The Covered Bazaar in Istanbul is quite literally like no bazaar you’ve ever seen before, with over 3,000 shops under one roof, and even its very own streets. Nearly all of our Egypt and Turkey Tours include a visit to this bazaar, and those that don’t, can easily be amended so that they do.
Even though many people have read about the covered bazaar, they are still left virtually speechless when they finally get to visit the bazaar in person. Also known as the “Grand Bazaar” it is not only one of the oldest covered bazaars on the planet, but also one of the biggest.
The World’s Most Visited Monument
Because of its age, the covered bazaar in Istanbul is considered a monument. Not only is it the most visited of all Turkey tourist attractions, but in 2011 it was the most visited monument in the world; a fitting achievement in a year marking its 550th birthday. At present, there are around 26,000 people working in the bazaar at any given time, while visitor numbers vary between 250,000 and 400,000 people each day.
Getting to and from the covered bazaar in Istanbul is exceptionally easy, with trams tending to be the most popular means of transport. The bazaar is also conveniently located in the old walled city of Istanbul. Like all major cities around the world, Istanbul has also become a city of vast modern shopping malls, so how does the bazaar manage to compete?
The Covered Bazaar In Istanbul vs. The Shopping Malls Of Istanbul
In short, shopping malls are shopping malls no matter where in the world you are. Some are bigger; taller or more elaborate than others, but when all is said and done, they are still just cold heartless shopping malls.
The covered bazaar in Istanbul however, has a heartbeat; it has a soul; and above all, it has a fascinating history. Please do yourself a favor. If you visit Istanbul, you have just got to visit the Covered Bazaar. If you are planning on booking one of our classic Egypt and Turkey tours, your chosen tour will most likely include a visit to the bazaar. If it does not, we can easily add it if you would like us to.
The History Of Istanbul’s Covered Bazaar
The Grand bazaar’s history can be traced all the way back to its humble beginnings when Sultan Mehmet had an edifice constructed which was to be devoted to the trading of textiles. This took place in 1456 shortly after the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople.
A number of other markets were also formed nearby, including the Secondhand Market; the Long Market and the Used Book Market. Some of these other markets were eventually moved closer and incorporated into a single bazaar.
Another similar bazaar existed nearby as well, but the two were however completely isolated from each other. As time went by, the area between the two bazaars, which consisted mostly of old church ruins, was soon taken over by locals who began opening small shops. Before long, an entire new commercial quarter was formed.
The sheer vastness of the Ottoman Empire, along with the fact that they had full control of trade routes linking Asia and Europe, resulted in the bazaar becoming the commercial hub for trade in the Mediterranean. In fact, not even the great markets of Europe could compete.
In 1638 a Turkish traveler counted more than 3000 shops in the actual bazaar itself. Interestingly, the bazaar at this point had not yet been covered.
By the 19th century, the covered bazaar in Istanbul had a total of 67 roads, including three main roads. The market also had numerous areas dedicated for daily prayers; 5 mosques; 7 fountains and 18 large gates which were opened each morning and then closed again in the evenings.
Key Factors Leading To The Grand Bazaar’s Modern Day Charm
The covered bazaar of Istanbul has been on the receiving end of numerous calamities, including destructive earthquakes and raging fires. On each occasion the damages have been repaired, but on several of those occasions, no real definitive work plan was followed.
Ironically, rather than this being detrimental to the bazaar’s allure, it has resulted in an exquisitely charming appearance.
A Look Into The Future
Despite its current beauty and sheer magnificence, the Grand Bazaar has seen its fair share of abuse by those who earn their living selling their ware there. Walls have been knocked down illegally, roofing materials have been stolen, and etc. In fact, this is nowadays a very serious concern because it’s virtually inevitable that the bazaar will once again be rocked by an earthquake.
The bazaar still has no proper toilet facilities, and it lacks other modern touches, including a more reliable supply of fresh water and additional electricity. Leaks in the roof also need to be repaired, but progress is slow, mostly because of Turkey’s extremely strict renovation laws that are in place these days. Nevertheless, changes are taking place, and they’re likely to continue.
Come Visit The Grand Bazaar
The best time to see the infamous covered bazaar in Istanbul is now, before even more of its original charm is lost in the name of progress. You can book an unforgettable trip to this charismatic bazaar right now simply by exploring our Egypt and Turkey tours.