As your journey to Istanbul approaches, there’s a certain allure surrounding the Grand Bazaar. Delving into its history before your visit might just unveil tales as intricate as any mystery novel.

Interestingly, the Grand Bazaar primarily serves as a shopping hub for locals, and it is very busy especially during the months of mid-September and October. When you’re here, I’ll explain why these months are the busiest times of the year. Keep in mind that the Bazaar sees an average of 300,000 visitors daily. Having a knowledgeable guide with you can likely save both your time and money. Later in this series, we’ll delve into the gates, streets, roofs, shops, inns, and many other topics related to the bazaar’s untold stories, products, and the people who’ve dedicated their lives to the Grand Bazaar. Next week, let’s discuss the history of the Grand Bazaar.

To be honest, no one knows the exact date the Grand Bazaar was established at its current location. Different sources provide contrasting dates. For instance, today’s Yeniçeriler Street, where the tram runs, links Çemberlitaş to Sultanahmet. This street used to be the economic center of the capital. We’re certain that the Çemberlitaş area was once the Roman Senate square, with the commercial street lying between Augustion (the Hagia Sophia square) and Senate forums.

After the Turkish conquest in 1453, the first stone of the bazaar was laid, either in 1461 or 1481. The initial building of the Bazaar is known as Cevahir Bedesten (a space designated for ore dealers). This bedesten features four sturdy walls topped with twenty domes made entirely of brick. A few decades later, the second structure, Sandal Bedesten—which is slightly smaller—opened to the public. Over time, the streets between these two spaces were roofed with arches, and new gates were added to the complex.

This secure environment ensured the safety of valuable products such as gold, silver, copper, cutlasses, silk, and perfume. Due to regulations on professions (the Lonca System) during the Ottoman era, which dates back to the Seljuk State from the 12th century, each business was confined to one or two streets.

This system greatly maintained product standards and fostered solidarity among its members.