The oldest and biggest covered market in the world, also known as the Grand Bazaar, has around 4000 shops and over 60 alleyway, covering a huge labyrinth in the city centre. The original two structures, covered with a series of domes and remains of the 15th century walls, became a shopping area by covering the surrounding streets and adding to it over the following centuries. In Ottoman times this was the centre of trading, and a vital area of town.
The Sandal Bedesten was added during Suleyman’s reign, to cope with the rising trade in fabrics, during the 16th century. Traditionally the more valuable goods were in the old central area, called Ic Bedesten, because it was more secure. As quite typical of the area, most streets are laid out and devoted to a particular trade, for example gold on Kuyumcular Caddesi, leather on Bodrum Han, and shoes on Kavaflar Sokak. But the trade has also spilled out onto the surrounding streets, and it is very common to see Russian traders buying up huge sacks of leather jackets or shoes outside the main entrance.
Even the streets leading to the Golden Horn are lined with outdoor stalls, which have traditionally been controlled by strict trading laws to reduce competition between traders. Apart from the usual shops selling clothes, textiles, jewellry and carpets, there are small workshops where craftsmen cast and beat silver or brass, in a skilled trade handed down through the generations. If all that shopping, bargaining and fending off persuasive salesmen is a little too tiring, there are also traditional cafes dotted inside the bazaar in which to relax, eat and sip tea.
There are also money-changing booths inside and out. It is slightly less crowded during weekdays, as most locals shop at weekends. Bakircilar (Copper Smiths): Bazaar Lesser known and smaller, but nonetheless just as interesting is this market in Beyazit, under the north and east walls of Istanbul University. Copper is beaten and produced into many shapes, sizes and forms, and shops sell cauldrons, saucepans, buckets, candlesticks and the like.
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