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Originally opened in the mid-15th century by Sultan Mehmet II as a site for textile trading, the Grand Bazaar continues to offer everything from pottery and tiles to spices and brassware, as well as belly-dancing clothes, pipes, ashtrays, and much more. It used to be that each street had a craft, and while this isn't strictly the case any longer, there are areas of the bazaar where you'll be able to compare your craft of choice side by side with lots of others.
Located between the Bayezid and Nuruosmaniye mosques, the Grand Bazaar covers a huge area. Keep a look out for the Cevavir building, the oldest structure here and a fine example of Ottoman architecture and design.
Walking through one of its 21 gates, you'll find yourself among 3,000 shops under a seemingly endless sea of roofs, in a maze of over 60 streets. Allow yourself to get pleasantly lost among the bustling crowds, and soak up all the different and varied goods on offer – this is not a place for a quick visit! Listen to the calls of the vendors, and make sure that you're ready to engage in the strong local custom of haggling, as the shopkeepers can be very good at talking you around.
Pick up a beautiful and intricate Persian rug, or watch a demonstration of the weaving process. The goods on offer are wonderful, but they form only a part of the experience here. The Grand Bazaar is always full of people, so soak up the atmosphere as you walk around. Check out the old mosque and the fountain. Sit down in a cafe or restaurant in a hans (three storey building), or sample some deliciously sweet Turkish delight.
The Grand Bazaar is in the Old City, in the Fatih district and is open every day, except Sundays. The easiest way to get here is to take the tram to Byazit or to walk. Given that it is always crowded, you should be cautious of your belongings and beware of pickpockets.