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Grand Bazaar

Before you visit this, the most famous souq in the world, make sure you prepare yourself properly. First, make sure you?re in a good mood and ready to swap friendly banter with the hundreds of shopkeepers who will attempt to lure you into their establishments. There?s no use getting tetchy with the touts here ? this is their turf and it would be delusional of you to think that you?re anything more than putty in their hands (and liras in their cash registers). Second, allow enough time to look into every nook and cranny, drink innumerable cups of tea, compare price after price and try your hand at the art of bargaining. Shoppers have been doing this here for centuries and, frankly, it would be unbecoming for you to do any less. And third: never, ever forget your baggage allowance. There?s nothing worse than that sinking feeling at the airport check-in counter when you realise that your Grand Bazaar?induced shopping frenzy means that the dreaded term ?excess baggage? is about to become a reality and test your already sorely abused credit card to its limits.
The bazaar is the heart of the city in much more than a geographical sense and has been so for centuries. With over 4000 shops and several kilometres of lanes, as well as mosques, banks, police stations, restaurants and workshops, it?s a covered city all of its own. Though there?s no doubt that it?s a tourist trap par excellence, it?s also a place where business deals are done between locals, and where import/export businesses flourish. And it also functions as the nucleus of a large commercial neighbourhood, with most of the surrounding streets (Mahmutpaşa Yokuşu is a good example) catering to every conceivable local shopping need.
Starting from a small masonry bedesten (warehouse) built in the time of Mehmet the Conqueror, the bazaar grew to cover a vast area as neighbouring shopkeepers decided to put up roofs and porches so that commerce could be conducted comfortably in all types of weather. Finally, a system of locked gates and doors was provided so that the entire mini-city could be closed up tight at the end of the business day. Street names refer to trades and crafts: Kuyumcular Caddesi (Jewellers St) and İnciciler Sokağı (Pearl Merchants St) are two that you?re bound to walk down. Large sections of the bazaar have been destroyed by fire and earthquake a number of times in its history (most recently in 1954), but have always been rebuilt.
Just inside the Nuruosmaniye Kapısı (Nuruosmaniye door), on the southeast corner of the market, you?ll find a glittering street filled with the stores of gold merchants. This is called Kalpakçılarbaşı Caddesi and it?s the closest thing the bazaar has to a main street. Most of the bazaar is on your right (north) in the crazy maze of tiny streets and alleys. You?ll inevitably get lost when exploring them, but hey, that?s part of the fun!
Make sure you pop into the Sandal Bedesten off Kalpakçılarbaşı Caddesi. This rectangular hall with a domed roof supported by 12 large pillars is also called the Yeni Bedesten (New Warehouse), as it was built after Mehmet?s central bedesten, some time in the 17th century.
The Old Bazaar, also known as Cevahir Bedesteni (Jewellery Warehouse), is at the centre of the market. Thought to be the first building Mehmet the Conqueror built, its structure is similar to the Sandal Bedesten. Inside, you?ll find innumerable small shops selling quality jewellery, silver, ceramics and antiques.
When wandering, seek out north?south Sipahi Caddesi and its famous Şark Kahvesi, a worn-out but charming relic of Old İstanbul whose walls feature quirky images of dervishes on flying carpets. This is a great place to linger over a game of backgammon and a few glasses of tea. Other places that make good coffee and tea stops in the bazaar are Fes Café and Ay Café.
In the bazaar itself, the most comfortable dining spot is Havuzlu Restaurant, located in a han near the PTT in Gani Çelebi Sokak; for a quick snack, join the locals in claiming a stool and noshing on a quick kebap at Burç Ocakbaşı. Two nearby lokantas ? Subaşı Lokantası and Sefa Restaurant ? are also popular with the bazaar?s shopkeepers.
Near the junction of Halıcılar Caddesi and Kuyumcular Caddesi you?ll find the crooked Oriental Kiosk, which was built as a coffee house and now functions as a jewellery shop. North from here, up Acı Çeşme Sokak, is the gorgeous pink Zincirli Han, home to one of the bazaar?s most famous carpet dealers, Şişko Osman.
Bibliophiles will want to head towards Sahaflar Çarşısı (Old Book Bazaar), which is found in a shady little courtyard west of the bazaar at the end of Kalpakçılarbaşı Caddesi. The book bazaar dates from Byzantine times. Its stallholders sell wares both new and old, and though it?s unlikely you?ll uncover any underpriced antique treasures, you?ll certainly be able to find old engravings, a curiosity or two, phrasebooks and books on İstanbul and Turkish culture in several languages.

It also functions as the nucleus of a large commercial neighbourhood, with most of the surrounding streets (Mahmutpaşa Yokuşu is a good example) catering to every conceivable local shopping need.

Starting from a small masonry bedesten (warehouse) built in the time of Mehmet the Conqueror, the bazaar grew to cover a vast area as neighbouring shopkeepers decided to put up roofs and porches so that commerce could be conducted comfortably in all weather. Finally, a system of locked gates and doors was provided so that the entire mini-city could be closed up tight at the end of the business day. Street names refer to trades and crafts: Kuyumcular Caddesi (Jewellers St) and İnciciler Sokağı (Pearl Merchants' St) are two that you're bound to walk down. Large sections of the bazaar have been destroyed by fire and earthquake a number of times in its history (most recently in 1954), but have always been rebuilt.

Just inside the Nuruosmaniye Kapısı (doorway), on the southeast corner of the market, you'll find a glittering street filled with the stores of gold merchants. This is called Kalpakçılarbaşı Caddesi and it's the closest thing the bazaar has to a main street. Most of the bazaar is on your right (north) in the crazy maze of tiny streets and alleys. You'll inevitably get lost when exploring them, but hey, that's part of the fun!

Make sure you pop into the Sandal Bedesten off Kalpakçılarbaşı Caddesi. This rectangular hall with a domed roof supported by 12 large pillars is also called the Yeni Bedesten or New Warehouse as it was built after Mehmet's central bedesten, some time in the 17th century.

The Old Bazaar, also known as Cevahir Bedesteni (Jewellery Warehouse), is at the centre of the market. Thought to be the first building Mehmet the Conqueror built, its structure is similar to the Sandal Bedesten. Inside, you'll find innumerable small shops selling quality jewellery, silver, ceramics and antiques.

When wandering, seek out north-south Sipahi Caddesi and its famous Şark Kahvesi , a worn-out but charming relic of Old İstanbul whose walls feature quirky images of dervishes on flying carpets. This is a great place to linger over a game of backgammon and a few glasses of tea. Other places that make good coffee and tea stops in the bazaar are the pricey Fez Café and the cheaper Etham Tezçakar Kahveci , both on atmospheric Halıcılar Caddesi near the Old Bazaar.

In the bazaar itself, the best place for a meal is Havuzlu Restaurant , located in a han near the PTT in Gani Çelebi Sokak; two nearby lokantas - Subaşı Lokantası and Sefa Restaurant - are also popular with the bazaar's shopkeepers.

Near the junction of Halıcılar Caddesi and Kuyumcular Caddesi you'll find the crooked Oriental Kiosk, which was built as a coffee house and now functions as a jewellery shop. North from here, up Acı Çeşme Sokak, is the gorgeous pink Zincirli Han, home to one of the bazaar's most famous carpet dealers, Şişko Osman .

Bibliophiles will want to head towards Sahaflar Çarşısı (Old Book Bazaar; M02EF), which is found in a shady little courtyard west of the bazaar at the end of Kalpakçılarbaşı Caddesi. The book bazaar dates from Byzantine times. Today, many of the booksellers are members of a dervish order called the Halveti after its founder, Hazreti Mehmet Nureddin-i Cerrahi-i Halveti. They sell wares both new and old, and though it's unlikely you'll uncover any underpriced antique treasures, you'll certainly be able to find old engravings, a curiosity or two, phrasebooks and books on İstanbul and Turkish culture in several languages.

One of the most intriguing aspects of a visit to the bazaar is noticing its juxtaposition of tourist tat and precious objects, proving the point that the place really does cater to every possible shopping desire!

Before you visit this, the most famous souq in the world, make sure you prepare yourself. Make sure you're in a good mood, ready to swap friendly banter with the hundreds of shopkeepers who will attempt to lure you into their establishments. Allow enough time to look into every nook and cranny, drink innumerable cups of tea, compare price after price and try your hand at the art of bargaining. Shoppers have been doing this here for centuries.


 

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