Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı) in Istanbul

Everyone who has ever been to Istanbul, the Grand Bazaar is once and for all imprinted in memory. This is not just a “market”, the Grand Bazaar also has the function of an attraction, important for the history of the country, it is the best place to “feel” the mentality of the local people and “understand” Istanbul itself.

The Grand Bazaar resembles the eastern markets that everyone has ever seen in films. It is located in the central district of Istanbul – Sultanahmet, near the Blue Mosque. The Grand Bazaar has become one of the most popular attractions in the world, because according to estimates, about one half million people visit it in one day.

What is the Grand Bazaar?

One of the parts of the Grand Bazaar
One of the parts of the Grand Bazaar

Over the course of five hundred years, the Ottoman Empire has undergone great changes, bringing to life not only successful, but also crashed projects. Among them are gigantic industrial facilities – a shipyard, a mint, schools, palaces. But today, a very small number of them continue to function.

Kapalı Çarşı (Grand Bazaar) was a kind of confirmation of the majesty of the Ottoman Empire, it was a mechanism that supports its functioning and which has survived to this day. During the existence of Kapalı Çarşı, he faced various problems, survived earthquakes, fires, devastation, but was quickly restored every time.

The Grand Bazaar was a special place, the most important state project, competing with similar projects abroad. The Grand Bazaar was built and managed “from above” not only for the purposes of trade, it was a symbol of the greatness and power of the empire.

During the Ottoman rule, many small indoor markets were organized and built. To develop trade, many of them were merged over time and subsequently entered the structure of the Grand Bazaar, which came down to us.

One of the largest bazaars in the world - Kapalı Çarşı in Istanbul
One of the largest bazaars in the world – Kapalı Çarşı in Istanbul

Even today, supply and demand related to the value of gold, as well as currency exchange offices located inside the bazaar, are taken into account when forming the overall picture in the local financial market.

In total, the Grand Bazaar occupied an area of 110,868 square meters, of which 45,000 square meters covered area, 65 streets and 3600 departments and shops. Despite the changes that have occurred to date with the streets and other structure of the Grand Bazaar, you can still restore the picture of his past device.

You could get inside through 11 doors: Beyazıt, Çarşıkapı, Çuhacıhan, Kuyumcular, Mahmutpaşa, Nuruosmaniye, Örücüler, Sepetçihan, Takkeciler, Tavukpazarı) and Zenneciler. Kapalı Çarşı is one of the largest gated markets in the world. According to estimates, in the market you can find:

  • 4400 souvenir and trade shops;
  • 2200 studio;
  • 40 hotels;
  • 18 fountains;
  • 13 mosques;
  • 11 warehouses;
  • 50 cafes and restaurants;
  • 9 currency exchange points;
  • an unknown number of residential premises;
  • 1 cemetery.

You can be convinced of its immense size and variety of goods by visiting it, wandering along its streets, sit in the hookah room and feel the spirit of this unusual building. There is even the possibility of getting lost in its confused streets.

You can also see the marble fountain, visit one of the oldest restaurants – Havuzlu Lokanta and the old Sark Kahvesi coffee shop.

The construction and history of the Grand Bazaar

Kapalı Çarşı is located between the districts of Beyazıt, Nuruosmaniye and Mercan.

Grand Bazaar in the past
Grand Bazaar in the past

For the construction of the market, began even during the reign of Mehmed II. The idea appeared in 1453, after the conquest of Constantinople (the idea of the markets of the Byzantine capital was taken as the basis). Initially, in the center of the Bazaar, two stone buildings were created, with domed ceilings – Bedestans. They have survived in our time, one of them is called Internal (Old), and the second (Sandalov). Inner Bedestan is considered to be the most important building and treasury in the entire Bazaar. Around which the market was built.

In the following years, the Grand Bazaar was replenished with new stores, shops and establishments. In 1894, a strong earthquake occurred in Istanbul, after which a part of the Big Bazaar was destroyed. The next time, restructuring of the destroyed departments was carried out. During the Ottoman Empire, there were also banks and warehouses in the bazaar. In addition, until the second half of the 19th century, the Grand Bazaar was one of the most famous and popular slave trade centers. One of the main features of the market is the presence of 18 gates, so it is advisable for tourists to remember through which entrance they entered. The main entrance is considered to be Nuruosmanye – the gate located in front of Chamberlitash Square. One of the features of this gate is the inscription in Turkish “God has mercy on those who devote themselves to trade.”

Prices in Istanbul’s largest market are not the lowest, because tourists come here exactly, so you have to bargain. Of course, it will be tempting to buy the thing you like right here and now, but take your time – take a walk along the less crowded streets – maybe there you will find the right thing at a lower price.

What to buy at the Grand Bazaar?

Ceramic pottery at the Grand Bazaar
Ceramic pottery at the Grand Bazaar

Shopping at Kapalı Çarşı can be made from completely different areas. Here you can find everything:

  • herbs and dried fruits
  • antiques
  • shoes
  • copper
  • cafes, restaurants, tea houses
  • hairdressers
  • bags and leather
  • textiles, articles thereof and fabrics
  • jewelry stores: gold and silver, silverware
  • coins
  • carpets
  • souvenirs
  • antique Turkish products (paintings and souvenirs)
  • ceramic products

Hoping to visit the bazaar without making any purchases is futile; many are hard pressed to refrain from buying any trifles.

By the way, at the Grand Bazaar, locals are actively purchasing items made of gold and silver. In some departments you can find branded products of modern design, good quality.

Turkish colored lanterns - a visiting card of the Grand Bazaar
Turkish colored lanterns – a visiting card of the Grand Bazaar

Getting into this huge complex, with ancient and modern shops, hundreds and thousands of people and an abundance of goods, no one can resist. The atmosphere of the East seems to be in the air.

Even if your plans do not include a purchase at the Grand Bazaar, you should come here for a new experience with a guided tour – enjoy its atmosphere, old streets and colorful benches, drink aromatic Turkish coffee in one of the coffee houses, admire the colorful lanterns and, of course, take a lot of photos.

Grand Bazaar opening hours in 2020 and how to get there

Kapalı Çarşı Market is located in the Beyazıt district, in the old part of Istanbul. It is approximately 15 minutes walk from Hagia Sophia or the Blue Mosque. You can get here by tram line T1, having reached the stop Beyazit. You can also walk from the Eminenu pier or the Egyptian Bazaar (12-15 minutes on foot).

Opening hours of the Grand Bazaar: weekdays and Saturdays from 8:30 to 19:00. The market is not working on Sunday, keep this in mind when planning your trip.

Observe safety rules when visiting the bazaar, because there is always a large crowd of people. Try to keep valuables in front of your eyes, don’t put on a backpack (or put it on the front to see your pockets), keep local currency (Turkish lira), including small bills.