One of the must-see fixtures on most visitors' itineraries is the Kapalı Çarşı (Covered or Grand Bazaar) which has been serving shoppers since the mid-15th century and now boasts around 4,000 separate shops amid its warren of narrow alleyways. 

This is a place you'll probably love or loathe, depending on your enthusiasm for shopping of a sometimes rather hassley nature. There's no doubt that most of what's on offer in the Grand Bazaar these days is aimed fair and square at the assumed tastes and wallets of tourists. There are, however, some parts of it that still attract locals as well, not least the street of gold shops where they come to buy coins and jewellery to give as gifts at weddings, circumcisions and other parties. 

One problem is that most visitors have only limited time to get to grips with the Bazaar when really the best way to cope with it is to come once, preferably early in the morning, to get the lie of the land and decide what interests you before coming back later for the serious business of bargaining.

And, yes, this is one of the few remaining places in Turkey where bargaining (pazarlık) is still essential - pay the first price quoted and you will certainly come unstuck. 

Around Bazaar

Very near the Grand Bazaar but tucked away out of sight and so missed by most visitors, the Mahmut Paşa Cami dates back to 1462. It’s well worth visiting not just because it was built less than 10 years after the Conquest but because the tiled tomb of the great grand vizier Mahmut Paşa behind it is a one-off in İstanbul and looks as if it has somehow strayed from Central Asia.


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