We woke up extra early that morning so we could maximize our last day in Istanbul. Before the looong day, we loaded up our tummies with Hotel Lamartine’s buffet breakfast. Hotel Lamartine is strategically located at Taksim, the heart of Istanbul City. Numerous attractions are near this luxury hotel. I was not able to take photos of the rooms and facilities, but you may check out the photos at their website.
Sprawling over a huge area in the city center, Kapali Çarsi (kah-pah-luh chahr-shuh; “Covered Market”) was the first shopping mall ever built. During Byzantine times, this was the site of a bustling market; when the Ottomans arrived, it grew bigger and more diverse. The prime location attracted guilds, manufacturers, and traders, and it grew quickly — its separate chunks were eventually connected and roofed to form a single market hall. Before long, the Grand Bazaar became the center for trade in the entire Ottoman Empire. At its prime, the market was locked down and guarded by more than a hundred soldiers every night, like a fortified castle.
The Grand Bazaar remained Turkey’s commercial hub — for both locals and international traders — through the 1950s. Its 4,000 shops were bursting with everything you can imagine, from jewelry to silk clothing, and traditional copperware to exotic, Oriental imports. But then the Grand Bazaar was discovered by travelers seeking the ultimate “Oriental market” experience. Prodded by shopaholic tourists with fat wallets, prices and rents skyrocketed, and soon modest shopkeepers and manufacturers found themselves unable to compete with the big money circulating through the bazaar’s lanes. These humble merchants moved outside the bazaar, displaced by souvenir and carpet shops.
Today’s Grand Bazaar sells ten times more jewelry than it used to. And, while tourists find it plenty atmospheric, locals now consider its flavor more Western than Oriental. And yet, even though the bazaar has lost some of its traditional ambience, enough artifacts remain to make it an irreplaceable Istanbul experience. This tour takes you through the schlocky tourist zones…but it also takes you by the hand to the market’s outer fringe, still frequented by more Turks than visitors.
Hello, Istanbul birds!!! 🙂
Watch Rick Steves’ short video about the Grand Bazaar below. Watching it takes me back to the experience. It feels like I’m wandering around that busy place again. 🙂