ahmet, the Blue Mosque, and many other famous sights are in the same area.
The Grand Bazaar is right in the heart of the Old City and is easily accessible on foot or by tram. There are 22 gates leading to the Grand Bazaar and one main entrance, the Beyazıt Gate. If you want to reach the main entrance of the Grand Bazaar, the nearest tram station is Beyazıt-Kapalıçarşı (tram line 1). Considering the traffic density in Istanbul, we do not recommend taking a bus or taxi to the Grand Bazaar. The easiest way to get there is to actually walk. This also gives you the chance to explore more of beautiful Istanbul. If your hotel is in Fatih, just ask the reception for directions.
2. The Grand Bazaar has more than 4,000 shops
Described as not only the oldest but also the largest shopping center in the world, the Grand Bazaar is built on an area of 45 thousand square meters and contains more than 4,000 shops. The Grand Bazaar, which was the heart of the economy during the Ottoman period when it had more shops than this number and covered a larger area, is still the first stop for those who come to Istanbul and want to shop. The number of visitors sometimes reaches 500 thousand people a day. Keep in mind that the Grand Bazaar consists of about 66 streets and therefore looks like a labyrinth. Each street is named after a type of merchant and each neighborhood specializes in a certain type of product, such as the Gold Bazaar where you can find jewelry merchants.
3. Opening hours & best time to visit the Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar is open year-round, but keep in mind that shopkeepers can decide their own opening hours on public holidays. On religious holidays, the Grand Bazaar is completely closed. The Grand Bazaar’s normal opening hours are from 08.30 to 19.00 from Monday to Sunday. Some shops stay open until 19.00, while others are completely closed on Sundays. There used to be a general rule for working hours on Sundays, but this rule was lifted due to high demand. The Grand Bazaar is now open on Sundays, except for jewelry stores.
There is no best time to visit the Grand Bazaar, which is lively and busy all year round. Considering the best times to visit Istanbul, we recommend going to the Grand Bazaar in April, May, September or October. Also, check out the best time to visit Istanbul!
It would be best to avoid visiting the Grand Bazaar on weekends and afternoons. During these peak times, the streets will be very crowded and prices may rise due to demand. It is best to go in the morning or afternoon. Make sure you have plenty of time to explore the Grand Bazaar. Plan at least 3 hours to see all the shops and enjoy Turkish coffee and a traditional Turkish meal. If you want to skip the meal and coffee, one and a half to two hours will be enough.
4. Attention: Tourist scams & pocket thieves
More than 400,000 people visit the Grand Bazaar daily and among the visitors you can find a significant number of foreign tourists. Shopkeepers and locals are aware of this and some people try to take advantage of it. Never accept the first price a vendor asks, as they may try to double the price hoping that you are not familiar with local prices. Also be careful with your bag, the Grand Bazaar, like many other tourist attractions, is a tempting place for pickpockets.
5. Never buy something without bargaining
In Turkey, it is common practice for people to haggle prices even for smaller items and every trader is ready to bargain, resulting in a higher starting price for products. You will notice that there are almost no price tags visible in the Grand Bazaar. Sellers will offer you a much higher price than the item is worth and will do their best to sell it to you at that price. Try to bargain as much as possible and never accept the first price they offer. Bargaining is an important skill to develop during your stay in Turkey. If you don’t talk to the merchants, you will probably end up paying 50% more for an item you buy.
6. How to bargain in the Grand Bazaar
If you like something in the shops, ask the seller how much it costs and offer 50% less than he or she is asking. The seller will tell you that he has the best quality and the best price in the whole area and that the price you are offering will make him lose money on this purchase. Don’t give up and keep negotiating. Even if you leave the store without buying the product, there is a good chance that they will chase you to offer a lower price.
7. You don’t have to buy something you try
For tourists visiting the Grand Bazaar for the first time, the number of merchants trying to lure you into their shops can be overwhelming. There are shops and persistent merchants everywhere making it hard to escape. Do not be afraid to walk away. You don’t have to stop at every vendor and listen to what they have to offer. Many traders will show you their products or offer you a tasting of Turkish delight. You don’t have to take what you try and you can say ‘no’ if you are not interested in a product. If you don’t do this, you will end up buying more than you think.
8. The history of the Grand Bazaar
The history of the Grand Bazaar dates back to the mid-15th century, to the reign of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror. According to the waqf system, one of the most important practices that sustained Ottoman institutions, another income-generating structure was created to meet various needs such as the repair and maintenance costs of mosques. The most important of these income-generating structures are the bazaars and Hagia Sophia was built by Fatih Sultan Mehmet. The foundation of the Grand Bazaar was laid in 1461 with the structures built to bring income to the city and it has gradually grown with the additions made over the years. In time, the Grand Bazaar became the most important trade center of the entire region, hosted the richest merchants of Istanbul, traded jewels and precious jewelry from all over the world, and served as a bank and financial center during these years.
9. Best shops in the Grand Bazaar and what to buy
Here you can find everything from carpets to bags, textiles, gold and silver jewelry, antiques, tiles and souvenirs that will keep your memories alive forever. The Grand Bazaar is so big that it would be impossible to explore it all if you spent a whole day just to visit it, and like all of Istanbul, it contains the new and the old, the traditional and the modern. For this reason, some of the products sold can be characterized as the heritage of the Ottoman period and some of them as the products of the modern world. There are many places to shop in the immediate vicinity of the Grand Bazaar. On the street between the bazaar and the Nuru Osmaniye Mosque, there are shops selling authentic materials, especially carpets.
10. Take a rest in one of the cafes or restaurants around
No shopping trip is complete without relaxing while enjoying some of Turkey’s best cuisine. We have prepared a small selection of Turkish restaurants in the Grand Bazaar that are worth a visit.
- Dönerci Şahin Usta: One of the most delicious doner kebabs in the city. It will be the answer not only to the Grand Bazaar’s question “Where to eat döner in Istanbul?”. Dönerci Şahin Usta, one of the many flavor stops in the Grand Bazaar, has been serving in the same place since its establishment in 1969. Let’s say it from the beginning: The place is quite small, there is not even a place to sit. You’d better get this delicious doner and continue on your way.
- Köfteci Mustafa: This place is frequented by those who know their taste buds. The meatballs served with roasted peppers, tomatoes and onions are mouthwatering. Juicy and soft inside. Another secret of its flavor is in the bread! Unlike many meatball restaurants, the bread is fried in meatball oil. Don’t miss the must-haves. On your next visit, try another flavor that can’t be finished without raving about its cutlet.
- Day Day Patisserie: If you go to the Grand Bazaar in the morning, your first stop will be Day Day! Day Day means “uncle” in Armenian and it is priceless to start the day with a warm cup of tea and taste the flavors that have not changed for years. Apple cookies, macaroons, tahini cakes and Easter buns are among the options you should try here. All of these mouth-watering flavors are freshly baked daily.
Speaking about food, make sure you don’t miss out on the best street food in Istanbul. Especially in the Grand Bazaar and Sultanahmet area are many food stalls with authentic Turkish food.