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BLOG Historical and Spectacular Bazaars of Istanbul

13 December 2023 / Culture

The Famous Bazaars of Istanbul

Embarking on a whimsical journey through the heart of Istanbul's enchanting bazaars is akin to stepping into a living tapestry woven with threads of history, culture, and the vibrant pulse of Turkish life. They are living relics of Istanbul's Ottoman legacy. These bustling markets are not just shopping havens; they are portals to a bygone era, a nod to the illustrious Ottoman Empire that once graced these lands. They are open-air museums where the past and present coalesce in a vibrant dance.



Grand Bazaar is a very unique and exceptional market that beckons not only avid shoppers but also curious souls eager to breathe in the air of history and mystique.

One can stroll through the narrow alleys of the Grand Bazaar, a labyrinthine realm that has stood for over five centuries. This is not merely a shopping expedition; it's a pilgrimage into a time when Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II envisioned a haven for commerce and gave orders for this incredible bazaar to be built, in 1461.

This colossal bazaar, where you can find many products in one place, was built on 110,868 square meters. It boasts 4,000 shops nestled within its historic walls, offering a kaleidoscope of treasures and trinkets. It has 11 gates, 65 streets and 14 inns. The air is thick with the resonance of centuries-old transactions, and each corner whispers tales of a bygone era.



Then, there's the Spice Bazaar, located behind the historic New Mosque, next to the flower market. Here, the scents of exotic spices and the hues of vibrant colors entwine in a dance that has persisted since the Byzantine Period. One can see a thousand and one kinds of spices, medicinal herbs, plants, nuts, delicatessen products and souvenirs here.

This bazaar played a pivotal role in the grand tapestry of trade, serving as a pivotal point along the illustrious Silk Road. From the heart of this bazaar, Eastern spices embarked on a transcontinental journey to find their way into the kitchens and pantries of Europe. As the wares on display predominantly hailed from the exotic lands of Egypt, its name was changed from New Bazaar (Valide Bazaar) to the "Egyptian Bazaar" in the 18th century.

The air is fragrant here with the echoes of the Silk Road, and even if you have no shopping agenda, the Spice Bazaar beckons, inviting you to lose yourself in the aromatic embrace of history.



For the literary souls, the Sahaflar Bazaar is a treasure trove of second-hand books and intellectual musings. This bazaar is located in a narrow and long street behind the Beyazıt Mosque and was used by madrasa students during Ottoman times. Its name comes from the word "sahaf" used for those who buy and sell second-hand books.

Originating from the 15th century, this haven for bibliophiles is steeped in a legacy that transcends the mere exchange of books. As you wander through its narrow streets, the whispers of ancient manuscripts and the fragrance of aged pages envelop you in a cocoon of literary nostalgia.

These bazaars are not just markets; they are living entities pulsating with the rhythm of time. Every visit unravels new facets, unveils hidden corners, and imparts a fresh perspective. It's not about the things you buy; it's about the stories you collect, the scents you inhale, and the echoes of history that resonate in the vibrant tapestry of Istanbul's grand bazaars.

For more about what’s happening in Istanbul, browse our Istanbul articles here, and for all our other blogs about Turkey, click here.

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