You can find everything under the sun in the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul!
This is what an old saying from the Ottoman Empire says.
Do you think that’s true?
The Grand Bazaar is certainly no ordinary market.
Kapalı Çarşı – “The Covered Market” – is its name in Turkey. It employs 30,000 people who work in its 4,000 stores.
Istanbul has been conducting trade in the 31,000 m² sales area since the 15th century. At that time, all goods in the known world could be found at the Grand Bazaar.
How does it look today? And what can be discovered at the Grand Bazaar?
This is what it feels like to walk the streets of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul …
Each product group has its own department.
So you can find stores with leather goods, candy, books or gold right next to each other.
The shops are connected by 66 streets. Half a million people walk on these streets every day.
This makes the Grand Bazaar one of the liveliest places in Istanbul, right after the square at Hagia Sophia and the Galata Bridge.
You might feel completely lost in the crowds at the Grand Bazaar.
Dealers can be heard shouting, selling their goods loudly from every corner. The most diverse languages among them are: English, German, Russian, Arabic. – The traders have learned them all.
A dealer will address you every few meters.
The most popular question is: “Where are you from, my friend?”.
If you don’t react, they make a guess: “Are you from England?”
They are always trying to get you into a conversation, somehow. The final destination, o of course, is at the display of their shops.
You will discover almost everything in the window displays:
I can still remember the first time I visited the bazaar. Back then, I was still amazed at the wide assortment of goods.
There are gold bars in one display, Turkish honey on the next street, others have leather jackets, coffee, Turkish tea, water pipes, …
In short, you’ll find just about anything at the bazaar.
Gas masks, rubber boats, books in German, rubber ducks, … I’ve seen everything.
Tickets for a rocket to the moon may not be available at the bazaar. Everything else is hidden in one of those shops.
For travellers, of course, the typical Turkey souvenirs are at the top of the shopping list.
You can buy all the classics at the Grand Bazaar:
Turkish honey (Lokum), oriental lamps and the Turkish eye (Nazar amulet) are omnipresent at the bazaar.
How to act like a Turk at the bazaar (The shopping labels)
I didn’t buy anything on my first visit to the bazaar.
Back then I was just wandering around, looking at the shops and taking in the Grand Bazaar.
The second time I was accompanied by two Canadians who were staying at the same hotel as me.
The goal: local delicacies and souvenirs from Turkey.
The three of us were a perfect target for the sellers in the market.
The dealers will address you every few meters!
The words of the traders sometimes patter on you like the water droplets of a dam that has just been opened.
After the sixth: “Cheap oriental carpets! My friend – I’ll give you a special price! Come to my shop! ”- you are seeking your inner muse.
You cannot escape the constant questions of the traders.
There is no way of doing this, not even if you put the iPod headphones in your ears and close your eyes.
At the bazaar you will be spoken to every few meters. That’s just the way it is.
With three of us, everything took much longer. Each one of us was always attracted to something exciting in a shop, wanted to buy something or trade with one of the salespeople, …
The whole afternoon quickly went by.
A guide to shopping
The dealers always set a higher price than they expect! They assume you are prepared to negotiate!
Usually the price suggested by the retailer is 50% higher than the amount they want.
So you should suggest a 50% cheaper price.
The reactions of the dealers are mixed:
Sometimes the dealers say: “In my shop, there are only fixed prices”. Don’t let that fool you.
Others laugh …
… And some react as if you just knocked over their tea glass. Again: don’t be fooled!
You say: “My vacation has already cost me so much, and I have just a little bit left for the souvenirs”.
He replies: “But that price is really not possible …”
You answer: “The lamp is really nice. 70 liras are a little too much for me. I’m supposed to buy other things. Can we agree on 50 lire? That would work!”
The game goes back and forth like this a few more times.
The important thing is: Don’t tell ever tell the retailer that their goods are bad, and stay positive.
Don’t (ever) mention the maximum price you can pay.
Always pay in Turkish Lira. Otherwise the dealers will automatically set a higher price, or they will say that they have no change …
The vendors often invite you for a glass of Turkish tea. It’s quite common. Don’t be influenced by this, and don’t believe all of the stories they tell you during tea time.
The dealers work on commission. They don’t usually own their own stores
If all else fails: go to the nearest store. Shops with the same product categories are right next to each other anyway.
In the end, the price should be okay for both you and the retailer
With a few Turkish words, you can save more money. Even more if you have a good basic knowledge of Turkish. As a Turk, you will actually pay 50% less.
My rule of thumb for souvenirs is:
“Can I find comparable items at another location for the same price and without a great deal of effort” ?.
95% of the time, the answer is no.
So don’t get upset if you can only take 10% off the price. That’s okay.
Info for a visit to the Grand Bazaar
The shops are open from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Sundays – the Bazaar is closed.
It is closed on October 29th and for the Sugar and Sacrifice Festival.
Kalpakçılar Caddesi Sorguçlu Han No: 22 Kapalıçarşı Beyazıt
Tel: +90 212 519 12 48
There is no dedicated address for the main entrance to the Grand Bazaar.
The entire facility is located between Istanbul University, the area of the Suleymaniye Mosque and Beyazıt Square. You can enter it at any of its 20 gates.
How to get to the Grand Bazaar:
The Beyazıt T1 tram station is closest to the main gate of the Grand Bazaar.
A taxi to Beyazıt Square costs a maximum of 20-25 Turkish Lira from the city centre.
Did you like the Grand Bazaar? If you have been, do you plan to go back? Tell me in the comments!