After leaving Topkapi Palace, my guide took me to the Grand Bazaar. The Grand Bazaar is quite close to the New Mosque and Spice Market, which I discussed in this post. I didn't take many photos—most of the Grand Bazaar looks a lot the same—but it was worth seeing just the same.
What is it? The Grand Bazaar (Kapalıçarşı, meaning "covered market" in Turkish) is one of the world's most famous shopping destinations. At 30,700 square meters (100,723 sq. ft.), it is the world's biggest enclosed bazaars. It is located in the Fatih District inside Instanbul's old walled city and has often been called the world's first shopping mall. Currently, it contains 64 streets and smaller alleyways that house roughly 4,000 stores.
History. Mehmed the Conqueror ordered the construction of the Grand Bazaar in 1455. (It opened in 1461.) Originally, it was made up of two stone building where local merchants could sell their products and make a profit for Hagia Sofia. The two buildings grew quickly, however, and by the end of the 16th century, the Grand Bazaar had grown to its current size.
Impressively, the bazaar itself hasn't changed much since. The building has withstood many natural disasters—including several fires and earthquakes—thanks to architecture that was ahead of its time. It was last repaired after an earthquake in 1894 with the assistance of Abdülhamid (r. 1896-1909).
From the 17th-19th centuries, Europeans noted that Istanbul was unlike any other trade center in its variety, quality, and amounts of products and goods. Istanbul’s location made it a center for trade between three continents.
During the Ottoman Age, merchants of the Grand Bazaar were placed in guilds with other merchants that ranked the same or played a similar role in society and the economy. Later, the number of traders and shops could no longer be added or developed. This meant no one could join a guild unless a merchant predecessor died or if a merchant retired and sold his business.
The Grand Bazaar Today. Today, the Grand Bazaar is filled with stores that sell everything from spices to jewelry and a million things in between. I was glad to be with my guide who knew the way around (it would be very easy to get lost!), as well as some of the shopkeepers...
Well, sort of. They tried to pressure me into buying things in a few stores—how on earth was I going to get a RUG home? But mostly it was good. I bought my dad a leather jacket there, and some jewelry for other family members, and two handmade ceramic bowls for myself. I passed on the flashy purses and stained-glass lamps, though! :D
At one point, my guide took me in to the oldest center part of the Bazaar (pictured below). She said everything here was original, dating all the way back to the 15th century.
Something I found interesting, too, is that everywhere you go in Istanbul—and especially in the Grand Bazaar—they offer you tea. In every store I went into, part of the process was offering (and accepting) tea. I saw men carrying trays of tea to many shop owners, as well.
An original courtyard in the oldest part of the bazaar.
I am glad I visited the Grand Bazaar when it wasn't busy. I can only image the crowds in the summer. But no matter when you visit Istanbul, the Grand Bazaar is a must-see. See my dad's smile below at Christmas for proof!