Shopping at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar
Situated at the Beyazit Gate near the renowned Blue Mosque, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, or Kapali Carsisi (literally meaning “covered market”), is a shopper’s paradise. Entering the Grand Bazaar through the arches of the ancient Beyazit Gate, the treasure trove of gold, silk, brass and copper sparkling under a myriad of lights is reminiscent of stories about Aladdin’s Cave.
Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, which is also referred to as the Grand Market, has an estimated 4,000 shops set along a labyrinth of passages. There are a myriad of little shops that offer fine jewelry at reasonable prices, as well as high quality hand woven rugs and carpets, leather goods, wooden sculptures, musical instruments, traditional Turkish folk art, as well as brass, silver, copper and gold ornaments and jewelry. There is also an astounding array of “designer” purses, shoes and clothing available to tempt shoppers into parting with their money.
Bargaining or haggling for lower prices is an accepted practice at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and buyers are not expected to pay the original price quoted for an item. This is especially true if it is a unique handmade item such as crafts, carpets, antiques and artwork. Some shoppers initially find the bargaining process difficult, but understanding that this is as much a social interaction as it is a business practice, will assist shoppers to get into the spirit of things and even come to enjoy their success at getting the price reduced on a desired item. There are numerous restaurants and cafés in the Grand Bazaar for visitors to take a break and refuel their bodies and minds before continuing in their quest to find the perfect gifts for family and friends back home, as well as some treats for themselves.
The Grand Bazaar was the first shopping mall built in Turkey and remained a hub of commercial activity during the rule of the Ottoman Empire, which reached the height of its power in the 16th and 17th century. The market’s value as a commercial centre has not diminished through the years, and although in response to tourist demand numerous souvenir, jewelry and carpet shops have pushed the small shops and craft marketers to the fringes of the market, locals continue to buy their daily provisions from the market. There are areas of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul that cater mainly to the locals and are worth visiting to get a meaningful glimpse into the daily lives of the people who live in the bustling city of Istanbul.
Regardless of the weather, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is open from Monday through to Saturday, closing completely on Sundays. Without a doubt the Grand Bazaar, with its rich cultural and historical heritage, as well as numerous bargain hunting opportunities, is an attraction that any visitor to Istanbul should not miss.