BIG BAZAAR (KAPALI ÇARŞI)
Petit Futé's opinion on BIG BAZAAR (KAPALI ÇARŞI)
Discover the largest covered market in the world, a real explosion of colours and life in this Ali Baba cave.
Its construction began in the 15th century at the time of Mehmed II the Conqueror, on the initiative of the vizier Mehmed Paşa. Damaged by various fires and partially destroyed by several earthquakes, the Grand Bazaar will be permanently refurbished, renovated and rebuilt. The bazaar initially grew around the Bedestens (from the Persian word Bezesten, meaning "market for fabrics"). These were the markets reserved for wool and silk fabrics, before becoming those of goldsmiths. The Old Bedesten (Cevahir Bedesten, in the centre, the heart of the market), which is now a market in antique shops, where jewellery, antique weapons and dishes are piled up.... Access to the market is through more than 18 doors, one of the largest being located in the courtyard of the Nuruosmaniye mosque. The motto "God loves the one who trades" is written on the pediment of this door, in a cartouche decorated with Ottoman coats of arms. The goldsmiths' gate has a bas-relief depicting a two-headed imperial eagle, which was the emblem of the Palaeological dynasty, the market being closed on the sides and almost entirely covered. Installed on a large surface, the Grand Bazaar has, on 30 ha, more than 60 lanes, in which are installed more than 2 000 shops. An 1880 census counted 4,400 shops, 2,195 workshops, 497 stalls, 20 han, 12 warehouses, 18 fountains... During the Ottoman period, each street inherited a name according to the craftsmen or merchants who worked there in majority (rue des joailliers, des miroitiers, des pantoufliers). This diversity and specialization continue to this day and shops representative of each trade are still present in the Grand Bazaar. Today, 15,000 people work in 3,500 stores, including 1,500 jewellers, while in 1976 there were 1,742 stores, including 472 jewellers. The surroundings of the Grand Bazaar are home to a large number of brokers, bureaux de change and lending offices, constituting an influential and highly organised financial centre. It is estimated that the value of the merchandise displayed in the windows of the 1,500 jewellers and in their safes is at least 10 tonnes of gold. Turks and tourists come together to buy fabrics, leather goods, crockery.... The disadvantage is that most of the time the prices are not displayed, if you buy something don't hesitate to negotiate! Many salespeople speak a little French. Even Hollywood was attracted to this place, we remember James Bond's motorcycle chase in Skyfall on the rooftops of the Grand Bazaar.
Find your way around. It is often said that Istanbul was created to get lost in it. This is especially true in the Great Bazaar. Two little tips to find your way around. First, to know the biggest artery: it is called Kalpakçılar Caddesi. Straight, it connects two important gates, the Nuruosmaniye (mosque) and the Beyazıt (east-west axis). Then the slope: if you go down, you head towards the alleys that lead to the Golden Horn. Otherwise, we go to Beyazıt and its avenue crossed by the tramway rails. Another artery to know is Yağlıkçılar Caddesi : it is located between the gates Çarşıkapı (called Sipahi, then Feraceciler Sokak at the beginning) and Örücüler (north-south axis) which houses a bank, a municipal police office, a post office (a little behind), the mosque ÇakırAğa and toilets. Locating the mosque and its small minaret is very simple when the muezzin makes the call to prayer ! Coming from the Nuruosmaniye gate, the first parts are quite airy, while as we progress towards Beyazıt, the dozens of small alleys take over. If you want to continue your journey to Eminönü (Spice Market) or simply take a walk to the Golden Horn, leaving through the MahmutPaşa door is more convenient (near Nuruosmaniye, towards the slope). Indeed, we come across the descent of the same name: straight ahead, we end up in Eminönü. The Han at the disposal of the Great Bazaar are havens of peace.
Sandal Bedesten. Just at the beginning of the Nuruosmaniye gate, on the right. Formerly a slave market, it is an excellent place to take a break and have tea (prices are generally higher than outside, especially at Şark Kahvesi, near the door Beyazıt).
Han Cebeci. Located inside the Grand Bazaar, on Yağlıkçılar Caddesi. There are no inscriptions on its façade and its architect is unknown. The walls, built of stone and brick, are remarkably well crafted. The arcades of the peristyle and the brick cladding of the domes are particularly interesting from an architectural point of view. This han, by its characteristics, most certainly dates back to the 18th century.
Han Zincirli. Take in front of Cebeci (Perdahçılar Sokak), straight ahead and you are there. Very pleasant for its hushed atmosphere. It is here, on two floors, that goldsmiths give free rein to their imagination.
Han Kalcılar. Just before the door of MahmutPaşa. The architectural style and construction techniques used are from the 18th century. It is a han dedicated to trade, with two levels and a single courtyard, a part of the building with a third level.
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Open from 9am to 7pm. Closed on Sunday.
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