Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar first opened its doors in 1461. It is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world, with over 3,000 shops. Every day somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 visitors make their way through its covered streets, a good majority of them tourists. The Bazaar is an essential experience for any visitor to Istanbul. Given that you’ll be dealing with dozens of cunning, multilingual salesmen, your visit can be either fun or stressful, depending on your attitude. If you come armed with patience and a willingness to haggle, you should be able to get at least half off the original quoted price, in some cases much more.
A few words of advice to save money:
- Don’t show too much interest in what you are buying.
- Be prepared to spend some time haggling.
- Don’t feel bad about getting a low price at the shopkeeper’s expense. They will try to pull at your heart strings; don’t fall for it.
- Don’t be afraid to walk away.
- Even though the salesmen are trying to swindle you, be nice and keep a positive attitude.
- Buy in bulk for bigger discounts.
- If you’re paying lots of money, be able to verify the authenticity of what you’re buying.
The Grand Bazaar is famous for its leather goods, gold jewelry, silverware, antiques, copperware, carpets and souvenirs, among innumerable other goods. Most shops are more or less grouped into sections according to what they sell, and most tourist maps will be able to guide you to the products you want. The Bazaar has 21 gates, so finding an entrance is fairly easy. Finding your way out again via the same gate is a different story. Luckily, there are now clear ‘road’ signs posted throughout the markets to guide you. Most shops accept lira, dollars and euros, and some accept credit and debit cards. The Bazaar is open from 9am to 7pm every day except Sunday and bank holidays.