The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, Turkey, is a lot more than an average shopping mall. The market dates from the 15th century after the Ottomans conquered Constantinople (former Istanbul.) Markets like this were traditional throughout the world where they reigned. Sultan Mehmet the 2nd ordered the construction. The Grand Bazaar shop rents were then sent to the Hagia Sophia of Istanbul, which had been converted into a mosque. Initially, the Grand Bazaar was small, but it grew each century until we see the version that stands today.
Shopkeepers in the Grand Bazaar are not shy about letting you know they want your money and do their best to get it. Sixty streets covered with thousands of shops can be overwhelming if you are not a hard-core shopper. On my first visit to the Grand Bazaar, I spent most of my time wide-eyed, surprised by the experience. The crowds were too much, and I did not buy anything.
My second visit to the Bazaar was with two friends, female and foreign; we were all ripe targets. We did survive, though. So I put together my photo guide on everything to know. Let’s discuss souvenirs to buy, shopping etiquette, getting there & how to bargain like a pro. You will come away with some fantastic and cheap souvenirs!
The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul
What To Buy in the Large Grand Bazaar?
Well, it would be quicker to list what is not for sale because there are millions of weird, wonderful, and everyday things to buy. I did not spot any farm animals or day trip tickets to outer space. Streets are grouped undercover according to their products, which is a tradition dating from Ottoman rule. Istanbul’s residents shop in the Bazaar, so you will see household and home goods. Unfortunately, there is also quite a lot of junk. In the Grand Bazaar, Souvenirs to Buy include….
A gas mask if you know something the rest of us do not!
A cute little guitar with the Turkish flag on it
A pair of funky boots to stroll around Istanbul in
A statue of some cool dude from the Ottoman Empire
A belly dancing outfit to spice up life in the bedroom
As much quality silver as you want
If silver is not your thing, buy bucket loads of gold! You can also buy leather despite the sweltering heat
How to Avoid Hassle in the Grand Bazaar
Think about faking temporary insanity. First, mutter feverishly to yourself and develop awkward twitches. Second, 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, you should realize what I am trying to say. There is no usual way to avoid the hassle. You must deal with it. The Istanbul Grand Bazaar is the lion’s den, and you are the prey.
Women: If PMT is rearing its ugly head, I suggest staying away until your hormones return to normal. After all, there are only so many occasions you can hear “do you want to buy a carpet?” before battering the shopkeeper around the head in frustration. Seriously, you must be in a good mood. Join in with the banter, and you can have quite a laugh. Many salespeople asked me to take their photographs. 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.
Me – No, I bought six yesterday
Shop Salesperson – What about your friend?
Me – She bought nine yesterday
Shop Salesperson – You are rich ladies then?
Me – No, we are now poor, but that seller is now rich
The shop salesperson laughed and backed off.
Note: Nobody grabbed me by the arm, but tell them firmly but nicely to take their hands if this does happen. It is no use getting angry with any shopkeepers.
Bargaining Like a Pro
As mentioned before, the Grand Bazaar has a lot of junk for sale, but prepare to bargain if you find something you like. If you do not bargain, you will lose out because the price is already high, as shop keepers expect you to try for a lower price. As a rule, whatever price he gives you, go back with 50% knocked off. After that, he will laugh, tell you he is poor, has six children to feed and come back with another price. Repeat the process until you both agree on a price. Do this in other places of Istanbul city as well.
Opening Hours: The Istanbul Grand bazaar is free to enter and closes on Sundays but opens every other day from 08.30 am to 6.00 pm. Yearly, October the 29th is a bank holiday in Istanbul and throughout Turkey, so it shuts then. In addition, you should check on religious holidays that are Seker Bayram and Kurban Bayram (these occur on different days every year.)
How to Get There
It is in Istanbul’s Beyazit area (near Sultan Ahmet) so ask your hotel for details of buses passing in that direction. If you stay in the Sultan Ahmet, Beyoglu, Fatih, Eminonu or Taksim districts of Istanbul, it is within walking distance. Use Google Maps to input the location of your tourist hotel, the Turkish Grand Bazaar, and it will give you the perfect route! Walking around the Bazaar with a map is the equivalent of sticking a flashing neon sign on your head. Instead, prepare to get lost; it is part of the fun. You can discover so much more. When fed up and decide that you want to go other places in Istanbul, look for the exit signs everywhere.
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