Istanbul is an ancient city that has witnessed the history for centuries with every civilization that came and stayed until the end of its time. Grand Bazaar is one of the most important and famous structures that is left from the days of the past.
Grand Bazaar is the largest enclosed shopping center in the world with 61 streets and about 4.000 shops. There is no limit to what you can find or discover in these streets as you wander around while smelling all that has been lived between the walls of the Grand Bazaar since the day it was built.
THE HISTORY OF THE GRAND BAZAAR
After the city was taken over by the Ottomans in 1453, with Istanbul being the trade center of the world for centuries to come, Sultan Mehmet II planned to improve the economy of the Ottoman Empire after the conquest. He ordered the core of the Grand Bazaar to be built in 1455 which was then called the Bedesten, meaning the bazaar of those who sell cloth.
Over the following years, there were other bazaars built and added to the initial structure such as the second-hand market also known as “Bit Pazarı” (Flea Market) in Turkish and the Long Market. Nowadays, the original structure is referred to as “Internal” or “Old” Bedesten, while the one that was built after is called “External” or “New” Bedesten. In the New Bedesten fabrics such as silk were being sold while in the Old Bedesten luxurious items such as jewelry and crystals were sold. In the 17th century, it reached its shape that we know today.
The Grand Bazaar was unique in Europe with all the high-quality goods being sold only in here. The Grand Bazaar was not just unique due that but also because its custom in the days of the Ottoman Empire era. The understanding of trade was quite different from the Western civilizations.
With the effect of Islam and the ancient Turkic roots being present, the sellers were not interested in profit, there would only be one and true price for each item, the sellers would be happy for other sellers’ success.
THE LOCATION OF THE GRAND BAZAAR AND HOW TO GO THERE
The Grand Bazaar is located in the Beyazıt district of Istanbul. You can easily reach the Grand Bazaar using the tram. If you have to use the metro first, then you can always transfer to the tramline at certain stations. Take the T1 tramline and get off at the Beyazıt station. From there, cross the main road, go toward the left and walk until you see the Grand Bazaar entrance to your right. It should take less than 5 minutes for you to reach the bazaar.
Reaching the Grand Bazaar may be easy but navigating inside the bazaar itself is a different challenge. You will notice that, similar to the Ottoman Empire era's understanding of separating where the goods are sold, different items are sold in different streets. If you entered from the main and the most common entrance, you will realize that there are only jewelry shops throughout that particular street. And if you take the left, you will realize that only carpets are sold in that street. You should take your time, get a little lost and find your way back out in this historic place to truly experience its beauty and charm. Let the history and your instincts guide you.
THE TRADITIONAL WAY OF SHOPPING
Believe it or not, there are certain things you need to know before going into the Grand Bazaar. Shopping here is a completely different experience than shopping at a mall. There are many different shops in the Grand Bazaar with thousands of different items to choose from.
Do not be afraid to chat with the seller because they want to chat with you! The sellers in the Grand Bazaar are incredibly friendly and they can speak various languages. Even if you will not end up buying their products, they will probably offer you Turkish tea or coffee to show hospitality.
If you are going into antique shops or any shop that sells products that have a long history, the shop seller usually a person of great knowledge in the field. They will tell you all about the history of that product, how its made, when its made or even whom it is made by. Sometimes it is a good idea to learn the history not by strictly reading about it from the books or the internet, like you are doing now, but to learn it by talking to the locals who have crazy stories to tell of their ancestors and history.
When you like a product, even if the price is not that high, do not forget to bargain and do not be shy to bargain in the Grand Bazaar. It is almost like an unspoken, unwritten rule that applies in this place. If you bargain with the seller, it will quickly become somewhat of a game between you two and you may get a good discount afterwords.