The Grand Bazaar (Kapalıçarşı) was constructed in 1455 as a center for local trade of clothing and jewels. Ottoman Sultan Fatih Sultan Mehmet, commonly known as Mehmed the Conqueror, ordered the construction of two stone buildings where merchants could sell their products and make a profit for the Hagia Sofia Mosque.
Quickly, the two buildings became a center for trade in Istanbul. By the end of the 16th century, the Grand Bazaar grew tremendously in size and demand and into what we see today. The structure has not changed or developed since. Throughout the centuries, the structure has withstood many natural disasters, with fixable damage, thanks to its unique architecture that was ahead of its time.
Istanbul’s location in the heart of the Ottoman Empire made it a center for trade between three continents. This quickly made the Grand Bazaar easily accessible and a focal point for Meditteranean trade.
From the 17th-19th centuries, European travelers noted that Istanbul was unlike any other trade center in its variety, quality, and amounts of products and goods.
During the Ottoman Age, merchants of the Grand Bazaar was placed in guilds with other merchants that ranked the same or played a similar role in society and the economy. Later, the number of traders and shops could no longer be added or developed, which excluded anyone from joining a guild unless a merchant predecessor died or if a merchant wanted to retire and accept a considerable amount of money.
The Grand Bazaar Today
When visiting the Grand Bazaar Istanbul, it is noticeably high in security. One of the original reasons for expanding on the Grand Bazaar was to keep trade in one place to provide high security against political uprise, natural disasters and fires, and theft.
Today we find numerous options in the Grand Bazaar for food and drink, however, before the westernization of Ottoman society, the concept of restaurants was completely unfamiliar. This is often credited to the lack of women in social situations, jobs, and conventional beliefs in the region. Merchants brought lunches to work with simple, traditional Turkish meals inside a box similar to a lunch pail and served them at one of two stands inside the Bazaar, one of which still stands but is no longer of service.
The Grand Bazaar is an incredibly unique structure with enormous history and connection to Turkish culture. Even if you originally planned to avoid shopping during your trip to Turkey, Grand Bazaar shopping is a MUST-DO! Don’t miss one of the oldest cultural experiences Istanbul has to offer.