Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar with 64 streets containing 4400 shops, was first established in the mid 1400’s by order of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. It has since grown into what is considered to be one of the largest covered bazaars in the world. It has also developed into one of the “must see” Tourist attractions in Istanbul.
The Grand Bazaar can at first be confusing, even a little scary, so the first task is to get your bearings in what appears to be a labyrinth of streets. The main street through the market is Kalpakcilarbasi Street, this is easy to recognise as it is where the majority of the jewellery shops are located. Gradually work your way about from here, and if you do get lost, you will eventually cross it again and this time recognise it. Then start again.
You will need to protect yourself against the possibilities of encountering pickpockets. With all the hustle and bustle it is easy to forget to close your bag or put your wallet or purse in an obvious place. Nowadays pickpockets have been known to use razor blades so even closed bags and trouser pockets are not that secure. Try to keep only small amounts of cash to hand, and spread around your person. Keep important items such as credit cards under layers of clothing. If you are in a shop and take out your credit card, make sure you tuck it away again prior to leaving the shop. Nothing is full-
The job of the sales people is to get you into their shop and sell you something. They are full of tricks to get you into conversation, unfortunately if you stopped and talked to all of them you would never leave, so don’t be afraid to just smile, nod hello and keep walking. If there is something in particular you are looking for then try to get an idea of a fair price before entering the market, remember you will be dealing with some of the best barterers in the world, and you need all the help you can get. One trick they have is to confuse you about what currency you are paying in. My advise is to always deal in Turkish lira then there will not be any confusion regarding exchange rates. When the bargaining starts offer at least two thirds less than what they are asking as this will be a very inflated price. From there slowly increase what you are prepared to pay. If you aer still unsure, just walk away, go to another shop and see if you can get it at a cheaper price. If possible, return to the original seller and play one off against the other. Accept the fact that no matter how good you think you are, you are never going to out-
You have to prepare yourself for your first visit to the bazaar, and after reading this page you should be better prepared for the experience. Even if you do not wish to buy anything, an hour or so sitting in one of the many cafes watching the world go by can be very enjoyable.
If you know what you are looking at, Jewellery, leather goods, carpets and spices can be a good buy. We would advise against buying the “genuine fakes” these are usually manufactured in China, and are of very poor quality.