A visit to Istanbul is not complete unless one spends some time walking through the streets of the Grand Bazaar. Dating back to 1455, the Bazaar is among the oldest marketplaces in the world, and attracts upwards of 400,000 visitors a year. During our visit to Istanbul, we obviously wanted to visit this historic landmark, and take it in for ourselves.
The Bazaar is very large as 3,000 shops are spread over 61 covered streets. Additionally there are several “uncovered” streets surrounding the covered portion of the bazaar that offer additional shopping opportunities in case the 3,000 shops inside the Bazaar are not enough.
The Bazaar is certainly quite the destination. Rows and rows of shops peddling everything from jewelery, clothing, housewares, antiques and typical tourist souvenirs dominate the landscape. My wife did strike gold when she found several gemstones at ridiculously good prices. Fortunately her purchases were authenticated when we returned and it was confirmed that the stones were authentic (I had my doubts considering the prices we paid).
Otherwise, to be perfectly honest, I was not overly impressed with the covered portion of the Bazaar. After about 15 minutes, I was able to figure out the pattern of the things that were sold and there was a lot of repetition. Dozens upon dozens of shops sold the identical items and I suspect the difference would be in prices and negotiating skills of the shop-keepers. After walking up and down 2 or 3 streets, they began to all look the same and my interest waned. Fortunately (or not!), my wife had enough interest for the both of us and being the dutiful husband that I am, I marched on…..
Here are some scenes from the Grand Bazaar:
Scenes from the “streets” within the Bazaar:
After walking through most of the Bazaar, we turned our attention to the streets surrounding the Grand Bazaar. What I noticed was that most of the shops outside the Bazaar were far more interesting and diverse than the shops within the Bazaar. If you do visit the Grand Bazaar, please make sure to take time and wander the streets, you will not be disappointed. I also noticed far more “locals” shopping in these shops, which told me quite a bit about where the best deals may actually be.
The streets were full of people but I never felt that I was in a crowd. Apparel and housewares dominated most of the offerings, but the variety was far better than what I saw inside the Bazaar. Scarves and headwear especially dominated the Women’s apparel options. My wife stocked up on Pashminas for friends and family and found great deals everywhere she looked!
Speaking of variety, look what must have specially arranged just for my visit:
Yes, that is a Lufthansa A380 Beach Towel. Out of all the items in all the shops, this towel was perhaps the most western, non-turkish item I would see in the Bazaar. What are the odds! However I suspect that it was not an officially licensed product of Lufthansa nor Airbus.
The streets were full of active shoppers and shops offered ample opportunities for them:
In all, I ultimately wound up enjoy myself at the Bazaar, but primarily because of the shops on the outside. Having a sunny and cool day along with wafts of great smelling food filling the air made it a great time. All of the shopkeepers that we spoke with were very friendly and helpful and enjoyed the “negotiations” to arrive at the best price for everyone involved.
Ultimately, I recommend that you visit the Grand Bazaar because it is a historic part of Istanbul, but please take my word for it, and spend time wandering the streets surrounding the Bazaar. That’s where I found it to be the most enjoyable!
This is only part of a much larger trip report covering the trip to Istanbul and London. If you would like to be informed of future trip reports, please follow me on twitter: @lufthansaflyer.
Here is the current “index” of the trip report. The one’s with hyperlinks have already been completed:
Istanbul – Sultan Ahmed (Sultanahmet) Mosque.
Istanbul – The Basilica Cistern.
Istanbul – Spice Market and Grand Bazaar.
Istanbul – Park Hyatt Macka Palas.
Istanbul – Our Day with Ihsan (besttaxidriver.com).
Istanbul – Hagia Sophia.
Istanbul – Other Mosques and Churches.
Istanbul – I find out what Zultanite is….
Istanbul – The Food We Found.
Istanbul – Turkish Airlines’ International CIP Lounge.
London – Hyatt Andaz Liverpool Street.
London – Opening of Parliament – Great pictures of the Queen and procession to Parliament.
London – ‘The Sunshine Boys’ at the Savoy Theater (Danny DeVito and Richard Griffiths)…..BRILLIANT, MUST SEE!
London – Spitalfield’s Antique Market – And the lesson I learned.
London – Churchill War Rooms and Churchill Museum.
London – Photos from around town.
London – Dinner at Petrus
London – St. James Park: Feathers and Fur
London – Covent Gardens.
London – All the other things that I can’t think of at the moment….
Pluckley – They said it was haunted……