The Grand Bazaar (or Covered Bazaar, Kapaliçarsi in Turkish) in Istanbul (at 41°'38.09"N, 28°58'4.56"E) is one of the largest covered markets in the world with more than 58 streets and 4000 shops, and has 250,000-400,000 visitors daily. It is well known for its jewelry, pottery, spice, and carpet shops. Many of the stalls in the bazaar are grouped by type of goods, with special areas for leather coats, gold jewelry and the like. The bazaar contains two bedestans, or domed masonry structures built for storage and safe keeping, the first of which was constructed in 1464 by the order of Mehmed II. In 1894, the Grand Bazaar underwent a major restoration following an earthquake.
Technically, the correct translation of the Turkish name Kapaliçarsi is "Covered Bazaar" and not "Grand Bazaar", simply because the Turks do not call it "Grand Bazaar". In Turkish kapali means "covered" and çarsi means "market" or "bazaar" (as in the Persian 'bazar', where the word originates from and in English we spell it as "bazaar".)
Inner Bedesten :
It was the first building to rise in Kapaliçarsi, actually it is the Old Bedestan which forms the backbone of the bazaar. The names of the gates are: Bouquinistes, Hat Shops, Jewellery Shops and Costume Shops.
Sandal Bedesten :
It has the most number of domes in Kapaliçarsi. At present it can be accessed through two gates, one is through the main gate and the other is through the Nuruosmaniye district.
Other sections of the Grand Bazaar: The architectural design of the roads making up other sections apart from the two bedestens is not symmetrical and geometrical; it has a scattered nature due to its formation which took many centuries with new parts being added. In this way, it stays away from the closed bazaar style of the West and has a character of an Oriental bazaar. This laid back settlement and scattered nature prevents the bazaar from being dull, and at the same time gives it a romantic flavor. Such a complicated structure and settlement not only maintains the monumental state of the bazaar, but also makes it a palace for shopping.
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.