One of the main attractions in Istanbul is the Grand Bazaar. It is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world where one can buy just about anything one can think of. It is so large that it covers 61 streets and includes over 4,000 shops. This is one of the greatest attractions in a country that has many attractions (like the ancient cities of Troy and Ephesus as well as the stunning region of Cappadocia).

It is one of the world's most visited tourist attractions pulling in an estimated 90 million annual visitors. Some regard it as one of the world's first shopping malls. Viewed that way it was well ahead of its time with today's shopping malls - the largest shopping mall in the Western Hemisphere is the Mall of America in Minnesota.

THETRAVEL VIDEO OF THE DAY

What To Know About Visiting The Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar is situated in the Walled City of Istanbul (the old city of Constantinople). That places it on the European side of the Bosphorus meaning the bazaar is in fact in Europe (but at the crossroads).

That also means that is a short walk away from must-see attractions - like the Hagia Sophia, the old Walls of Constantinople, the old Ottoman Palace (now a museum), the Blue Mosque, and so much more.

  • Streets: 61 Covered Streets
  • Shops: 4,000 Shops
  • Area: 30,700 m2
  • Daily Visitors: Between 250,000 and 400,000 Visitors Each Day

The Bazaar is well served with public transport. It can easily be reached from Sultanahmet and Sirkeci by trams (Beyazıt-Kapalıçarşı stop).

Among Turks, it must compete with modern shopping malls (Istanbul is a very modern city). But its beauty and history continue to draw tourists and Turks alike. The Grand Bazaar is open six days a week.

Opening Hours:

  • Open: 6 Days a Week (Closed Sundays and Public Holidays)
  • Hours: 9.00 am to 7.00 pm

Related: When You're In Istanbul, These Are Some Things You Should Not Miss

The Deep History Of Europe's Greatest Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar is also very historical. The construction of the core of the bazaar started back in 1455 - just two years after the fall of Constantinople and the take over of the Ottomans. It was part of Sultan Mehmed II's efforts to stimulate economic prosperity in what was then Constantinople. The bazaar was completed in the winter of 1460/61.

  • First Built: 1455 - Right After the Fall Of Constantinople To The Ottomans

The Grand Bazaar camp into its final form at the beginning of the 17th century. At this time the Ottoman Empire was massive spanning deeply into three continents with Constantinople being the heart of the empire.

Constantinople was the heart and hub of trade throughout the region and the Bazaar was at the epicenter of that. During that time and up until the first half of the 19th century (as the Ottoman Empire declined), it was without rival in Europe with the abundance, variety, and quality of the goods on sale.

At the same time that the Empire declined (and it had a closed economy), Empire was on the rise powered by the industrial revolution and the rapid growth of the textile industry.

  • Destroyed: It Has Been Destroyed and Damaged Multiple Times By Earthquakes and Fires

Over its lifetime it has had to contend with many recurrent earthquakes and fires that have at times devasted the complex.

Related: If You're Planning An Istanbul Vacation, Be Sure To Factor These Foods Into Your Trip

A True Cultural Experience

A trip into the Grand Bazaar is much, much more than a shopping experience. It is a trip into the culture of Turkey. Here one will see the many exotic goods and crafts for sale of the East. One will be amazed at the selection of spices, teas, Turkish delights, carpets, exotic clothing, and more.

  • Diversity Of Wares: The Grand Bazaar has A Massive Diversity of Just About Everything One Can Think Of

The salesmen are all welcoming and almost all have a solid grasp of English (and often several other languages). One can communicate very easily in English alone. But the trick is to practice one's bartering skills.

  • English: Most Salers are Proficient In English
  • Haggle: Haggling Is A Very Important Part of Shopping At The Bazaar

For most larger ticket items there are no fixed prices and one will need to haggle. This may be frustrating for many, but this is a taste of a true bazaar. One will need to be savvy and figure out reasonable prices to avoid paying ridiculous tourist prices.

Many of the goods for sale here are of good quality.

 

Today the Grand Bazaar is thriving and has weathered the pandemic and a couple of years of very low tourist numbers. Perhaps one of the few places in the wider Middle East - North African region that can rival it, is the also stunning oasis trading city of Marrakesh in Morocco.

Next: What You Should Know About Visiting Marrakesh And Why It's Worth It