Grand Bazaar in Istanbul

If there are two quintessential tips for anyone visiting the Grand Bazaar or Kapalı Çarşı (kah-pah-luh char-shuh), it would be to (1) Master the art of price haggling, and (2) Be prepared to walk away if the seller does not agree with your asking price (and watch what will happen next!).

One of the world's oldest and largest covered bazaar, there are over 4000 shops selling items you would possibly want to take home with so that you have a piece of Istanbul or Turkey with you. Touristy? Yes. But locals frequent this place too.

Lest someone thinks the Grand Bazaar is difficult to navigate with thousands of small stores closely packed together-- lucky us-- stores selling the same or similar items are grouped together. Silver, gold, leatherware, pashmina scarves, carpets, ceramics, watches. Right before our eyes. Before I could even decide how many pashmina scarves and in what colors I wanted to buy, the decision was to pick the store I wanted to spend my money at. Eager sellers wished us friendly hellos and touted their items with the invitation to "come in and just take a look". Choices. Decisions. Decisions. Choices.

Haggling for price is common at the bazaar. In fact, it is expected. When a seller gives you an opening price, it is set high as bargaining is expected. We have been to markets in Asia where there is a similar culture of price haggling that is expected from both the seller and buyer. This is the fun part. If your final price to the seller hovers around 40-50% of the originally quoted price by the seller, that is about right. If you are suave in haggling the price, I'd say more power to you. Generally, the seller is more willing to lower their prices if you buy more than 2 pieces of items from them. Cash gives you greater power over credit card. We have to pay the fee, the seller will tell you. If the seller does not agree to your price, be ready to walk away. After all, there are plenty of other shops selling what you want. And yes, the seller knows that indeed there are many other shops selling what you want. When you start to walk away, the seller will magically agree to your price or at least agree to a price that is pretty darn close to how much you are willing to pay for. More importantly, pay what you think is worth for the item you want. A person might see more value in owning a pashmina scarf and hence is willing to pay a higher price for it. Another person might value it differently.

To take a break from the hustle and bustle of the bazaar, the Cebeci Han area offers an excellent reprieve. In this quiet courtyard is where you will find carpet repair shops and restaurants. Kara Mehmet Kebap Salonu makes excellent kebaps.

The Grand Bazaar has 8 entrances; entrance is designed to face different historic monuments in the city. If you're coming to the Grand Bazaar from Sultanahmet (Old City) or if you're taking the the tram to the Beyazit stop, you will most likely enter through the Çarşıkapı Gate. To leave a different way, walk north on Yağlıkçılar Caddesi inside the bazaar and head to Örücüler Kapısı gate. After you exit, there are more shops on Çarşı Caddesi. The street then becomes Uzunçarşı Caddesi where more untouristy shops await along this cobblestone street. This direction is also towards the Suleymaniye Mosque and the Spice Market.

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