We recently spent 7 hours this New Year’s Eve in the Grand Bazaar. Had it not been for the closing time of 7pm, we would perhaps have had stretched our window shopping till midnight and still come back dissatisfied. We have traveled to many places and many Bazaars (take for example the Khan El Khalili in Cairo) but I haven’t seen any place that compares to the grandeur and splendor of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. Let me tell you why.
It is estimated that the Bazaar has 4000 shops and 500 small stalls, set up under 61 covered streets. There are 22 entrance gates itself for shoppers to reach their favorite areas quickly. The shops are grouped in specific pockets for convenience too : Takkeciler (clothes and skullcaps), Aynacilar (mirrors), Halicilar (carpets), Keseciler (baths), Kalpakcilar (jewelry), Antiques, Lamps, Carpets & Kilims, Textiles, Leather goods and what not. The Bazaar has atleast 5 restaurants if not more, as well as numerous tea shops where one can sip Turkish Coffee and recharge oneself. If people were just dressed a bit in medieval clothing, it would have truly felt to be living an Ottoman life within the walls of the Grand Bazaar. Not for nothing, as many as 325,000 people visit it everyday.
Just a little bit of history to get you the importance and context of Grand Bazaar: Its construction started in 1455 by Sultan Mehmet II, and ended in 1460. Recurrent fires and a few earthquakes gutted it in 1515, 1548, 1588, 1618, 1645, 1652, 1660, 1687, 1695, 1701, 1750, 1791. Each time it was rebuilt and the Bazaar in its current shape and size is atleast 220 years old. That’s how important it is.
As for the Bazaar, it seems to have the finest qualities of anything in this world, especially items endemic to Turkey. Have a look –
We couldn’t even capture 1% of the Bazaar’s grandeur because most shops discouraged clicking of their wares. The place is absolutely incredible with lots of bargains to strike and nothing to worry about as these guys ship anywhere across the world.
- Come with 2 large and empty suitcases and spend at least 1 full day in the Bazaar. If you love collecting Antiques or thinking of redoing your home interiors, you may want to spend 2 days.
- Fly to Istanbul. Turkish Airlines now has a grand new Airport with direct connections to 63 capitals in the world. The Old City is a 45 min drive from the New Airport.
- Stay in the Fatih area of Istanbul (which is where we stayed). It’s a 10 min walk to the Bazaar from any part of Fatih and makes most sense of your precious time. The Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cisterns, Topkapi Palace and the beach are all in Fatih. Add at least 2 days more if you plan to explore Istanbul.
Happy Shopping. You wont regret it, as I write this while sipping tea from a tea-set we bought for ourselves from the Bazaar.