The Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı) is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world with over 3600 stores all under one roof. The bazaar has between 250,000 to 400,000 visitors every day making it one of the worlds busiest shopping locations. In the bazaar you can expect to find a wide variety of materials including souvenirs, clothes, leather, jewellery, bags, silver, gold, textiles, carpets as well as other artisan products.
The historical and cultural value of the Grand Bazaar makes it hard to compare it to any of the modern shopping centres we use today. The buzzing atmosphere underneath the domed ceilings of the bazaar give you a feel for what shopping would be like in another century. Everywhere you look you see vibrant textiles, lanterns and ceramics enriched with dazzling Ottoman design. The bazaar can be like a maze sometimes with endless streets so try to follow the signage to ensure you get to visit all of its sections.
The Grand Bazaar is one of Istanbul’s main trade hubs with around 25,000 employees, many of which that will often strike up friendly and sometimes funny conversation with you in the hope that you buy something from them. During my last trip to Istanbul, one store owner started talking to me in Spanish, wrongly assuming that I was from Spain. When I responded to him in Turkish he quickly apologised and offered me lower prices for some of his products!
When shopping in the bazaar its best not to buy something from the first stall you come across. You’ll likely be offered a lower price as soon as you start walk away and this will help give you an idea of what the product is worth as you compare prices at other stalls. The Grand Bazaar offers a great shopping experience which you should experience at least once, as your unlikely to experience a shopping trip like this anywhere else.
The 2012 James Bond film Skyfall’s opening scene was set in Istanbul as 007 heroically rides the rooftops of the bazaar on a motorbike while chasing a villain. Filming of this scene did cause some minor damage to its roof, however this has led to plans for a major restoration project for the Grand Bazaar to be accelerated to ensure its infrastructure stays strong for years to come.
- There are 22 different gates to enter the grand bazaar but we recommend sticking to the main entrance that also has its own tram stop.
- Don’t buy from the first stall you come across and don’t accept the first price you are offered! Remember bargaining is a part of daily life in the bazaar so keep in mind you won’t be offered the best price at first.
- The bazar is walking distance from Topkapı Palace, Sultan Ahmet and Aya Sophia, so you can plan to visit one of these other sites in the same day if you still have energy after the bazaar!
How to get there
Take the T1 tram that starts at Kabataş and get off at the dedicated Grand Bazaar stop. Or if you are already coming from Topkapı Palace, Sultan Ahmet or the Aya Sophia, walk up to where the tram is and follow the trams path on the pavement until you reach the Grand Bazaar tram stop.
The Grand Bazaar’s opening hours are between 9.00am and 7pm Monday to Saturday. The bazaar is closed on Sunday’s, bank holidays and throughout the whole month of Ramadan.
History of the Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar was constructed shortly after Sultan Mehmet II’s conquest of Constantinople (Istanbul) between the years 1455 and 1456. The shape of the bazaar continued to evolve until taking its final form that we know today in 1700.