Istanbul Bazaars Walking Tour

One of my favorite walking tours in Istanbul is from the Grand Bazaar north downhill on Longmarket Street (Uzunçarşı Caddesi) (Longmarket Street) through the Tahtakale district to the Golden Horn and the Egyptian (Spice) Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı).

A bonus: you get to see the exquisite Rüstem Pasha Mosque, one of Istanbul’s finest architectural gems, which few tourists visit. (Be prepared to visit the mosque.)

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The walk (click here for a map) can be done in 30 minutes to an hour, more if you dawdle and shop a lot (which is possible). This does not count time spent in the Grand Bazaar or Egyptian Bazaar. If you are not sure of foot it may not be for you, as some parts of the way are unevenly paved, crowded with heedless traffic, etc.

You might want to pick up a copy of Istanbul’s Bazaar Quarter: Backstreet Walking Tours before you head into the markets. You’ll come out knowing an awful lot more. More…

Although the Grand Bazaar and Egyptian Bazaar are real live markets filled daily (except Sunday) with both Turks and tourists, the Tahtakale market district is 99% Turkish, and all the more interesting for those who want to get away from the tourist crowds.

This is a good walking tour for any day except Sunday, when the Grand Bazaar and many of the shops along this walking tour will be closed (though the Egyptian (Spice) Bazaar will be open).

Start from the Grand Bazaar

In the Grand Bazaar, walk nrth along Yağlıkçılar Caddesi (yah-luhk-chuh-LAHR jah-deh-see, “Street of the Handkerchief-Sellers”), the main north-south street in the bazaar. Eventually you will exit the bazaar at the Örücüler Kapısı (door, gate). Continue walking north along the short, narrow street to its end, where you jog right-left to continue walking north and downhill on Çarşı Caddesi (CHAR-shuh jah-deh-see, “Market Street”), a broader street choked with both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

Çarşı Caddesi

The street sign at the top here reads Çarşı Caddesi, although farther down the hill signs will read Uzunçarşı Caddesi (and on the Google map it reads only as Uzunçarşı Caddesi). The street is filled with shoppers, porters carrying huge loads, cars and trucks trying to deliver goods to the shops, which sell beads, firearms, luggage, mosque decorations, apparel—anything and everything.

D.Ç.K. Leather Belt, my favorite men’s belt shop, is just on the left (west) side of the street at No. 17. Easy-to-use displays, good quality, friendly staff, value-for-money prices.

Longmarket Street
(Uzunçarşı Caddesi)

Continue straight on downhill (north) on Çarsi Caddesi to its narrower continuation, Uzunçarşı Caddesi (oo-ZOON-char-shuh jah-deh-see, “Longmarket Street”), lined with shops selling turned wood, kitchen items, new and used clothing, toys, backgammon sets, and everything imaginable.

Rüstempaşa Camii sign, Istanbul, Turkey
Look for this sign

Follow Uzunçarşı Caddesi all the way to the bottom of the hill, where it comes right to the exquisite littleRüstem Pasha Mosque (Rüstem Paşa Cami-şerifi, 1561), which few tourists see. It was built by Süleyman the Magnificent‘s grand vezir/best friend/son-in-law Rüstem Pasha. The colored tiles inside are the most beautiful in Istanbul. Don’t miss it!

You may not recognize the mosque as such, but in fact it is that building right at the northern end of Uzunçarşı Caddesi. Look a bit to the left to find the doorway to the stairs up to the mosque. If you can’t find it, ask anyone “REWS-tehm pah-shuh?” and they’ll point the way to you.

You may want to plan your visit so that you don’t arrive at prayer time (unless you are a Muslim and wish to pray). If you arive at prayer time just for a touristic visit, you’ll have to wait 20 or 30 minutes for prayers to finish before you’ll be admitted.

After visiting the mosque, come down the steps, through the door and turn left/east (if you were coming down Uzunçarşı Caddesi you’d turn right/east) and walk along Hasırcılar Caddesi (“Street of the Mat-makers”), one of my favorites, with shops selling coffee, tea, hardware, paper, dried fruits and nuts, spices, etc.

Egyptian (Spice) Bazaar

Soon you’ll come to the Egyptian (Spice) Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı, also called the Spice Market). Inside, the jewelry and tourist shops are taking over, but there are still lots of shops selling dried fruits, nuts, teas, spices and natural remedies. Outside, in the surrounding streets, it’s still a great food market for the locals.

Over by the New Mosque (Yeni Cami, yeh-NEE jah-mee) are shops selling seeds, gardening supplies, caged birds, etc., and there’s always a lively street market, even on Sunday.

Have a look inside the Yeni Cami (“New” Mosque), right by the southern end of Galata Bridge, a great imperial mosquefounded by Valide Sultan Safiye, the queen mother of Sultan Mehmet III in 1597, and completed by another queen mother, Turhan Hatice, six sultans later (1663). (It was the second queen mother who was new, not the mosque!)

The Yeni Cami and Egyptian (Spice) Bazaar are in Eminönü, with the Galata Bridge leading north across the Golden Horn to BeyoğluFerryboats go from the Eminönü docks to Asia and up the Bosphorus. The tram line takes you back to Sultanahmet, or across the Galata Bridge to Karaköy and the Tünel to take you uphill to İstiklal Caddesi; or you can continue on the tram along the European shore of the Bosphorus to Kabataş.

—by Tom Brosnahan


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