Grand Bazaar Istanbul – A Compact “Kapalı Çarşı” Guide

Construction started in 1455 with just one market, but today the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul stretches across 61 streets, making it one of the world’s oldest and largest covered markets. This architectural maze has become home to 4,000+ shops.


Around every corner, there is something new and exciting to experience. With so much to see, smell and touch, your senses will go into overdrive, and your mouth is sure to water over its tasty treats. Grand Bazaar will have you wanting to return time after time.


It is open from Monday to Saturday, 9 am to 7 pm and closed on Sundays. Visiting Grand Bazaar in the morning and evening will give you a rounded experience as crowds fluctuate.


Grand Bazaar Birdeye View


Grand Bazaar Istanbul Location


Located within the Fatih District, aka the Walled City of Istanbul, The Grand Bazaar is reasonably easy to get to regardless of where you are coming from. The beautiful Topkapi Palace and fascinating Basilica Cistern are both within walking distance.


For those heading straight to the market extravaganza, then fear not because there is a tram and a bus stop just 2 minutes from the outer part of the market. The nearest stop for both modes of transport is called Beyazit.


For more information about Istanbul`s transit system, visit ‘Visit’.


Grand Bazaar Istanbul Entrance


Kapalı Çarşı: A Brief History


Under the new Ottoman Empire, the original market, Cevâhir Bedestan, translated to “Bedesten of Gems,” took 5 years to complete. Its purpose was to bring wealth to Istanbul through the trade of textiles and jewels.


Even today, these remain the most popular items sold and bought throughout the Kapalı Pazar. Although the diversity of products now includes ceramics, icons, and leather goods.


A few years after the first market, another was built. This one was called “Sandal Bedesten”, and it became home to textiles, while “Bedesten of Gems” morphed into a luxury goods market.


As the two markets were not connected and church ruins and a large cistern were between them, lots of sellers opened up their stores in random places to get a piece of the action. Eventually, this grew so large that the neighbourhood became a hub for commerce, and everything joined together.


The Grand Bazaar was eventually completed at the start of the 17th century and remains more or less the same today.


As there was nothing else like it in Europe, tradesmen would travel from near and far to get the best quality and greatest variety available.


Grand Bazaar Istanbul Inside


How to Experience Grand Bazaar, Istanbul


Often considered to be the first shopping mall ever, Grand Bazaar can be enjoyed at your own pace without any guidance. However, as it’s 30,700 m2, there is a chance of missing something or getting overwhelmed by the sheer size of it all.


A walking tour can not only guide you through the market but also inform you of its history and even take you back in time. With a fantastic tour leader, you can imagine how the market would have been over the past centuries.


Check out these two tours to see what they would involve:


  • Grand Bazaar Rooftop Walking Tour – A 4-hour private tour, €360 per group, up to 10, that includes the alleyways and rooftops. Great for groups and movie fans, as the James Bond Skyfall movie was filmed there. Click here for more info.


  • Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar Tour – Combine a few unmissable attractions together for a fun afternoon. Prices range from €25 -€48 per person and include all museum entries. Discover more here.


Places to Eat at Grand Bazaar, Istanbul


While there weren’t any restaurants to speak of a hundred years ago, thankfully, today, there are plenty of eateries to choose from. The best places are down the narrow alleyways, in hidden holes in walls and on the street.


  • Kara Mehmet Kebap Salonu – İç Cebeci Han 92. Open 11am-5pm
  • Gaziantep Burç Ocakbaşi – Parçacilar Sokak 12, +90 212 527 1516. Open 11am-4pm
  • Aynen Dürüm – Muhafazacılar Sokak 2. Open 7am-6pm


Buying Something at Grand Bazaar


The Grand Bazaar is a free attraction to enter, but to enjoy it to the maximum, you will be spending a few Lira here and there.


To buy something, you will need to haggle. If you aren’t a natural haggler, watch 8 Best Psychological Negotiation Tactics – How to Haggle from Practical Psychology for tips.


Grand Bazaar Souvenir Ideas


Your eyes may be bigger than the space in your suitcase as you enjoy the offering of the Grand Bazaar. Therefore, we suggest planning ahead and leaving some space in your luggage for a few Turkish wonders.


Turkey is famous for plenty of things as the people have mastered many handcrafts and grow exceptional materials and produce.


Here are a few suggestions to keep your Turkish vacation alive and present in your home:


  1. Colourful Lamp – Turkeys mosaic lamps are colourful handmade delights, great as a bedside lamp or reading lamp.
  2. Handmade Rug – Authentic Turkish rugs are made from high-quality materials and are handspun. There are four types of rugs: Hali, Kilim, Cicim and Sumak. For advice on what to look for and ask for, visit Lologifts.
  3. Hazelnuts – Turkey produces more hazelnuts than any other part of the World. Most of which is exported.
  4. Tulips – Made famous by Holland, but many believe tulips are from Turkey as they were originally known for being adored by the Ottomans.
  5. Evil Eye – Something you will see all over the city is the blue and white eye, which many people use for protection. Some keep them on their person, while others hang them at home and in their car.


For the larger items, consider having them shipped home directly. Always check a store’s credentials and feedback rating online before paying hundreds of euros/dollars/pounds for shipping.


Note: Check your country’s border guidelines as some items may not be permitted. For example, fresh fruit and vegetables are a common no-no!