Newest Review: ... afternoon and it was quite quiet. There are certainly a vast amount of items available. There were a number of stalls selling some pret... more
Grand Bazaar (Istanbul, Turkey)
Member Name: Essexgirl2006
Grand Bazaar (Istanbul, Turkey)
Advantages: Shopping mecca
Disadvantages: Not the bargains I was hoping for
The Grand Bazaar is one of the famous attractions in Istanbul. It is a vast complex, much undercover, but also market stalls surround the covered area. It is also easy to disorientate yourself here as there are many exits and entrances. The original market was founded in the 15th century and has grown as Istanbul became an increasingly important trading gateway between the east and west.
The Bazaar is located in the old part of the city just two stops on tram T1 from Sultanahmet where most of the main attractions are. The nearest stop is Beyazit-Kapali Carsi (Kapali Carsi meaning covered market) but you could use Cemberlitas if more convenient. We entered 'somewhere' over the other side as we were coming from the Spice Market. We got lucky with our exit as we had noticed a big Burger King by the tram stop (which was 5 mins from our hotel) and saw that as we passed, and decided to quit whilst we were ahead.
I can't say I experienced the market in its entirety, just a part of it. I visited late on a Saturday afternoon and it was quite quiet. There are certainly a vast amount of items available. There were a number of stalls selling some pretty glass lamps (not the easiest thing to get home), or brightly coloured ceramics if you are looking for gifts. Other gift or home ware items include things like water pipes and candlesticks.
I was quite keen to look for some accessories like bags and belts but didn't think the price was that competitive. A lot of bags were brands such as Mulberry or Michael Kors but I am not familiar enough with the brands to know if they were genuine articles (seconds for example), knock offs or just random bags with a fake label. You are, of course, expected to haggle, but personally if the starting price they offer is way to high then it isn't worth bothering. Ask for 40% of the asking price, but settle for 60%, but it is up to you to decide if you are prepared to pay this amount or more/less. Most bags were not significantly cheaper (anticipating a fair price) than any quality leather bags at home, and as I wasn't in love with any, I didn't start negotiations. You could buy leather jackets also, but they weren't my taste.
Clothing consisted of traditional Turkish style (mainly children's wear) or T-shirts. They were mainly the shapeless slogan style T-shirts, nothing that was outstanding or special. You could also purchase accessory items like scarves or pashminas. There were of a similar price to those back home (inexpensive) and were mass-produced ones.
There are a number of jewellers and a friend and I checked out the silver bangles, which she then purchased for £35 or similar equivalent. The array of styles is quite varied, so you may have to look hard for something in particular.
Outside the bazaar is the place to go for textiles - bedding, curtains etc although the designs are probably not to the taste of many Western Europeans being a bit lary and flouncy or with twee prints. There was also a haberdashery row with a staggering away of the glitziest trimmings such as lurex ribbons and a lot of bling not out of place on My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.
You may see some rugs and carpet shops, but I think that many are elsewhere, and the ons I saw in the bazaar were cheap and poor quality. I imagine there may be a separate or specialist area that I did not come across. There are cafés inside the Bazaar complex, but if you are spending time haggling with any shopkeepers they are likely to offer you some tea whilst you wait.
The length of time you spend here is dependant on your own level of interest in shopping or purchasing gifts for home or souvenirs. At times it can be quite busy, I visited late afternoon on Saturday and it was quite pleasant and not too crowded. If you do spot something you like try and memorise where it is in relation to an exit (the bazaar does have internal street names) or find it on the map, so you can return, otherwise it could be very difficult to find it again as the 'streets' all look very similar with the same sorts of wares. It is also easy to lose track of time here, as you are in a covered area with little natural light.
The bazaar is open Monday to Saturday 9am to 7pm. It is not open at all on Sunday. Some of the shops outside on busy thoroughfares maybe open later
Summary: A must see - even for a bit of window shopping
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