A trip to Istanbul is not complete without a visit to the Grand Bazaar. But hold your horses. Without proper advice, what is supposed to be a great oriental bargain hunt may become a big disillusion at best, or even a small nightmare.
When to Visit the Grand Bazaar
- Morning or Evening –The truth of the matter is that, at any given day, the sellers want to reach a certain sales quota. Some argue that the morning has preference in order to get a good deal, since they have the rest of the day still ahead. Other will recommend closing time, since the sellers probably have already reached that day’s profit goals and all the rest, however small it may be, is a nice extra for them. However, there is no evidence that either is a better option. In the end, it all comes down to your patience, bargaining skills and a bit of luck.
- Patience – I already mentioned it: make sure you’re not pressed for time. Visiting the Grand Bazaar sets you back for a couple of hours, certainly if you want to make a good deal. You need to visit several similar shops to find out what they have in store and check their initial quotes before you start bargaining.
- Good Mood – And this brings me to maybe the most important piece of advice: make sure you’re in a good mood. With over 250.000 shoppers/visitors a day, you’ll obviously not be shopping alone. Moreover, the Grand Bazaar is nothing like your regular shopping mall. There is no such thing as window-shopping. Be prepared to interact with hundreds of cajoling shop owners.
Finding Your Way In and Out Of the Grand Bazaar
With its 21 gates, finding an entrance to the Grand Bazaar (marked on the Map with Tourist Attractions in the Historical Part of Istanbul) is fairly easy. Chances are though that you’ll use one of the five major gates (see map below):
- Beyazıt Kapısı (Çadırcılar Caddesi, Book Bazaar (Sahaflar Çarşısı)
- Çarşıkapı (Beyazıt tram stop)
- Nuruosmaniye Kapısı
- Mahmut Paşa Kapısı
- Örücüler Kapısı (towards Eminönü and the Spice Bazaar)
When you walk from any of the major sightseeing spots in Sultanahmet, you’ll probably take the first right off Yeniçeriler Caddesi (the extension of Divan Yolu Caddesi, the one with the tramway). Look for the sign in the picture.
Finding your way out of the Grand Bazaar maze may turn out to be a bigger challenge. Depending on where you want to go after shopping, you need to try to find the correct gate. Luckily, these days there are new and clear ‘road’ signs in place. Nevertheless, make sure you have written down the name of the gate on a piece of paper or print out the map below.
Where to Find What in the Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar is famous for the following items:
- Leather (brown on the map)
- Gold Jewelry (yellow on the map)
- Silverware (yellow on the map)
- Antiques (orange-brown on the map)
- Copperware (İç Bedesten)
- Carpets (orange-brown on the map)
- Handbags, Briefcases & Suitcases (pink on the map)
- (Cheap) Clothing (Sandal Bedesten)
- Fabric (purple on the map)
- Belly-dancing costumes (pink on the map)
- Ceramic & Souvenirs (pink & green on the map)
Luckily for you, most shops are more or less grouped together into sections, according to what they sell. Click on the above map of the Grand Bazaar to enlarge it and look for the color codes. To make it as readable and useful as possible, it will open in a new browser window.