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The Grand Bazaar Istanbul


The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul- one of the Wonders of Turkey!

If you are visiting Istanbul any time soon, the chances are that you will see one of the most beautiful examples of covered markets anywhere in the world. I am, of course, talking about the Grand Bazaar located in the Fatih area of Istanbul, within walking distance of Sultanahmet, the central tourist region.   

It's considered to be the earliest version of our more modern shopping malls, with over 61 streets and 4,000 shops all in one covered area. Building started in 1455 and was completed in the way we know, in 1730.    

The construction started after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, now modern-day Istanbul. It was dedicated to Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror to meet the needs of the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque. After numerous fires and earthquakes, the market was added to, rebuilt in places, and changed the overall shape. Then in 1696, parts of the market were covered. Originally the Grand Bazar was built out of wood, but after all the fires, the decision was made to rebuild in stone and brickwork and then to be covered entirely. 

 

Originally the Grand bazaar had no shops designed in the way we would recognise them. Merchants would sit on wooden divans with shelves behind them. Precious objects were not put on the display shelves but kept in cabinets. A prospective buyer would be invited to sit on the divan and have a cup of tea or Turkish coffee whilst the buying process took place. It was all very relaxed...a far cry from today's hurried shopping trips. The 'shop' was closed by pulling curtains or drapes across and around the divan and shelves at the end of the day.    

Each road in the bazaar was home to the same type of merchandise. So, a whole street dedicated to spices, a jewellery street, an armour and weapons street and the most picturesque of all, the shoe market. It became one of the most important commercial centres in the region and served as a bank and financial centre for many of Istanbul's wealthiest people and traders.   

Nowadays, the Grand Bazaar is touted as one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world, with an estimated 250,000 to 400,00 visitors coming every year (pre-pandemic figures).    

Visitors to the building can access it through four gates known as:  

  • The Second-Hand book Sellers Gate in the north   
  • Skullcap Sellers Gate in the south   
  • Jewellers Gate in the east   
  • Women's Clothier Gate in the west   

Recently, the Grand Bazaar has been undergoing some extensive restoration work to repair damaged walls, street coverings and facades, as well as renewing electricity and lighting cabling. Most exciting of all, some 250 hand-drawn patterns over the arches and walls of the bazaar are being carefully cleaned and restored to their former beauty.    

If you are looking for another fabulous place to visit whilst in Istanbul, then the Grand Bazaar definitely has to be on your must-see list!