Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Turkish Market Showcase: The Istanbul Grand Bazaar

How could we possibly do a virtual tour of Turkey without devoting a post to the Istanbul Grand Bazaar? In 2011, Travel and Leisure listed the Istanbul Grand Bazaar as the number one destination among the world’s most-visited tourist attractions with 91,250,000 annual visitors. That’s huge!

via Flickr by zolakoma
The Grand Bazaar (or Kapalıçarşı) is one of the largest covered markets in the world. Here are some staggering statistics about this market:

  • The Bazaar is made up of over 60 streets...
  • And is home to 5,000 stalls and shops.
  • It’s estimated that this destination attracts between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors each day!

The Istanbul Grand Bazaar’s history stretches over several centuries, back to 1461 when it was established as an important trading centre. Apparently a number of fires and earthquakes affected the Bazaar throughout its history, which required sections of it to be rebuilt numerous times. It’s also interesting to note that this market wasn’t always covered; according to an account from 1638 by a Turkish traveller, the market was still uncovered at this time...almost 200 years after it was first built! 

6 Tips for Shopping at the Istanbul Grand Bazaar

1) Remember that the stalls and streets are grouped according to products that they sell. This is a tradition that dates back to the Ottoman times, and makes it very easy for you to do your research (see tip #2).

2) Do your research by shopping around and comparing pricing (and of course quality). This is an important step in making sure that you know what the going rates are for similar items, as well as ensuring that you are actually purchasing an item that you want at a price that you are comfortable with.

3) Know how much you like the item and are willing to pay for it BEFORE you start bargaining. The salesmen will always try to get you to pay more, so stick to your number and know that you are in no way obligated to purchase an item for simply engaging in bargaining conversations.

via Flickr by Jez Elliott 
4) Sometimes a salesman might offer you tea while you continue to do business. This is a common sales tactic; once again, do not feel pressured to purchase the item because you’ve had tea in the shop. You can still walk away...

5) In fact, don’t be afraid to walk away. Some of the biggest price reductions happen as you try to leave the shop empty-handed. If they let you walk away without any further bargaining, do not go back! You will be able to find a similar item in another shop.

6) Don’t forget the art of “being nice.” A positive attitude and friendly conversation can go a long way towards saving you some money. The salesmen are people too, so don’t be a meanie!

via Flickr by craigfinlay 

Do you have sure-fire tips for visiting and bargaining in the Istanbul Grand Bazaar? Share your secrets with us in the comments below!