Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
Be ready to find just about anything in the 4000 shops that have established here
Photo by John Picken, on Flickr
Before you start reading about the wonders of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, read this rule.
Stay away if:
- You think bargaining is shameful
- You think the shopkeeper’s opinion usually helps you
- You are time-constrained
- Your baggage limit is almost nil
- Your entourage includes spouses, children or pets who hate shopping
If you have crossed these hurdles, congratulations and welcome to Kapali Carsi, meaning covered market; also the oldest mall ever built in a temple for hard core shoppers and one of the best known icons of Istanbul.
The tram is the best way to reach the mall because traffic near this area is very dense and there are many one-way roads that can be navigated only if you know your way around. Take a tram to Beyazit-Kapalicarsi and you will be right outside the Grand Bazaar. Get into the bazaar easily using any of its 21 gates.
Alas, moving around inside the grand old mall is not as easy; the labyrinth of lanes and alleys inside the bazaar may make your head spin. Get a map of the Grand Bazaar before you get there.
Expect to find just about anything in the 4000 shops that have established their business in the Kapali Carsi. The Grand Bazaar is divided into several smaller bazaars, each specializing in a product. So if you want to buy shoes, apparel, fake designer stuff, leather products, gem stones, spices, ceramic or carpets; not to mention typical Turkish souvenirs and tea, you have come to the right place.
There is a dazzling array of gold in the jewelry alleys at Kalpakcilar and Terzi Basi Streets; don’t let anyone force you into buying what you don’t need just because you’ve visited the shop.
World’s Oldest Tourist Trap
The World’s oldest shopping mall is also sometimes considered to be the World’s oldest tourist trap. It’s easy to be lured into a shop when the well-mannered shopkeeper quietly offers you an unbelievable deal. You will be offered tea and given a tour of all the exhibits in the shop and in the time it takes to say Kapali Carsi, you will find yourself out of the shop with a bag full of unwanted stuff, a weightless wallet and an empty look on your face. And yes, the Grand Bazaar also has the highest number of pickpockets in the city; so beware.
Tips to enjoy the Grand Bazaar
Collect one-liners. From “Get this carpet for your daughter in America” to “Won’t you grace my shop?” shopkeepers in the Grand Bazaar have a technique to say just the right line to draw you into their shop. Make eye contact only if you are interested; else, brush them aside with a smile.
The Grand Bazaar is not just for shopping, but also for eating. Enjoy the kebabs at Kara Mehmet Kebap Salonu, ali nasik at Gaziantep Burç Ocakbaşi and kaymak at Havuzlu. Shopping can work up quite an appetite; so make sure you know your options before you go there.
Just the task of visiting Grand Bazaar and buying what you want at a reasonable price can you the equivalent of a diploma in negotiating skills. And of course, the satisfaction you get from a good purchase is priceless.