The Grand Bazaar is 75 acres of an intricate maze, set in an unperfected grid system. Upon first glance, it seems like a disorganised catastrophe, hence anyone entering without a map will most certainly lose their bearings, at some point. While signage points the way to entrances and exits, we think losing yourself in the Grand Bazaar is part of the fun, but many travel agencies offer private guided tours, with opportunities to learn about the history on-the-spot.
At the beginning of the 17th century, the covered Grand Bazaar was the place where all Mediterranean merchandise was brought together. To really soak up the mystical atmosphere of old Istanbul, let yourself get lost in the labyrinth of covered streets. Amidst the labyrinth of alleys are two ‘bedestens’, dome-shaped market buildings, which were built in 1455 by order of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The high-walled Cevahir Bedesten in the heart of the bazaar is still the place where the most valuable merchandise is sold, such as antiques. During the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Great in the 16th century, the bazaar was greatly expanded.
75 Acres of a Maze
Tea is big in Turkey. A great deal of the population admires this drink. When asked to describe a hot summer day, a cold winter day, a visit to family or friends, a quick way to relax and especially a full breakfast, tea will be part of it and yes it is the second most consumed drink after water. People often associate Turkish tea with apple tea, but that’s just a touristic thing.
Adhering to an age-old Ottoman tradition, of grouping vendors together depending on what they sell, districts are separated into jewellery, souvenirs, carpets, fabrics, antiques, household, and so forth. This is irritating to some while extremely covenant to others.
In Turkish, the Grand Bazaar is also known as Kapalıçarşı, which means ‘covered bazaar’. The market was not only covered to operate under all weather conditions, but also to protect the merchandise against theft. Even today, the bazaar is completely sealed off at the end of each market day.
A Historic and Astonishing Space
One of the things that have changed over time is the use of light. In the past, merchants only used natural light; oil lamps and fires were prohibited due to fire hazard. Trade began early in the morning when the first rays of sunshine seeped in through the high windows under the domed roofs and continued until sunset. The artisans and merchants are clustered around streets that are named after their wares – that is how streets emerged with names such as Helmet Makers, Napkin Makers and Quilt Makers.
Shopping in Istanbul Grand Bazaar tops my list of things to do in Istanbul. There is no greater cultural experience to have in this city! If there is one thing that best reflects the spirit of Istanbul, that is the Grand Bazaar. Don't forget to buy Turkish delight to sweeten your journey.