Grand Bazaar of Istanbul

The Grand bazaar of Istanbul is not your average shopping mall. The shopkeepers are not shy about letting you know that they want your money and will do their best to get it. Sixty streets covered with thousand of shops is not easy going and can be overwhelming especially if you are not used to crowds.

My first visit to the grand bazaar was with my Turkish husband and I spent most of my time refusing to let go of his hand. My second visit was with two friends; female and foreign, we were all ripe targets.

We did survive though so I have put together my helpful photo guide

  Tips for Surviving The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul

Shops in the grand bazaar

So what is for sale?

Well, it would be quicker to list what is not for sale. I did not spot any farm animals or day trip tickets to outer space. Apart from that, everything else is on display. Streets are grouped according to the products that they sell, which is a tradition dating back to the Ottoman times. Locals shop in the market as well, so you can find some household goods. Unfortunately, there is also quite a lot of junk.

Junk shop

In the grand bazaar, you can buy….

A gas mask if you know something the rest of us don’t!

Gas mask

A cute little guitar with the Turkish flag on it…

Shopping in the grand bazaar

A pair of funky boots…

grand bazaar

A statue of some cool dude from the Ottoman empire…

Souvenirs

Food and drink from this bloke if he stops daydreaming and washes his hands first!

seller

A belly dancing outfit to spice up life in the bedroom…

whats for sale in the grand bazaar

As much silver as you want….

Silver

If silver is not your thing, buy bucket loads of gold!

Gold

How to Avoid the Hassle

  • Think about faking temporary insanity. Mutter feverishly to yourself and develop awkward twitches. Salesmen are scared of crazy people.
  • Your second option is to roll around in the trash and sleep on the streets the night before, so everyone thinks you are a tramp with no money.
  • Your third option is to kit yourself out with a burqa and a pair of soundproof earplugs.

Well, by now, you should realize what I am trying to say. There is no normal way to avoid the hassle. You have to deal with it. You are walking into the lion’s den and you are the prey.

Street

Women – If it is that time when PMT is rearing its ugly head, I suggest staying away until your hormones return to normal. After all, there are only so many times you can hear “do you want to buy a carpet?” before deciding to batter the salesman around the head with his lovely Turkish carpets.

Seriously, you have to be a good mood. Just join in with the banter and you can end up having quite a laugh. Many salesman asked me to take their photograph.  One asked for a kiss so I told him my husband was around the corner. As for the “do you want to buy a carpet?”, the conversation went something like this.

Salesmen – Do you want to buy a carpet?

Me – No, I bought six yesterday

Salesman – What about your friend?

Me – She bought nine yesterday

Salesman – So you are rich ladies then?

Me – No we are now poor, but that carpet seller is now  rich

The salesman laughed and backed off.

Note : I did not get grabbed on the arm by any salesman, but if this does happen to you, simply tell them firmly but nicely to take their hands off you. It is no use getting angry with any of them

salesman in the grand bazaar

A funny salesman

Purchasing Items

As mentioned before, the grand bazaar of Istanbul has a lot of junk for sale but if you find something you like, get your bargaining head on. If you do not bargain, you will be ripped off as the shop owner is expecting you to ask for a lower price, therefore has already put the price up.

As a rule, whatever price he gives you, go back with 50% knocked off. He will laugh, tell you he is poor and has six children to feed, and then come back with another price. You repeat the process until you both agree on a price.

Istanbul grand bazaar products

Finding Your Way Around the Grand Bazaar

If you want to know your location at all times, here is a map. Unfortunately walking around the grand bazaar of Istanbul with a map, is the equivalent of sticking a flashing neon sign on your head, saying, “Look at me everyone”

Instead prepare to get lost; it is part of the fun. You can discover so much more. When you are fed up and decide that, you want out, look for the exits signs, which are everywhere. If you’re thinking about traveling to Turkey, you can search here for Istanbul hotels close to The Grand Bazaar.

water fountain

Readers Questions – If you have been to the grand bazaar in Istanbul, do you give it the thumbs up or thumbs down?

Trinklets

Readers : What about hassle in general, throughout the whole of Turkey, can you deal with it?

Istanbul

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Natalie

Hi. My name is Natalie Sayin and I am the author of The Turkish Travel Blog. I am an eccentric,Internet addict with a passion for history. I really shouldn't travel because I can not read maps and always lose my way! But hey, that never stops me and it is part of the fun! Leave a comment below to join the discussions.
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Comments

  1. says

    Wow. It looks amazing and chaotic. One of those places that I may not love but must see with my own eyes anyway (someday!). Thanks for the tips!

  2. says

    This is a wonderful post Natalie! Full of great info. Although I have to say that I didn’t find the salesman too harassing at all, at least in comparison to some other places I’ve been. Will be back in a couple of weeks though, so will find out if it’s much different during a more touristy time.
    Dalene recently wrote about..More Travel? Yes Please! Our Next Two Months…

  3. phil + Di marina gateway says

    you make it sound wonderful but i think i will give it a miss i cant stand the market in Altinkum because of the hassle so i dont think i would last 2 minutes in Istanbul

    The hassle has got better over the years i can just about stand the open air market in Didim now but i never go to the one in Altinkum

    i do like the lamp shades in your photos but i think i would buy one from the shop

  4. Michelle Tibbs says

    Natalie–

    I’ve enjoyed reading your posts as we prepare for our trip to Turkey. Can you write a bit about where you can and cannot take photos in Turkey? Do the shop owners hassle you when you take photos?

    • says

      Hi Michelle, Shop owners will try and strike up a conversation with you while you are taking photos but once they realise that you are not interested, they tend to back off.

      Photos are normally a “no no” in museums but there are signs displayed.

      Other than that it is just military and police buildings. If in doubt, just ask. I have never had a problem with taking photos.

  5. Howie says

    Wow, I love your tactics on brushing off those persistent sellers. I wish I can be as subtle as you do.

  6. says

    This takes me back to when I visited the Grand Bazaar about 10 years ago…I give it the thumb’s up, even if you dont like crowds and being hassled, it is just something you have to visit and experience. One thing I never knew quite how to handle was shopkeepers offering one apple tea, never knew if they were being friendly or just getting you to drink their tea and then you feel guilty if you dont buy their wares…. loved the apple tea though!
    Cynthia recently wrote about..G is for the GARDEN ROUTE and my next SECRET find

    • says

      I feel awkward with the tea as well Cynthia. A chance to get you sitting in the shop, looking at their goods and more chances to sell you something. As a rule, I don’t accept the tea, unless I am serious about buying something from them. Then I will not be put in any awkward positions.
      Natalie recently wrote about..The Ghost Village Of Kayakoy

  7. says

    It can get annoying to be constantly hassled by the merchants, but overall I really liked the Grand Bazaar. I’m still not completely comfortable with the haggling process but at least I still went for it and got lower prices.
    Ali recently wrote about..Culture Shock is Sneaky

    • says

      I get the feeling that you would actually be OK in this bazaar Don. I do not think you would feel intimidated at all, never meet you in person but it is the impression I get from your online presence.

  8. Dorota Khan says

    I’ll be there in 4 weeks. First time ever. Can’t wait and your photos make me wanna go there now :-)

  9. says

    Splendid Natalie. I have tackled the Grand Bazaar many, many times, bravely, always on my own. It’s not easy and you need a tom of good humor. Next time, I think I’ll carry a rolled up carpet over my shoulder and offer it to the carpet dealers for sale. I just want to see that face!!

  10. says

    It was a nice touch to add tips on the hassling, Its definitely a big part of the culture and I’m truthfully not fond of it.

    You do have to calibrate your mood mentally to deal with it. Its best to remind yourself that locals have to deal with it too. I wasn’t in need of anything so I didn’t really have to subject myself to more of it than I needed to.
    LozinTransit recently wrote about..Scams in Istanbul: The reality of trusting (3 of 3)

  11. Amanda @ Adventures All Around says

    Oh I so wish I’d read this blog before I went to the Grand Bazaar! I could have done with the ‘prepare yourself to be hassled to death’ advice.

    Sadly for me, I was an unprepared gal by myself, and found the constant hassle too much. I went in with money that I’d saved just for that experience, and came out without spending a dime. Instead I did a ridiculous walk past, craning my neck to try to see as I moved too quickly to be harassed.

    Not ideal! But I did love the colours, the actual market space and pretty much everything.. Except the hassle. Next time I’ll be better prepared!

    • says

      I do not think I could go in on my own Amanda – I was able to be good humoured and have a banter because my friends were with me but on my own, I would be very apprehensive.

      They lost out anyway as you did not spend a dime!
      Natalie recently wrote about..The Ghost Village Of Kayakoy

  12. Vicky says

    I loved the Grand Bazaar. It was on my first visit to Turkey and I loved the laid back joviality of it (“Do you want to buy my rubbish?” was one of the favourite lines I heard). I love the way you have beaufiul wares next to tacky stuff made in Taiwan, the noise, the crowds, the smells of spices and loukums. We looked at carpets, drank tea, tried on leather jackets, tasted loukums, enjoyed the jokes and ended up just buying a couple of keyrings but never felt hassled. Not in the same way that I had felt hassled in the souk in Tunis for example. Nobody touched or made me feel physically uncomfortable. It was good-natured banter like on many of the markets that you used to have in the North of England.

  13. says

    Hello Natalie,

    I’m excited to be a part of your blog as I am getting ready to move to Ankara Turkey this August. I will be studying at Bilkent University for four months. I am with the University of California study abroad program.

    I’m trying to learn as much about Turkey as possible before I leave and your site looks like a great place to start. Thanks for the info and expect a lot of questions from me in the coming months.

    Javier

      • says

        I plan on leaving early from California to arrive in Ankara around August 16th. If possible I want to leave my baggage at Bilkent and travel until my start date of Sept 16th. My question to you is: I have heard that I can take a cheap airplane flight to Germany from Turkey. How cheap is it in reality? I would like to arrive in Ankara and fly to Munich. Munich I would like to travel by train and bus to Vienna-Budapst and make my way through the Balkans until finally arriving back in Istanbul. Do you have any experience traveling through the Balkans? Do you suggest I travel Turkey only during that time?

        Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

        Thanks

        • says

          Hi Javier, wow – I would have to get the map out to look at all these places but it seems to me like you are doing a lot of traveling in just a month. Any reason why you are doing that, rather than just sticking to Turkey? You can get cheap flights from Germany to Turkey depending on whether your definition of cheap is the same as mine

  14. says

    We ended up going twice. Both were good times, although the second time with a map actually made me feel better about wandering. I figure I look like a tourist anyway, why should I actually BE lost just because I look it.

    I found the easiest way to deal with the hassle was literally to ignore them and keep walking as if you didn’t hear them. If you aren’t talking with a friend for them to pick up a language, it is kind of neat to see what they switch to next.

    I don’t haggle well or happily, but I ended up going into the leather section and do so for a new wallet. Worked out ok, though in the end I just kept repeating the same price because that was literally all I had in my pocket to pay.

    We found one of the better Doner places outside of the bazaar between gates 18 and 19 and went back explicitly to them the next time.
    Andrew recently wrote about..Dogs in Public in Germany

    • says

      Strange that you should mention if you are not talking with a friend, how they switch because over the course of three days, I was spoken to in German and Turkish. One bloke even thought I was from Slovakia for some reason

      Well done on the bargain as well, I ended up buying nothing. Wish I had known about your kebab place as I did not find anywhere that particularly bowled me over
      Natalie recently wrote about..Tourism In Turkey. Stats and Plans For The Future. Infographic

  15. Samantha McDonald says

    This is not the turkey that I know, I was told to take off my cross and cover my head with a scarf.

    Turkey was not a country till 1923, didn’t have an alphabet until that year. It was largely stolen from the indigenous people of Turkey: Greeks, Armenians, Kurds, some latin and arabic.

    Christianity started in Anatolia, but the Turks/Ottomans destroyed it, burnt churches, or worse converted them to Mosques like the St. Hagia Sophia in Istanbul (they changed the name from Constaniople)

    Sorry, but Turkey gets a ZERO in human rights from me and now it is being taken over by Islamic Terrorists AKP party that is under the direction of Imam Fethullah Gulen (Gulen Movement) his followers control everything: Education, media, politics, police, judicary system and now the military.

    thanks but no thanks.
    I will pass on Turkey until they can figure out what they are doing and until the EU accepts them which will probably be never.

    • Nat says

      Sam – I find it strange that you should be told to cover your head in the grand bazaar when I never have and I saw many other women in there without headscaves. Maybe your guide or friend was OTT

      Also I hope Turkey never gets into the EU, the cost of travelling around this beautiful country would go up ten fold. Imagine all that bureaucracy and red tape as well. Thanks but no thanks!

      Re the Ottoman empire – what is done is done. I don’t see the point in dwelling on their past. Same as the people who mention America and destruction of life for the native red Indian, when it was occupied by foreigners.

      Re the AKP and human rights, the people of Turkey voted them in and will vote them out if they see fit. If you want to discuss politics, I think, you will have more luck on a political blog than a travel one.

    • says

      Thanks Mary – There are only certain days when I can not handle pushy salesman but normally I can take them with a pinch of salt.

  16. Diane Billiard says

    Dear Natalie: I am working on a quilting challenge with 12 poets and 12 quilters call Poetry in Free Motion. The poem I am interpreting is about a woman dreaming of sites in Turkey. I have made a wall hanging plus working on a fabric book with photos from Turkey. The Bazaar is mentioned in the poem and I would like to seek your permission to use the first photo on this page at the top of the Bazaar. My deadline is September 15th in order to complete my project for a poetry reading and show.

    I would appreciate your permission to use your photo in my project. Thank you. Diane Billiard

  17. says

    Hi Natalie, I was looking for some information about Turkey and I found your lovely blog. Congrats. I’m really impressed and happy to get to know these all news. You’re a really talented writer and your shots are wonderful!
    Best regards from Sarajevo

    • Nat says

      Thank you Doronette. Glad you like it. Had a look around your blog as well. You are doing some great work there.

  18. says

    Hi Natalie!
    it looks like the bazaar is too big… I love to visit turkey and think it is one of the most beautiful country in world. Especially istanbul is perfect and must visit place… Hope to be there someday… Thanks for the wonderful post.

  19. says

    The Grand bazaar of Istanbul may not be the average shopping mall, but I didn’t hear anyone going to Instanbul and miss it. It is a piece of what makes Istanbul special and I think everyone should at least see the atmoshpere there :)
    Lori recently wrote about..Turkey’s best city breaks

  20. Seasonn says

    Today was my first time in the Grand Bazaar, I had some good experiences, and a couple of bad.
    I was looking for a kilm cushion cover, and let one of the shop owners ‘seduce’ me into his store.
    He proceeded to show me all of the ‘old’ ones and said the new ones were junk, even after I told him
    it was for a friend, who’s cat slept on it. I found the one I liked and, he asked if he could show me some more things, I said yes so he said ‘IF’ you were to buy a carpet what would you use it for…
    I told him so he brought out some things anything I said I liked he threw on the pile. I ended up with 5-6 things more that I wanted, when I said I only wanted the cushion cover and the bag he got very angry with me… I would advise anyone to stay outside the stores, and ask prices first before being ‘seduced’ inside. Know what you want before you start bargaining.
    On the up side, I had several of them tell me they could change my life in 60 seconds, after the first experience, I needed the laugh! ;)

  21. Samuel says

    It is very beautiful and a huge market. I got lost a few times on it) I recommend taking as much money as you want to spend, and not a penny more))

  22. Carmelleta says

    I enjoyed traveling back to Istanbul with your photos. After reading the post about handling
    the numerous carpet dealers and sellers in the Grand Bazaar, I’ve found that learning 2 simple
    words in Turkish can make a world of difference. “NO THANK YOU”- Hiyer, Teshkullar. and
    make with the face gesture and continue on your way. Simple as that.

  23. Sylvia says

    My family just came back from their Holidays in Istanbul. They brought us few nice presents. Reading your blog reminded me what they were saying about this country. I’m planning my Holidays there next year, looking forward to it. I’m going to continue read your blogs now as I find them very interesting and helpful. Thank you. :)

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