The Grand Bazaar (Kapalicarsi in Turkish) is one of the the largest covered markets in the world with its 4400 shops, 3000 firms, some 17 hans (separate inns for specific type of products), 64 streets,25.000 employees, 4 fountains, 2 mosques and 22 gates. It's a real heaven for shoppers and a good opportunity for people to discover the Turkish hospitality.
It looks like a labyrinth at first sight but it's actually not that complicated. All you have to do is to keep your eyes on the main street (Kalpakcilarbasi Street, the jewelry street). The Bazaar was first constructed in 1464 with the order of Mehmed II 'the Conqueror' and had many restorations over the years due to the extensive fires and destructive earthquakes. There are tens of cafés, a police station, little mosques, in the bazaar tourists information points .
There are thousands of things you can find and purchase in the Grand Bazaar. The gate that one usually enters into the bazaar is called "Nuruosmaniye Gate" that means "the light of the Ottomans". That takes you directly to a shining street full of jewelry stores. Jewelry is one of the things could be purchased. Gold prices are not low but due to the lower workmanship costs, you may find a huge variety of gold, precious stones and semi precious stones like sapphire, ruby or emeralds at reasonable prices. Bargaining is always possible. Before you purchase, it's recommended to ask more than 3-4 shops so that you can get the best price. The main street goes all the way up till the other exit and it's all full of jewelry stores....
A nother item which is important to our culture is carpets . When you're walking on the streets in the Bazaar, some people might approach you and invite you to see their collections of carpets. They are commission-men and if you like them you can go to the shops they mention but you may also reject them. They seem insistent but if you don't care about them, they go away. Carpet shops are usually spread out to smaller parallel streets and the purchasing decision is usually very hard. When you walk into a carpet shop, you're first offered coffee, tea or coke without any obligation of buying usually with a warm smile. The carpets are from several different regions of Turkey and the salesman tells about them one by one starting from less quality ones to higher quality (higher price of course!) ones. Bartering with them is a real fun!
O ther than those of higher value items, there are good leather shops in the Bazaar. Leather could be found in a han on the left hand side of the main street called "Leather Goods Section". There are also good ceramic items, wall plates and good tile plates. You may also find silverware, copperware, fake brand t-shirts like Tommy Hilfiger as well as good Istanbul or Turkey t-shirts all around the bazaar. There are also belly-dancers costumes and traditional folkloric costumes. As you walk into deeper sides of the bazaar, you may explore heavens of religious icons, antique or used watches or old pages of calligraphies. One cheaper thing is the amber stone. You may find beautiful amber-stone work in the bazaar.
A s you see, it's a real fun to stroll around the bazaar and explore small and humble shops which offers you lots of beautiful souvenir items for your pleasure.
The oldest and largest covered bazaar in the world is situated in the heart of the city. One cannot appreciate this market without visiting it. It resembles a giant labyrinth with approximately sixty lanes and more than three thousand shops.
The bazaar consisted originally of two 15th century buildings with thick walls that were covered with a series of domes. In later centuries the streets around these buildings developed and were covered and new additions were made, turning it into a trading center. In the past each lane was reserved for a different profession and the handicrafts produced here were rigorously controlled. Business ethics and traditions were strictly adhered to.
All types of jewelry, fabrics, weaponry and antiques were sold by merchants whose expertise in the trade went back for generations. At the end of the last century the bazaar suffered an earthquake and several fires.
Although it was repaired according to its original plan, it lost its former characteristics and deteriorated.
In the old days the tradesmen commanded so much respect and trust that people asked them to safeguard and to invest their money. Today the shops in many lanes have changed character. Trades such as quilt makers, slipper makers and fez makers only remain as street names now.
The so-called main street of the bazaar is lined with jewelry shops, and a side lane opening to this street is allocated to goldsmiths. Prices vary and bargaining is customary in these rather small shops.
Although the bazaar retains its former charm and allure, since the 1970's the modern and large enterprises near the main entrance offer better shopping opportunities for the tourist groups visiting Istanbul.
The covered bazaar is crowded and bustling the whole day. Shop owners insistently invite the visitors to their shops. In the large and comfortable shops at the entrance one can find examples of all the hand-made articles produced in Turkey. The handmade carpets and jewelry sold here are the finest examples of traditional Turkish art. Every item on sale carries its tag of authen-ticity and it can be shipped to anywhere in the world.
Along with the carpets and jewelry, these shops offer a wide collection of high-quality Turkish silverware, copper and bronze souvenirs and decorative objects, ceramics, and onyx and leather goods.
The Spice Bazaar is another covered market place on a smaller scale. A small 15th century covered bazaar in Galata is still in use.