“The hot heart and mysterious soul of Istanbul” – Istanbul’s famous Kapaly Charsi or Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar aka Kapaly Çarşı (translated as “indoor market”) is the largest market in the main shopping center of Turkey, Istanbul, and one of the oldest markets in the world.
This is the “city within a city”, with 61 streets and the number of stores, benches, stalls, and all sorts of bazaars long ago exceeded four thousand. And in the Grand Bazaar, as in a real city, there are 2000 ateliers, mosques, cafes, fountains, a school, numerous warehouses, hamam. There is even a police station.
Every day Kapaly Charshi is visited by over 400 thousand people. Both tourists and locals come to this market. But tourists, of course, are more: in 2014, for example, there were more than 91 million and Kapaly Charshi became one of the first places in the world in terms of tourist visits.
Location and mode of operation
The market is located in the central, old part of Istanbul – Beyazit district, between the Beyazit and Çemberlitas streetcar stops in Fatih district and the Kapaly Çarşı neighborhood (mahalla) of the city with the same name. It occupies a huge quarter of the city and has eighteen entrances.
The main gate to the bazaar
The main gate leading to the market:
- Beyazit (Beyazit) – western, next to the square of the same name
- Örücüler to the north.
- Çarşıkapı – South.
- Nuruosmaniye is the central gate of the market and is located on the side of Çemberlitas Square, next to Nuruosmaniye Mosque and near Çemberlitas Hamam. The inscription on the gate reads: “God have mercy on him who dedicates himself to trade.
It is important for tourists to remember which gate they entered the Grand Bazaar through in order not to get lost.
The Grand Bazaar can be reached either on foot, by streetcar or by bus, depending on which area of Istanbul one wants to get to the market.
- On foot . It takes 15 minutes to get to the market from the center of Istanbul, which is the distance from Sultanahmet Square. The Aksaray station, the largest hub of the Fatih district, can also be reached on foot in the same amount of time. If you walk from Rustem Pasha Mosque, you can reach the bazaar from the rear by walking a block along Uzun Carsi Caddesi Street.
- By streetcar . Take the T1 fast streetcar to Beyazit or Çemberlıtas stops. Each of them is located at a gate leading directly to the market.
- by bus . Take one of the many buses that pass through Yeniceriler Caddesi. From Eminönü and Sultanahmet – also, only in the direction of Aksaray.
- By subway . You have to go to Beyazit station.
For better orientation you can use the map of the Grand Bazaar location.
It is important there is a special mobile application Grand Bazaar , which allows you to determine your exact location in the market. The program has a user-friendly interface with easy navigation and internal positioning system. To find a particular store among more than 1,800 outlets, the search results can be conveniently filtered, for example by category.
In case you need to find a toilet, the nearest exit, an ATM, a currency exchange office, or anything else while shopping, just open this mobile app and look at the suggested map. By the way, Grand Bazaar allows you to create your own list of favorite stores, evaluating them and leaving tips and recommendations.
You can view and download the app at the links below:
Grand Bazaar opening hours.
- Daily, except Sundays, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- The Bazaar is also closed on holidays.
Grand Bazaar has a rich and ancient history. The construction of the market began immediately after the conquest of Constantinople (today’s Istanbul) by the Ottoman Turks during the reign of Mehmed the Conqueror in 1453.
By order of the sultan two bedestans were built, between which a bazaar quickly sprang up, as is often the case in the East. Both bedestans were finished by 1460 and the market life and trade was already in full swing.
BETWEEN : Bedestan is a covered market in the form of a street or a square with a closed ceiling. Benches were located along the perimeter of the market and often had two entrances, opening both inside and outside. Bedestans originally traded in fabrics, later in a variety of other valuable goods.
Since its origin, the Grand Bazaar has been rebuilt and enlarged many times. After the big earthquake in 1894 the Grand Bazaar was extensively reconstructed. During the Ottoman period it was not only the biggest trading center, offering products from all over the world, Grand Bazaar was a kind of business center, where a large number of economic transactions were carried out, financial operations were unfolded, and usury was spread.
There were banks and the local stock exchange. Also, until the 19th century, Grand Bazaar was the center of the Eurasian slave trade.
In 1545 (according to the surviving documents), by the order of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, a “sandalwood bedestan” or “small” (“new”) bedestan was built, which was erected to the north of the existing one.
The cloth and clothing trade was moved to the Sandal Bedestan, while the old Bedestan (Cevahir Bedesten) began to deal in luxury goods. Initially isolated from each other buildings rather quickly connected by new streets arising from the shops. Between Bedestans lay a peculiar road.
At the beginning of the 17th century Grand Bazaar acquired its final shape, and included 67 streets, 5 mosques, 7 fountains and 18 gates.
1890. The huge market complex of more than 30 hectares already had 4,399 shops, 2,195 rooms, 2 bedestans, as well as numerous mosques, fountains, 10 madrassas, a hamam and a mausoleum.
In 1927 some areas and streets of the Grand Bazaar received official names. And some have kept them to this day: Samovarnaya Street, Kalyanschikov Street, Kolpachnikov Street and others.
The years 1943 and 1954 were marked by the last fires in the market.
In 1980 the Grand Bazaar was restored for the last time.
Behavior and Safety
In Turkish bazaars, as in other public places, one should behave appropriately. Outrage and defiance are inappropriate and even hurtful. Following simple rules, the tourist will be able to save money and avoid possible trouble with robbers.
- First, it is customary in Turkish markets to haggle, and in the past sellers were particularly active in supporting this process. By the way, experienced sellers have a keen eye and can accurately determine the nationality of buyers who have entered their shop. By being friendly and communicative, the buyer can win over the trader and get a discount for the item he likes.Haggling enthusiastically and with dignity, both sides will be happy with each other.
- Secondly, as in any bazaar, and just in a crowded place, you should not recklessly expose your purse, expensive smartphones and other equipment. It is also necessary to keep an eye on your bag, keeping it firmly and securely closed. This will protect the buyer from the gaze of pickpockets and other criminals operating in such places.
- Thirdly, a visitor to the market would do well to look closely at the shops and places of trade, where the Turks themselves do the shopping. You should also pay attention to the cafes where the locals go: as a rule, there are lower prices and very good food.
Scheme and structure
Kapaly Charshi offers the buyer above all a rich assortment of non-food products. Large sections of the market are allocated for the trade of leather goods, gold, jewelry, carpets, ceramics and souvenirs.
But there are also places where the buyers can choose and purchase all sorts of spices and spices and oriental sweets.
The market is divided into several zones, selling a certain kind of goods. The main areas are six and sell the following products:
- Jewelry, gold bracelets – along Kalpakcılar Caddesi.
- Gold – on Kuyumcular Carsısı.
- Carpets: along Sahaflar Caddesi.
- Furniture along Divrikli Caddesi.
- Leatherwork on Perdahçılar Caddesi.
- Clothing and leather accessories are on Bit Pazari.
Many market visitors are attracted to the handicraft workshops, where craftsmen make the goods in the presence of the buyer. Often in such places you can get skillfully made fine item.
Numerous tourists like and feature inherent in the eastern bazaars – the opportunity to taste oriental sweets, sellers willingly allow to do so. Buyers are offered a large selection of dried fruits, nuts, a few varieties of Turkish tea.
If not to buy anything at the Grand Bazaar, you may with great pleasure just take a walk along its numerous streets, and it is comfortable to wander through the market in any season and in any weather. Market walls of impressive thickness reliably protect from the scorching sun and gusty wind.
And if you look not only at the windows during the walk, but carefully look around and look up, you can see the amazing fine paintings, exquisite mosaics and other decorative elements, preserved since ancient times.
Excursions to the Grand Bazaar
Excellent Hotels near you
Modern Grand Bazaar is a skillfully created oriental fairy tale, colorful, noisy, filled with the delicate scent of spices and shouts of salesmen-in-waiting.
This alone makes the Grand Bazaar a must-visit tourist attraction.
Grand Bazaar (Kapalicarsi)
Inside the huge Istanbul, as in the middle of a Russian nesting doll, hides its beautiful miniature – a full-fledged city in the city, a covered market Grand Bazaar. One of the largest markets in the world under the roof, bearing the Turkish name Kapalicarsi and leading its history since 1461, covers 31,000 square meters.
Its territory is divided into two large historical parts – Inner and Sandal Bedestene, and covers 58 streets.
Inside the bazaar there are not only stores (there are more than 4000), but also two mosques, 40 hotels, four fountains, a school, two baths – Turkish hammams, and its own police station.
The heart of the Grand Bazaar is the Inner Bazaar. The main treasury of the market is full of the romance of old Istanbul. It is said to have existed as far back as the Byzantine period, while the rest of the marketplace was built after the city surrendered to Sultan Mehmed II. The Bedesten, a type of traditional Ottoman bazaar, was a one-story structure designed to keep goods safe. The roof of the bedesten, a low dome, was supported by poles. The wrought iron chests with expensive silks, painted overseas fabrics and jewelry stored behind their thick walls were guarded by armed guards. There were four different ways in and out of the gates: the Bookies’ Gate (Sahaflar), the Hatmakers’ Gate (Tekkeciler), the Jewelers’ Gate (Kuyumkular) and the Women’s Tailors’ Gate (Zenneciler). The interior of the Grand Bazaar has traditional architecture, which includes 8 columns and 15 domes. Nowadays they sell old Turkish antiques as well, including antique furniture, old coins, mirrors, icons, guns and precious jewelry.
The second Bedesten was built in the 15th century. It was entirely made of wood and therefore twice burned in a fire. The name of this part of the market has nothing to do with the valuable type of wood. In ancient times sandalwood was a variety of expensive wool in the color of the same tree and was a staple of the large bazaar in Istanbul. Today the antiques are sold there.
There are 18 gates leading to the Grand Bazaar, full of chaotically woven streets. The most beautiful and famous of them, the central gate, Nuruosmaniye, was built in the traditional Moorish style. On it is carved the slogan of the merchants of the great Ottoman Empire – “God have mercy on him who devotes himself to trade. In the past, the entrances to the market were only open from dawn to dusk, which gave it its Turkish name (Kapaly charshi means “Closed Bazaar”). Every day it is visited by up to half a million people.
The Grand Istanbul Bazaar is open to tourists and shoppers from 10:00 to 18:00 on all days. Please note that during religious holidays the opening hours of the market may be changed.
What to Buy in the Grand Bazaar
Showcasing all the milestones of Turkish history, the labyrinthine Grand Bazaar is like a treasure cave of 40 criminals – the enemies of Ali Baba. Every conceivable item on sale, from antiques from the days of the Sublime Porte to colorful modern costume jewelry, is on sale here. Most of the goods are located in quarters by specialization. The market has streets of Jewels, Furniture, Bracelets, Leather, Carpets, etc. They received their names only in 1927. However, the most popular items such as carpets, ceramics and leather goods are sold on every corner.
Among the tourists enjoy special popularity aromatic spice market and workshops, where the products of clay, metal and wood are created right before the eyes of the delighted spectators. There are currency exchange offices on the territory.
In the Grand Bazaar, as in any oriental market, it is customary to haggle. This process is not a humiliation for the master, but an elegant duel of words, in which there are no losers. On seeing that the client is truly interested in the goods, the merchant will name an amount different from the exorbitant figures on the price tag. The buyer, who achieved a price reduction of half, or even three times the original price, will leave with purchases and not with an empty purse, and the seller will still be in profit. It is more profitable to pay in Turkish Liras.
If you are not ready for shopping and you just came to the bazaar to feel the spirit of the old East, it is not necessary to buy soap, Turks and woven chilims. You can simply stroll under the roof of the many old domes, make sense of the cobwebs of the streets, the result of many natural disasters and development without a master plan, and drink a cup of strong and sweet Turkish coffee in one of the many cafes – for example, in the ancient Sark Kahvesi. Surrounded by thick walls, the Grand Bazaar never lets the weather get bad either on hot summer days or through freezing winter rains and piercing winds.
The history of Istanbul’s biggest bazaar goes back to Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, who conquered Constantinople in 1453. His dream was to turn the capital of the Ottoman Empire into the second Rome, the place to which all the commercial roads of the world lead. At his command were erected two roofed wings of the new market – the Inner and Sandal Bedestene, separated by the ruins of the old churches. Merchants who wished to work within the bazaar grounds were given protection against theft. And it was real. In 1591, when a Persian musk merchant stole 30,000 coins in gold, the rows of shops were closed for two weeks. All those suspected of the unheard of crime were tortured, and when the thief was caught, Sultan Murad III showed him mercy. It was decided not to torture him, but simply to hang him to deter other potential villains.
The gates of the marketplace, lit only by the sunlight from the rectangular windows under the very roof, were closed at night. It was possible to enter only at the command of the sultan himself. Only once was the market open all night. Then Sultan Abdul-Aziz returned from Egypt, having subdued the unruly pasha, and rode through the streets of the Grand Bazaar on horseback, enjoying the loud applause of the traders.
Grand Bazaar in Istanbul (video)
During the reign of another great Turkish sultan, Suleiman the Great (1494-1566), the bazaar had grown into dozens of new streets and became known as the Grand Bazaar. By 1638, there were at least 3,000 market stalls. The Grand Bazaar was originally built of wood, which caused considerable damage in fires in 1546, 1651 and 1710. After that it was surrounded by stone walls. It also suffered from earthquakes: Istanbul is located near the North Anatolian fault line, in an unfavorable zone of high seismic activity. The shocks to the crust caused the dilapidated, flimsy market pavilions to collapse like houses of cards. The two most destructive earthquakes occurred in 1766 and 1894. During the latter, more than a thousand people perished in and around Istanbul.
Then the largest reconstruction in the history of the bazaar was made, but in 1954 the Great Market went up in flames again. It burned so badly that it took 5 years to rebuild. After that, the Grand Bazaar got its present appearance.
During its existence in the market squares in the center of Istanbul not only conducted wholesale and retail trade. The exchange, banks and major financial transactions were conducted here. Slaves captured in conquered territories of the mighty empire of the Ottoman Turks were traded here until the middle of the 19th century. By 1850, when Europe began to mass-produce fabrics, the Grand Bazaar lost its luster and glory. Armenians, Greeks and Jews left their pavilions to set up store in the more lively Pere and Galata market places. Gradually the Grand Bazaar became one of the major tourist attractions of Istanbul.
How to get to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul
One of the largest and most famous covered markets in the world is located in the Beyazit district of the old city. Its address is Kalpakcilar Cd, Beyazit İstanbul 34000. The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia are only a 15 minute walk from the other major tourist attractions.
The Grand Bazaar can also be reached on foot from the Egyptian Bazaar, the Golden Horn, and the Eminenyu Pier.
Walking route from the Blue Mosque to the Grand Bazaar – Google Maps
If you are planning to travel from another part of Istanbul, take the T1 express streetcar (Beyazit, Universite or Sirkeci stops). There is also a Beyazit metro station close to the market.
The easiest and most convenient way to get to the Grand Bazaar is to take a cab. Use your map to see which of the 18 entrances you need and ask the driver to stop there. You won’t get lost, because all cab drivers know how to get to the Grand Bazaar. Cabs can be ordered at any restaurant and hotel, or you can approach any cab driver at a designated parking lot.