As a city with plenty of culture and markets, Istanbul is home to two of the best bazaars in the country: the Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. I had the pleasure of viewing these two bazaars during my stay in Istanbul and despite the crazy storm that took place, I do not regret going there at all.
The Grand Bazaar (Turkish: Kapalıçarşı, meaning ‘Covered Market’; also Büyük Çarşı, meaning ‘Grand Market’) in Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. It wasn’t too far from our hotel so the taxi fare wasn’t too expensive. The Grand Bazaar is located inside the Walled city of Istanbul. It stretches roughly from west to east between the mosques of Beyazit and of Nuruosmaniye. Alternatively, the Bazaar can easily be reached by the tube stations. It is actually right around the corner from the blue mosque so don’t feel you have to venture far to reach the bazaar. It is one of the perks of Turkey; they’ve managed to concentrate all the best tourists landmarks in one area.
As with any bazaar, there are hundreds of stores filled with shoes, scarves, spices and other ethnic relics to capture your eye. The vendors are extremely friendly and always willing to negotiate, however, for those that approach you with the intention of selling you a designer hand bag try not to fall for it. As a tourist, you’re hot meat for taking advantage of so be careful as there are shopping malls that are actually cheaper than the bazaar itself.
As a tourist must see, it is definitely a good place to purchase souvenirs and sink into bits of the Turkish culture. I personally loved purchasing spices, food and even a Turkish tea set (a blog post on tea will definitely be coming soon so watch this space!).
EGYPTIAN SPICE BAZAAR
As an Indian, visiting the Egyptian spice bazaar was a major requirement not only because I am brown but because there are plenty of spices that I wanted to try. Contrary to its name, there are a total of 85 shops selling spices, Turkish delight and other sweets, jewellery, souvenirs, and dried fruits and nuts.
The name can be confusing but the reason why it is called the “Egyptian” as opposed to Turkish is because it was built with the revenues from the Ottoman eyalet of Egypt in 1660. It is easy to see how confusing it can get but there is always a reason to why each place is referred to the name it is – it is not a mistake people!
So let me hit you with my favourite part of any post, some…
1. Dress comfortably – both bazaars are quite big and can get confusing as each stall looks very similar. Before you know it you’ll be covering a lot of ground so wear comfortable shoes and cool clothing.
2. Negotiate – majority of the vendors will try to rip you off. They will ask where you’re from then hit you with an insane amount so negotiate and they will definitely reduce the price.
3. Get a souvenir – whether it is the spice or the grand, both bazaars are the perfect location for buying a souvenir or gift for any loved one out there! You can find all sorts of things here.
4. Breaks – the bazaars will be overly populated with people from all over the world so it can seem claustrophobic. So my advice would be to take regular breaks even if it means sitting in the stalls to catch your breath. Keep hydrated and don’t play yourself with over doing it. Take it easy!
So would I go back? Well each bazaar definitely specialised in the treasures of Turkey. However, I wouldn’t return to the Spice bazaar if I am visiting the Grand bazaar. From the two, I would definitely visit the Grand bazaar again to feel the tourist hustle and bustle. They’re definitely a must see as a first timer but if you’re someone who can’t handle shopping, large amounts of people and small spaces then I wouldn’t recommend it. I loved it though! I thought it was such an enriching part of Turkey’s culture and tourism.