A guide to Turkish bazaars

There’s nothing quite like the atmosphere and hubbub of a Turkish bazaar. The strong colours and smells of the goods mixed with the sound of sellers luring you is enough to keep you coming back for more.

Actually known as a ‘pazar’ in Turkish or sometimes a ‘han’, meaning a group of traders, locals will know exactly what you’re talking about if you asking for directions to the bazaar. They’re the perfect place to pick up gifts for your family back home or grab a bite to eat.

Grab a bargain

Bartering to get the best bargain is the norm at Turkey‘s bazaars. Shops and stalls selling similar items tend to cluster in the same area and owners make it their challenge to entice you in so it can be a buyer’s market, so to speak.

Visiting between 11am and 1pm is generally the best time to strike a good deal before the salesperson reaches their quota for the day and starts to inflate prices. What you should always do is get the seller to name the starting price and go down from there. If you give an initial price, there will be little leeway.

Istanbul's double offering

Many people visit Istanbul just to experience the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, given it was built in 1461. But Istanbul actually has two vast markets which are open every day. With over 4,000 shops, the Grand Bazaar sells just about every product you can imagine, while the Spice Bazaar is dedicated to food, spices and edible souvenirs, especially lokum, or Turkish delight.

Open between 8.30am and 7pm every day, except Sunday, you’ll need at least three hours to take in the Grand Bazaar’s main areas. But if you want to spend some time browsing, drinking Turkish tea and exploring the narrow side lanes where you’ll find artisans at work, this will take considerably longer. To get the most out of your experience you can book a guide to steer you in the right direction and help you with some bartering tips.

The Spice Bazaar is another sight to behold with bright displays of spices, herbs, fruit and nuts sitting beside pieces of equally colourful Turkish delight. Open daily from 8am to 7.30pm, it’s worth just walking around and taking in the tempting smells.