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The oldest and biggest covered market globally, also known as the Grand Bazaar, has around 4000 shops and over 60 alleyways, covering a huge labyrinth in the city center of Istanbul. 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 center 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 widespread 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 and the Bosphorus 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, jewelry, and carpets, there are small workshops where artisans cast and beat silver or brass in a skilled trade handed down through the generations. If all that shopping, bargaining, and fending off persuasive sales assistants 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 knew and smaller, but 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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Istanbul Grand Bazaar Tour

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