The Grand Bazaar (Kapalicarsi in Turkish) is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world. It was built of wood after the Conquest of Istanbul around an old Byzantine building which became the part of Old Bedesten (Old Bazaar) today, and got bigger and larger throughout the centuries with the addition of new sections and inns. The Bazaar initially consisted of two warehouses only, known as Inner Bedesten and Sandal Bedesten. Later on open streets were covered with doomed roofs, and separate buildings connected to each other. Today it covers an area of approximately 31thousand square meters with its over 3000 shops (some even say 4000), 17 inns (Han), 61 streets, over 20thousand employees, 4 fountains, 10 wells, 2 mosques, several cafes and restaurants, change offices, a police station, and 22 gates. It resembles a giant labyrinth and can be a little complicated for the first time visitor, but after a couple of visits there you can familiarize with it because streets are arranged almost on a grid plan, and shops tend to group themselves according to the type of goods they sell.
The old wooden Grand Bazaar built by Mehmet II suffered several fires and earthquakes during centuries but has always been repaired after each disaster. Last restorations were made after a big fire in the mid-fifties when it was finally made of stone. During Ottoman times all kinds of jewelry, fabrics, weaponry and antiques were sold by merchants, unfortunately today quilt makers, slipper makers, turban and fez makers do not exists anymore. Today it’s a heaven for shoppers with its traditional shops and goods. There are thousands of things you can find and buy in the Grand Bazaar, or just enjoy local people and Turkish hospitality with some window shopping. It’s one of the most significant tourist sites in Istanbul owing to its location, architecture, history and fame. Depending on the season, between 250-400thousand people visit the Bazaar everyday.
The Grand Bazaar is open daily between 09:00-19.00 except on Sundays and during public or religious holidays.
The Egyptian Bazaar (Misir Carsisi in Turkish) is also known as Spice Market. It’s located just behind the Yeni Mosque at Eminonu district, at the entrance of the Golden Horn. The Bazaar was originally made of wood in mid-17th century by the architect Kazim Aga, and got its final restorations during mid-forties. The name comes from the fact that Egyptians used to sell their spices here and that it once received income from taxes levied on Egypt. Instead the English name comes from the days when the Bazaar specialized on selling spices and herbs, medicinal plants and drugs. Lately there are also shops selling stuff other than spices but you can still see and smell many interesting spices, dried fruits and nuts, teas, oils and essences, sweets, honeycombs, and aphrodisiacs.
The Spice Market has 86 shops inside and there stands a plant market on one side and a food market on the other. There are 6 gates on an L-shaped Bazaar. The ceiling is higher respect to Grand Bazaar and this is also covered with domes.
The Egyptian Bazaar is open daily between 09:00-19.00 except on Sundays and during public or religious holidays. But during the summer period in 2009 it will stay open on Sundays too, between 10:00-19:00.
The Arasta Bazaar, also known as Sipahi Carsisi in Turkish, is located behind the Blue Mosque in the old city center, just next to the entrance of the Mosaics Museum. Despite The Grand Bazaar, Arasta Bazaar is a small and simple traditional market in Istanbul. There are about 40 shops lined on both sides of a street, selling traditional items. Originally this place was built in the 17th century and used to be stables during the Ottoman period. It suffered damage from many fires and left in ruins for a long period. In the eighties it was converted into shops, permitting the money from rents to be used in the restoration works of the Blue Mosque.
The Arasta Bazaar is open daily.
Sahaflar Carsisi, the second hand book bazaar, stands in the old courtyard between Beyazid Mosque and Grand Bazaar. It’s one of the oldest markets of Istanbul built on the same site as the Chartoprateia, book and paper market of the Byzantines. However it wasn’t until 18th century that booksellers settled their shops here leaving the Grand Bazaar. Printing and publishing legislation introduced soon after thus enabling the trade to expand in the whole courtyard. Also during this century the market remained the main point for book sale and distribution within the Ottoman Empire, and a gathering place for intellectual people. Unfortunately in the last 50-60 years the market lost its importance due to inevitable rise of modern bookstores and lately of the internet. Today there are still some old books, new ones, and examples of Ottoman miniature pages can be found.
The Sahaflar Bazaar is open daily except on Sundays and during public or religious holidays, with the exception of smaller stores.
There are many other small bazaars and old shopping areas in Istanbul, such as; Kumkapi Fish market, Sariyer Fish Market, Beyoglu Flower & Food market (Cicek Pasaji), and so on. There are also weekly bazaars settled in every neighborhood of the city on one day of the week, frequented mostly by local people.
Istanbul has many ultra modern shopping malls with international and national brand names too, which fits today’s world needs in every aspect. These are mainly located in the new part of the city close to residential or financial districts, and are open every day of the week usually between 10:00 – 22:00. Some of these modern shopping centers are: Akmerkez, Metro City, Kanyon, Istinye Park, Astoria, Nisantasi City’s, Meydan, Galleria, Carousel, Olivium, Capacity, Paladium, 212 Istanbul, Forum Istanbul, Airport, Viaport, Metroport, Optimum, Kale, Atrium, Capitol, Profilo, Mayadrom, Tepe Nautilus, Cevahir, Dogus Power Center, Polcenter, Boyner, Carrefour, Bauhaus, Praktiker, Gotzen, Metro, Bricolage, Ikea, etc.