Istanbul - oriental trade in Grand Bazaar

January 1, 1970

by Svetlana Yelkovan

İstanbul is a very special city with crazy mix of cultures, history and people. Everything is so interesting here. There is a huge amount of famous historical and cultural sights, places and activities that tourists need to see and try including Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Princess Islands, Sultan Ahmet Mosque, Istiklal Street, Taksim Square, tour along the Bosphorus, dinner in Kiz Kulesi tower, Turkish coffee on Bosphorus seaside.

And there are even more amazing places out of tourists trails, I will tell you about these places a bit later.

Today I want to tell you about another interesting and important place in Istanbul, where you can feel a real oriental tale. This place is the Grand Bazaar.

One of the important aspects of life and history of Istanbul is its trading history, largely due to its location.

Istanbul as an intersection of important trade routes and a bridge between Europe and Asia; has become one of the important center of international trade and very rich culture of commerce is appeared here.

If you love shopping and want to experience the special atmosphere of trade and the spirit of oriental bazaar, then you really need to visit some famous Turkish market.

There are several interesting historical markets in Istanbul. Most famous of them are Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar and Arasta Bazaar.

I visited several of them, but only in one I fell this special atmosphere of oriental bazaar, so I would like to tell you about it, about Grand Bazaar. In Turkish it is called Kapalı Çarşı (Indoor Market).

How to find Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar is located in the heart of Istanbul in Sultanahmet district at the Beyazit Square, it is around 5-10 minutes’ walk from Hagia Sophia and Topkapi palace. You can go to Grand Bazaar by walking from Sirkeci in 15 minutes or by tram quicker.

You can enter Grand Bazaar from the different streets through 18 different gates, the largest of them are Beyazid, Fesçiler, Sahaflar, Kürkçüler, Nuruosmaniye, Mahmutpaşa, Mercan, Tacirciler and Örücüler. The most interesting Gate is “Nuruosmaniye” gate. There is very remarkable phrase on this gate “God has mercy on one who devotes himself to commerce.”

Nuruosmaniye gate

The streets of the bazaar are noisy and confusing, it is easy to get lost. But do not be afraid of this, sellers will give you some tips how to find exit.

History of Grand Bazaar is extensive and interesting

During the period of the Ottoman Empire, Grand Bazaar was not only trading place, there were also financial and economic operations, banks and exchange offices, and even school, mosque and hotel. Grand Bazaar was like a district of the big city.

Grand Bazaar is the first indoor shopping center in the world, the first of its pavilions were opened in 1461. Just imagine it was more than 550 years ago!  Then this place gradually grew and eventually took a whole district.

Atmosphere and assortment of Oriental Bazaar

Here is a place with an amazing atmosphere and it seems that you are in a fairy tale «Thousand and one nights».

You can walk through endless beautiful galleries and see a lot of bright shops, where it seems you can find everything.

The beautiful painted vaults of an ancient building protect you from the hot sun and from cold Istanbul wind in winter. In any weather it is so nice to feel the atmosphere of the eastern tale, to walk through the colorful and noisy streets of the bazaar, to buy something nice for you and for your family.

Main gallery is full of jewellery

Main gallery (street) of Grand Bazaar is wide, beautiful and most crowded part. There are mostly jewellery shops in the main street. This gallery looks very elegant and beautifully decorated with large colorful Turkish flags. But it is very crowded and much more pleasure to walk in the small side streets. Feel free to turn from the main gallery towards the side streets to meet the oriental fairy tale and find some interesting stuff.

Gallery with jewelry shops Gallery with jewelry shops

Beautiful lamps

So, if you turn to the side streets you will find a lot of shops with lamps. Shops with bright shining lamps are creating the special atmosphere here. These lamps mostly made from small colorfull pieces of glass and looks very nice and authentic. If you will look more carefully inside the shops you can find the real cave of Ali Baba with magical lights. And also you can find lamps with very original shape, which can make your home interior looks very nice.

Shop with nice lamps Shop with nice lamps Shop with nice lamps Original shape lamps

Turkish delight, tea and spices

There are a lot of shops selling tea and spices. Their fantastic smell will catch you attention and probably you will desire to buy and try everything.

Shops with Turkish delight (lokum) and other sweets look very appetitive and entice you very much. The friendly sellers, smiling and offering you real “temptation” a plate of Turkish delight. Be brave, try it, should be very tasty!

lokum shop Counter with spices Counter with tea

After eating Turkish delight, it’s time to enjoy a taste of Turkish tea. Sometimes it can even offered to you right here in the store. If not, you can always find a nice cafe with fresh cooked tasty Turkish tea.

Oriental carpets and pillows

What is next? Oops, I still didnt tell you about amazing beautiful Turkish carpets. Carpets and pillows with traditional Turkish (oriental) ornament. This is a real tale, I wanted to touch them all, to walk, lie down, sit down on it. I think you can feel like a Sultan if you will lay on suсh carpet and pillows. I wanted to buy all of them.

turkish carpets turkish carpets

Other products

Real shopping lovers, it may seem for you that all the shops are roughly about the same, but if you look closely then, among other things, you can find shops full of “treasures”. These are amazing porcelain, stunning rugs, pillows, coffee, tea, spices, antiques, scarves, clothing, bags, jewelry, post stamps, old banknotes and coins. Away from Turkey, they will remind you this amazing atmosphere of the oriental fairy tale.


Scarfs on the shelfs

And certainly do not forget to bargain and communicate with traders, say jokes, and negotiate for a reasonable price. Then you can make shopping more profitable and enjoyable. Merchants are friendly and happy to chat.

But here is not just a place of shopping, it’s a place of history, culture and architecture. So here can find a lot of interesting not only shoppers, but also fans of historic buildings, architecture, oriental culture.

So, lovers of shopping and oriental culture, are you ready to see Grand Bazaar? Visit Grand Bazaar during your next Istanbul travel.

Svetlana Yelkovan

By Svetlana Yelkovan

I am photographer and freelance writer. Last 3 years I am working like freelance photographer, and making personal, family, travel/city photo-shooting. Recently I started my own photoblog on my website, and I have a lot of travel photos and short stories in my instagramm acc. I am excited about photo and writing and enjoying it.


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