Istanbul is maybe the first place to come in mind when bargaining is concerned, and if you’re looking to get some fantastic deals on just about any kind of product, from Persian rugs to vending machines, the city’s Grand Bazaar should be on the top of your list. Moreover you’ll be in for a fantastic experience, not just because of the shear vastness of the bazaar, but also from the whole interaction with the storekeepers and fellow shoppers. The Grand Bazaar is no ordinary “mall”, it has a distinct personality – join us and follow some of our recommendations for a fantastic stay in Istanbul.
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The Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is huge, make no mistake. Don’t even think about squeezing in browsing through the bazaar streets in a single afternoon. You’ll just end up running around like a headless chicken, and become exhausted at the end of the day on top of that. If you’re only looking to get the vibe of the place, that’s fine, but if you mean serious business, that is shopping, well you’d better brace yourself. We recommend you book at least a few days for the Grand Bazaar alone. If you find yourself in love with the city, know it’s easy to find an Istanbul property for sale or rent.
The Grand Bazaar has been serving as the center of commerce linking the orient and the western world for centuries, from the time of the Ottoman Empire. And like I said, it’s huge! How big you may ask? Well, the Grand Bazaar covers an entire area of 30 hectares and it is one of the largest covered markets in the world with more than 60 streets, 4000 shops, 18 fountains, a well with a pump, 12 warehouses, 40 hans with 2200 rooms (a type of a hotel where traders could secure their wares), 12 mosques, 1 school and 1 hamam.
Although you can find all sort of things in the Grand Bazaar, here are some items that not only will you be able to find at some amazing cheap prices, but also nowhere else in the world.
A brief foreword for the unadvised bazaar bargain hunter. Be advised that you’ll be in for a barter, and prepare to be “harassed” by the shopkeepers at every turn. No, I’m talking verbally. That sort of harassment starts when you’re still 10 feet away from the shop. Shopkeepers will regularly touch you – don’t be frightened, this is just how things work here. If you’re the sort of person that loaths touching other people, don’t touch items unless you’re really interested in them – or this might not be the place for you, sorry. If you’re uninterested in a product and wish to end the discussions, it’s better to simply say “bye” without waiting for an answer and move on. Yup, just walk away. Nobody will think you’re not being polite.
Remember this should be fun, so don’t get carrier away.
Alright, now that we’ve had this out of the way, time for some bargains – Grand Bazaar Turkish style!
Carpets & Kilims
First time in the Grand Bazaar? Mate, you have to make sure you don’t leave here without a carpet or kilim. You’ll get some of the most entertaining stories for your living room guests, and besides you’ll get to have one of the most authentic products the Grand Bazaar has to offer. Our suggestion is you head to Sisko Osman. This is a family shop that is still in its fourth generation of owners. Some of the most exquisite and wonderful carpets and kilims can be found here and the wide array of selections makes sure that you’ll fine something you like, according to your taste. Many of the products sold here are hand-woven carpets and kilims made with a beautiful and tasteful range of colors in mind.
Some of the best quality leather in the world can be found in the Grand Bazaar. If you’re a craftsman, go to the Grand Bazaar and you’ll be able to find some of the most exciting handmade products using leather bought here. Be warned, however, there are a lot of cheap leather imitations out there as well. This is why we recommend you stop by Koç Deri – you can find here some of the most interesting leather items the bazaar has to offer, again in a wide array of selection from classic leather jackets to fur coats to authentic Turkeys belts.
This is where the Grand Bazaar shines. Again, be advised there are a lot of fakes out there, so be sure to bring someone along that knows his jewelry. An amethyst could only be just another grinded coloured rock, so make sure you don’t get tricked. For ancient and modern influenced jewelry, check out Hilat, where most of the jewelry is handcrafted. More modern, yet still authentic, pieces can be found at Örge Tulga’s. Precious stone and materials crafted into jewelry can be found at Tulga’s, but for true luxury items go see Sevan Bıçakçı.
Souvenirs and gifts
Leaving the Grand Bazaar just with stories to tell your friends isn’t very nice. Considering you can find a slew of cheap items in the bazaar, why not bring a few for your friends and family back home? Sasanna Tasarım carries a range of elegant and tasteful gift items. Istanbul centered items like high-quality natural materials (marble or copper) emblellished with traditional Turkish motifs make for fantastic gifts. If you’re looking to buy a dear one something that truly spells Turkey, get him a çini – a traditional Turkish kind of pottery and tiles native to the city of Iznik.
You can’t leave Istanbul without filling your spice stash. Hey, not those kind of spices. A bustling gastronomic paradise since 1664, the the 17th-century Eminönü Egyptian Spice Bazaar is open seven days a week, 24/7 and here you can find just about anything from oils or scences to, of course, turkish delight.
The Grand Bazaar can make for a rather overwhelming experience, so you dearly need to freshen your strength. Have a bite to eat in between shopping and you’ll regain your strength. Here are some places where we recommend you dine while in the Grand Bazaar.
Gaziantep Burç Ocakbaşi. Barely visible, located on one of the Grand Bazaar’s many narrow side streets like this unassumingly delicious grill house. Here you can find incredibly tasty and affordable stakes and side dishes native Gaziantep, a major city in south-east Turkey – famous for its local food worldwide.
Kara Mehmet Kebap Salonu. Famous through out all Istanbul, the tiny restaurant, basically a hole in the wall, serves some of the most unusual assortments of kebabs you’ll ever encounter. Have you ever eaten a kidney and liver kebab? You’ll find it here and many more wacky dishes – all tasty. What’s interesting about the location and what made us eventually list it is the fact that it’s located in the Cebeci Han, one of the many open-air courtyards. Here life is a bit simpler compared to the busy, bustling racket that never ceases in the main squares. Since it’s a calm and relaxing place, we believe this is a perfect location for you to sit back, have a bite and ponder over what the rest of the day will look like for you.