Istanbul has been at the center of trade between Europe and Asia for thousands of years and it is no surprise that the thrill of buying and selling still attracts thousands of people to the city.
The most furious haggling takes place among the reputed 4,000 shops, 24 hans (privately owned inns or marketplaces), 65 streets, 22 gates, 2 bedestens, restaurants, mosques, fountains, teahouses and attracts between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. Everything you can imagine is for sale here: jewellery(gold, silver, emeralds), hand-painted ceramics, carpets,leather bags and jackets, embroideries, spices and antique shops.
The Grand Bazaar is actually the center of a commercial area within and around the covered section of the market all the way down the hill to Eminonu. The bazaar was established by Mehmet II shortly after his conquest of the city in 1453. It can be entered by several gateways, two of the most useful being Çarşıkapı Gate (from Beyazıt tram stop) and Nuruosmaniye Gate (from Nuruosmaniye Mosque).
The market is west from the main square in Sultanahmet. You can take the tram or enjoy the walk. Follow Divan Yolu, the road lined with tourist restaurants and shops, and turn tight into Vesirhani Caddesi. Cross the square at the Nurousmaniye Mosque and go on to the main street of the market, Kalpakcilarbasi Caddesi. It is easy get lost in the Grand Bazaar, so use this street as a marker.
It is easy to get lost in the bazaar in spite of the signposting. Many of the bazaar’s goods are made behind the scenes in secluded ateliers.
The stalls are grouped together, as was the tradition centuries ago, so all the leather sellers are in one section, mainly the Furrier’s Market, and the jewelry shops are around Kalpakcilarbasi Caddesi. This helps when buying items because you can easily compare prices. The stalls cater as much to locals as tourists, but be wary of the quality, particularly of jewelry and leather. Prices are often massively inflated because buyers are expected to bargain hard. Cut the prices by at least half on anything you bargain for. Then walk away. If the stall owners want your custom they will quickly drop the price.
The constant baiting by stall owners can make it difficult to wander around, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying this market, which has stood since the mid-1400s and survived two earthquakes.