The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul

I had a two day stopover in Istanbul after I visited the country of Malta and I had a few things on my list that I wanted to see but couldn’t. I missed seeing the interior of the Blue Mosque, it was temporarily closed for renovations. I missed a boat cruise of the Bosporus because it was so cold and foggy that a cruise would have been unpleasant with no views. So I decided I would come back someday and do an expanded tour of several cities in Turkey, including more of Istanbul.

I was able to visit the Grand Bazaar which was top of my list. Whenever I would hear the word ‘bazaar’ in the past, it always carried an air of mystery and enchantment in my mind until I was able to see it in person.

The Grand Bazaar is one of the world’s oldest and largest covered markets, there are thousands of merchants selling their goods. Many are housed indoors in hallways with intricately painted ceilings, it is a labyrinth of passageways that are all connected with businesses concentrated in different areas, clothing, jewelry, kilim carpets, spices, furniture, ornamental lamps, etc. Continuing beyond the walls of the covered bazaar are shops along the surrounding narrow and worn cobblestone streets that spiral out like a web into other parts of Istanbul.

Bargaining is expected inside the walls of the Grand Bazaar (thought not in other stores in Istanbul). The vender states a price higher than he or she expects, the buyer rejects it and proposes a price much lower. The two go back and forth until they meet in the middle and agree on a price. I didn’t buy anything in the bazaar on this visit, I simply walked around for about two hours exploring the shops and marveling at all the goods.

I would love to own a Turkish rug, but I wasn’t prepared to hunt for a favorite, barter a price, and ship it home on this brief trip. I didn’t have the time or energy but someday I’d love to purchase a genuine Turkish rug in Turkey, yet another reason to return. As you can see from a glimpse into a few of these shops, wouldn’t it be the most fun searching for the perfect one for your home?

I was tempted to run my hands over all the textiles, but every time I got close a vendor would offer me tea to welcome me as is customary, so I learned to stay back a few feet and just observe. Still, it was fun just looking at it all, envisioning a collection of pillows on my sofa or a runner in my kitchen, etc.

As an amateur potter, I was most drawn to the unique ceramics, there is a style of embossing on porcelain that is unique to Turkey. I ended up purchasing a small vase in a shop, not at the bazaar.

You’ll see a lot of ornamental lamp shops, one of the most recognizable Turkish designs. These chandeliers are quite magical to look at when they’re all strung so closely together. I walked through a few cafes and restaurants in Turkey where these were displayed and they do create a lovely ambiance.


Spices and teas are readily available from many merchants who offer samples of their goods!


Here’s a glimpse at the arched ceiling that connects all the hallways that housed the vendor shops and stalls, the hand painted detail is stunning.


Notice the date on the wall, 1461! That’s when construction began on this enormous covered marketplace.


When I left the grand bazaar, I wandered into some shops just north of the marketplace that had more golden, glass, filigree and porcelain goods made in Turkey, all so lovely.

All the shopping is a little overwhelming so after walking around for a few hours hours I was done looking. It was an exciting experience to just meander through the gigantic marketplace. If you’re planning on a visit, definitely budget a few hours just to take it all in!

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