The first thing that comes to mind when it comes to precious goods in Istanbul is the Covered Bazaar. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shop which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. In 2014, it was listed No.1 among the world’s most-visited tourist attractions with 91,250,000 annual visitors. The Grand Bazar at Istanbul is often regarded as one of the first shopping malls of the world.
The Grand Bazaar is located inside the Walled city of Istanbul, in the district of Fatih and in the neighborhood bearing the same name (Kapalıçarşı). It stretches roughly from west to east between the mosques of Beyazit and of Nuruosmaniye. The Bazaar can easily be reached from Sultan Ahmet and Sirkeci by trams (Beyazıt-Kapalıçarşı stop).
The original historical core of the bazaar, İç Bedesten, was completed by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1461. A “bedesten” refers to an indoor arcade with shops and there are several areas within the bazaar referred to by this name.
The Grand Bazaar attracts visitors who are interested in many antiquities from all over the world, as it is the gateway to the past in Istanbul. Here you can find the antiques of many products, especially precious stones. Turkey also known by having a rich collection of antique artifacts, including Islamic monuments remaining from the Ottoman need. Today some of the antiques that collectors are most interested in are: Glass ware; watches; metal goods; furniture; ceramic and porcelain ware; carpets and manuscript books, stoneware, old records and turntables, military outfits, swords, ancient medals and insignia.
In the Grand Bazaar, antique gun collectors may find long-barreled antique guns, rifles and swords designed to be placed on the fireplace as they wander among the narrowed shops. Antique kitchen utensils collected from various parts of Anatolia can also be seen there. For those who want to breathe an old and traditional atmosphere, Cevahir Bedesten is surrounded by many important antique jewelry shops. You can find the most extraordinary objects.
The riders are the ones who sell the old items randomly. However, the antique dealer sells old items which are rare and unique and very valuable in terms of art. The professional antique needs to understand art history and archeology. Recently, buying and selling of antique goods has become widespread due to people’s interest in old or foreign styles.
One of the main reasons people visit the Grand Bazaar is the custom-made services that many of the hans offer. While the storefronts display ready-made products, craftsmen have workshops in the back of the hans. These workshops have been in business for several generations, with the skills passed on from generation to another. Modern-day goldsmiths and jewelers in Istanbul draw their knowledge and inspiration from centuries-old traditions, and the actual origins of the trade.
In the Ottoman times, Istanbul-style handiwork using precious materials was widely recognizable, creating the image of the city as the regional center for craftsmanship. Today, there are five distinct groups of items which are known to be authentic to Istanbul: gold chains, pieces with rose-cut diamonds, pearls, jewelry made of golden coins, and belt buckles. Many of the craftsmen work on original designs, while others specialize in working based on a client’s requests.
Take your time to chat and bargain
Trying to see the entire Grand Bazaar in one afternoon is an unrealistic task. With this in mind, it is best to experience the Grand Bazaar at your leisurely pace, not by rushing from one shop to the next. The eventual purchase is not as important as the process and the relationship that will be established between you and the vendor. Chatting and bargaining with the sellers, who often are fluent in more than one language, is what makes the Grand Bazaar experience different.
Always feel free to leave and move on.
Although the Grand Bazaar seems to have it all, certain shops are worth the visit more than others. Their fame precedes them, so if you ask the locals for advice, many would share with you the following tips:
- If you are entering through the Beyazıt Gate, you will not have to look very far as the main walkway is paved with jewelers. The snake brooch displayed in the shop window is a replica of a piece from Madeleine Albright’s collection.
- Rare diamond cuts, vintage designer jewelry, and collectible timepieces make the place a true treasure-hunter’s paradise.
- As the qualifications of each craftsman vary from stone setting to sand casting to polishing to engraving, it may take more than one specialist to finalize the design of your dreams.
- İç Bedesten is where most of the antique shops are located. Many vendors around Istanbul sell items that appear to be antiques, so finding a trustworthy place that understands the value of an item is crucial. Şalabi Antiques is one such place, serving its customers at the Grand Bazaar since 1880. The shop’s collection includes vintage jewelry, personal objects such as mirrors and snuff-boxes, and Ottoman items for a special occasion table setup.
- At Epoque you will find iconography with defaced surfaces, antique Turkish rings with emerald stones, and vintage pocket watches. From home accessories to silverware, watches to tableware, this antique shop is filled with treasures.
- Eski Fine Arts and Antiques has three separate shops with an array of smaller sized nineteenth and twentieth century antiques from various countries that were formerly in the Ottoman Empire. Paintings, calligraphy, hookahs, backgammon sets, sea-foam pipes, and items made of silver, ivory, and amber are all stocked in the lighted glass shop display.
- If you make your way outside the main complex towards the Çulhacı Han, you will find Sait Asil, which focuses entirely on vintage silver objects for the home, many being sold as sets, that range from silverware, antique vases to candle holders on two floors.
Carpets & Kilims:
- Located in the heart of Zincirli Han, Şişko Osman is a fourth-generation family business offering an extensive selection of carpets and kilims from all over the country. Osman Şenel is the man and the name behind the company, with an expert understanding of his trade.
- Ethnicon stands for “ethnic” and “contemporary.” You will find unique, hand-woven carpets and kilims made with a range of colors. Most designs are modeled on existing kilims, with special attention paid to details such as tassels. Along a similar vein is Dhoku, another carpet and kilim store by Ethnicon’s owner, specializing in modern designs. Takkeciler Sokak No.58-60
- Named after the six generations of family owners, Şengör is a carpet store where time has stopped. Rare pieces from the beginning of the Turkish Republic and family photos displayed on the walls take the visitors back in time.
- Bathrobes, peştemals (Turkish towels used in washroom), and other traditional items can be found next to Oruculer Gate at Eğin Tekstil. Favored by locals for its classic approach and wide range of products, the shop has been in operation since 1861. It sourced costume textiles for some of the most recent Hollywood productions, including The Hobbit, Troy, The Last Samurai, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
- Head to Abdulla for all-natural products, including towels, blankets from southeast Anatolia. You will also find pure olive oil soaps and scrub mitts which very famous quality there.
- Sivaslı Istanbul Yazmacısı features a lovely collection of scarves, stockings mostly handmade and featuring Turkish motifs. The scarves there are my favorite items to look for.
Rest, eat, and drink
Last but not least, don’t miss the unforgettable taste of Turkish foods, coffee and tea. Restaurants within the Grand Bazaar complex are known to be some of the best in Istanbul
- Located just steps from the Bazaar, Aslan is an esnaf (tradesmen) restaurant specializing in Turkish home cooking. The selection of delicious hot and cold dishes changes daily in this casual eatery where the focus is on flavors rather than décor.
- A classic among Grand Bazaar tradesmen restaurants, Havuzlu offers homemade meals, extensive vegetarian options, and grilled meats and kebabs since 1960.
- Get a boost of energy with a cup of Turkish coffee at Şark Kahvesi, a traditional coffee house. Which is my top favorite drink.
As Turkey is rich of resources such as Antiques, Carpets, Furniture, food and coffee, it’s really recommended to visit this historical welcoming amazing region which mix of cultures and tastes. It combines heritage, originality and fragrant history. There you will find kindness, beauty and good taste combined with amazing detail and striking simplicity.
If you ever been there, share as your experience in the comments below:)