The Grand Bazaar has over 4000 shops, banks, mosques, police stations, fountains, and restaurants. It is the largest bazaar in the world. As you walk in on Kalpakcilarbasi Cad., you will think it’s just like a shopping mall. This is only jeweller’s row, however. Take a right and dive into the main bazaar area, with shopkeepers nipping at your heels, carpet sellers begging you to have tea with them, etc. After our experience in Moroccan medinas, this seemed pretty tame. The shopkeepers knew when to back down, and the carpet sellers, while persistent, were never threateningly so – even when we teased shopowner after shopowner as we tried to find the perfect carpet.Almost the entire bazaar is covered, so it’s a great place to go if it’s raining, or too hot. If you still get too hot, just wander into any carpet shop and they will close the door and turn on the AC, plunging the small room into subarctic temperatures in no time at all.
The shops sell almost everything. What was missing (and what I much preferred about the Moroccan medina) was the craftsmen creating the goods. Nothing is made in the bazaar, it’s all imported (sometimes even from Turkey) and just sold here.
Although all the guide books warned us about how hopelessly lost you will certainly get, we found this was totally not the case. Not only was there street signs and tourist information signs up everywhere, but the layout of the city is pretty straightforward, with many landmarks (like the old bazaar) helping to locate you when you get lost. But again, nothing (and I mean nothing) compares to the complexity and confusingness of the market in Fez!
The Grand Bazaar is an easy 10 minute walk up the tram tracks from Sultanahmet. It is another *must see* when visiting Istanbul.