Few experiences can be compared to haggling at one of the most famous street markets in the world – the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. This place has countless stories and strategies when it comes to getting what you want. Let’s discuss its history and how to shop there.
The bazaar covers more than 4,000 shops spread out over 30,000 square feet. There are dozens of alleyways and streets, so it is easy to get lost. This large venue was originally created around the time of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. In the coming centuries, the market was like no other on three separate continents. Originally, the merchants would be sitting on divans, a kind of a bed for lounging, and await their customers. While this custom is gradually disappearing, you can still see it practiced in certain shops, particularly when it comes to jewels, carpets, and leather goods.
How to Shop
Shopping at the market differs slightly from what you may be used to in the western shops. The purchase itself is not as important as the experience of shopping and haggling. This isn’t a place to quickly pick out a shirt or jacket – this is the place to sit down, have a drink, and talk with the seller for a long time.
If a seller is pushing you to take a specific item, you should be cautious – it could be that they are trying to get rid of a cheap item quickly. Furthermore, haggling is expected and welcomed here. You could buy the item you are looking for by paying the original asking price, but that is not what the market is all about.
One strategy many shoppers have found useful was to browse the stores, not touching anything (this is important, as touching something causes the seller to push for a deal as soon as possible), spending very little time looking at the item you are interested in and leaving the shop only to come back later. The trickier it is for them to sell you something, the more they will respect you as a true trading person. Don’t be afraid to accept some tea, it is just Turkish hospitality in action and not a way to close the deal.
With such a large construction and the noise, it is very easy to get lost if you don’t have a good sense of direction. Luckily, there are a few tricks to help you along the way. First of all, people will assist you in finding what you are looking for, even if it is just an exit from the market. Secondly, for the sake of convenience, similar shops are grouped together. Finally, entire sections of the market are dedicated to a certain type of goods, and the streets in which you can find them are named appropriately. In other words, follow the street names and ask around and you will always know where you are.