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What Should You Expect from Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar?

Turkey’s Grand Bazaar shops not only offers some of the most traditional, unique shopping in the world, it is also the largest and one of the oldest marketplaces in the world.

There are over 4000 shops inside the Grand Bazaar, with even more surrounding the Bazaar. Each of the streets inside and surrounding are lined with amazing local products, foods, and services.

Grand Bazaar shopping creates an experience unlike any other with its open air and chic boutiques. The variety inside includes clothing, jewelry, ceramics, carpets, other traditional Turkish items, traditional food and drink, and more.

Today, the Grand Bazaar has over 60 streets and over 20 entrances, with additional historical sections in surrounding the bedesten. If you have a specific type of item you want to shop for, it is recommended that you enter through the gate nearest the section you prefer to shop in.

Inside the Bazaar, everything is purposefully in a particular order. Similar to the concept of street names in English-speaking countries, the street names in the Grand Bazaar are named. Each name directly correlates to the sections’ original purpose. For example, halı (carpets) were sold on Halıcılar Caddesi and mirrors (ayna) were sold on Aynacılar Sokak.

In addition to amazing clothing and jewelry, tourists in the Bazaar often find a variety of traditional products that catch their eye.

Turkish Carpets

Carpets and kilims were part of Turkish nomadic households over a thousand years before the Turks settled in Anatolia and lived in houses instead of tents and yurts. While Turkish carpet shops exist across Turkey, they may not be authentic and originally from Turkey. My favorite Turkish carpet shop is one of the best places to shop in the Grand Bazaar.

 

Kilims

A kilim is a woven mat, different from carpets in that it has no nap. The bold designs and earthy colors that are so valued in kilims are Turkish hallmarks. A few decades ago, kilims were seen as inferior to carpets and were much cheaper, however, today the bold forthright kilim designs and colors and valued and priced appropriately.

Turkish Ceramics

Turkey has been famous for its unique, colored tilework since the early 16th century, when the kilns of İznik began creating the most beautiful works. The classic İznik pieces are now classified as antiques and may not be exported, but the master potters are still making excellent plates, bowls, cups, tiles, and other items in a traditional way. İznik Works is an amazing Grand Bazaar shop filled with incredibly unique, traditional pieces.

Brass & Copper

Copper and brass bowls, plates, cups, trays, pitchers, cooking pots, serving dishes, and utensils were common household items in Ottoman society, making them easy to find today in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. While it used to be easy to find centuries-old aluminum, steel, and plastic cookware, it is not quite so easy anymore. You may still find some of the older, heavier pieces, but you’ll mostly see modern versions made of thinner copper. The modern brass and copper products are still very attractive, decorative, useful, and relatively inexpensive.

 

Antiques

The best antique shops are undoubtedly found in Istanbul, meaning that the Grand Bazaar is a hotspot for incredible antiques. Whether it’s because they are the oldest, or that Istanbul has a large number of people who appreciate antiques, it is the center of the trade. Within each antique shop, you can find a variety of old prints, paintings, maps, home decor, furniture, glassware, weapons, and more.

 

Books, Maps & Prints

Turkey is a great place to shop for old books, maps, and prints. Some old maps, prints, engravings, and lithographs are sold in antique shops. 

Alabaster

Alabaster is a natural stone that take thousands of years to form in water and changes colors when oxidized to create colorful patterns and streaks. For thousands of years, people have been carving and shaping alabaster into different plates, vases, or other decorative pieces.

 

Apparel

Turkey produces large amounts of wool and cotton, allowing them to manufacture a lot of clothing from it. Just like anywhere else, the quality varies. When shopping in Turkey, it is not unusual to run across knock-offs bearing famous brands, names, and logos. It may not be the best idea to purchase knock-off goods…

 

Evil Eye Beads

Turkish evil eye beads are a unique, handcrafted items with a tradition dating back at least 5000 years. Wearing them promotes good luck, while decorating your house and car in them keeps away the “bad spirits.”

Jewelry

There are several Grand Bazaar shops that are great places to shop for big, bold, necklaces, brooches, clasps, belts, and more.  When buying silver and gold, you can find the maker’s hallmark stamped into an inconspicuous part of the piece, certifying that it is genuine.

Leather

Throughout the Grand Bazaar, you can find shops of leather and suede coats, jackets, skirts, dresses, vests, hats, gloves, handbags, wallets, and more.

 

Meerschaum

Turkey is the world’s foremost source of this soft, white stone that is carved into cool-smoking pipes and cigarette holders, and also used to make different jewelry pieces.

 

Silk

Silkworms are raised on mulberry leaves in nearby districts and are auctioned in the spring. The fine silk thread is unwound and woven into scarves, shawls, blouses, and other items which are sold around Turkey, and in the Grand Bazaar.

 

Wood, Inlaid

Items such as boxes, chess, and backgammon boards, etc. make attractive and relatively inexpensive souvenirs for Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.

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