Make sure to check out the competition first, decide what price you're prepared to pay for it, and then get ready to haggle fiercely.Opening prices are absurd, but if it's quick gifts you're after, half the fun is bargaining. Think of it as a grand theatre where if you mess up nobody will remember.
Even the most hardened local can't help being captivated by the Grand Bazaar's magic. This ancient Disneyland of shopping malls has evolved over centuries into a unique brand of Turkishness which is absent from the shining streets of Nisantasi and Caddebostan.
Opened in 1461, Sultan Mehmed II initially commissioned two small warehouses as a way to fund the transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
Shops began to grow up around these Bedestans and, as commerce increased, shopkeepers began to build roofs over the lanes to withstand poor weather conditions and further attract customers. Capitalist fever now oozes from the Bazaar's more than 4,000 shops on 64 covered streets as the best and worst of Turkish goods are fleeced faster than you can don a poorly made fez cap.
In the past, artisans would group together in certain areas, giving rise to street names like Fez Makers Street (Fesçiler Sok.). Although these days there are still special sections for gold and silver and for leather goods, for the most part visitors are encouraged to lose themselves in the labyrinth of stores which sell everything from scarves to lamps, belly dancing costumes, Turkish water pipes, purses and plates. If you listen carefully you may also hear the shouts coming from the Bazaar's unofficial foreign exchange and gold markets.
It's estimated that between 250,000 and 400,000 people visit the Grand Bazaar each day to watch or take part in its intense trade.
Opening hours: Monday- Saturday: 9am -7pm. Closed on Sundays,October 29, Republic Day, Feast of Ramadan, Feast of Sacrifice.
Here is a detailed printable map of the Grand the Bazaar, showing the areas of artisans.
Check the website of the Grand Bazaar for more information.
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How to get to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul: From Taksim: Take the F-1 Funicular to Kabatas. From there, take the T-1 Kabatas-Zeytinburnu tram line; tram stop: Beyazit. From Sultanahmet: The Grand Bazaar is approximately 15 minutes walk from the Blue Mosque/Hagia Sophia. Follow the road which the tram takes to avoid getting lost.
"I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake" - Robert Louis Stevenson