The most visited place in Istanbul is not a mosque or a magnificent historic palace overlooking the Bosphorus. The Grand Bazaar receives between 250.000 and 400.000 people a day and is among the main attractions of the world. But we should not think that their 3.600 shops are a kind of shopping theme park for tourists , Turks also shop at the place that always was the city´s great commercial center since the fall of Constantinople.
Personally, I always thought that Turkish bazaars summarize much of the way of being of the country and Kapaliçarsi is the heart of all of them. Visiting the Grand Bazaar makes the difference between Istanbul and most of the tourist destinations because it offers us a place to get in touch with the people of the country in their favorite activity, trading. There you can find all kinds of crafts, from carpets to clothing to jewelry also including, ornaments and, course, many people.
The Grand Bazaar is older than 500 years ago. The first building was completed in the winter of 1460 and was the origin of the huge shopping area that grew up around it over the next century and a half. Today you still can recognize the Iç bedesten in the central area of the Bazaar. Although there currently we find stores that sell antiques, of copperware and silver ware, in the past it was the place where you could buy fine fabrics, jewelery and even slaves.
Kapaliçarsi is very close to the area of the most famous mosques in the city and getting there from the Hippodrome takes about fifteen minutes walking. We can also take the tram at Sultanahmet stop and get off at Beyazit-Kapaliçarsi or the previous, Cemberlitas. Once on site we'll be immersed in a sea of shops, stalls, cafés and small restaurants. Around the Grand Bazaar there are also a number of smaller commercial areas, Art Galleries, Historic buildings, a financial center and a fairground.
Kapaliçarsi means indoor Bazaar and Istanbul is not the only Turkish one, in Edirne, Konya, Kayseri and Bursa to name only the best known, we will find indoor bazaars. But the one at Fatih district, with its 3.600 stores provides a job to 25.000 workers and is a part of Turkish life and culture from long ago. Even today, fathers bring their children to the Grand Bazaar to decide what they want to be when they grow up, since under the Kapaliçarsi brick vaults you can see in action 740 different professional activities. Remember that some items are produced in the workshops located in the backrooms. In the bazaar there are nine vocational schools in which trainees are accepted for trades such as carpenter, tailor, merchant or watchmaker.
There are five main gates to enter the Grand Bazaar but the actual number of entries reach 22. Its more than sixty streets are open daily from 09:00 to 19:00, except Sundays, although a numerous private security service monitors the place all the time. Once inside, its 45.000 square meters offer us all kinds of products but also branches of nearly all banks in Turkey, police station, post Office, small cafes and food stalls. However, is difficult to find a toilet, something that is planned to be solved by the restoration project that should have already started and that also aims to solve problems in the structure of the building to make it more robust and resistant to earthquakes.
We are preparing a second post on Kapaliçarsi where we will talk about shops and their location but a good way to buy is simply walking the streets, go into the shops and ask. Sure you find what you seek but also many other things that you never imagined in that place where the word still is worth more than any document and where reputation and prestige are more appreciated than money.