A lot of travelers compare the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul to the famous Covered Bazaar in Bursa to the south. The two destinations are similar, but there are some significant differences, such as the vast differences in size and number of visitors. Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is the world’s most visited tourist attraction, with more than 91 million travelers making the trip to see it every year. The Covered Bazaar in Bursa is much more modest, although it was once a very important producer of silk and continues to offer a large selection of fine silks. However, the silk you’ll find in Bursa today is mostly woven in other places and imported to the Covered Bazaar to be sold by the merchants.
As recently as the 1970s, the numerous Hans in Bursa undertook the silk production process from start to finish by feeding the silk worms, harvesting their cocoons, weaving the silk and putting it on display for customers and passing foot traffic. Both the Grand Bazaar and Covered Bazaar were important centers of trade during the Ottoman Empire, and they have both been in existence since the late Byzantine era. Both complexes offer covered walkways to protect shoppers from inclement weather, but the two locations are very different in most other respects.
The Covered Bazaar consists of many separate buildings called Hans that once oversaw different steps in the silk production process and traded in other goods. The İpek Han is perhaps the most famous one as it holds the bazaar’s selection of silk. The Koza Han was once the building used to raise silk worms and harvest their cocoons.
In contrast, the Grand Bazaar is significantly larger and occupies a place in Turkish culture somewhat like a famous, historical museum or monument, such as the Louvre in Paris or the Parthenon in Athens. It receives 250,000 to 400,000 visitors every day and must offer products that compete with the goods offered by modern shopping malls and department stores.
Similar to the Hans of the Covered Bazaar, the Grand Bazaar has covered streets that connect the various complexes inside the structure. One of the most famous is the gold jeweler’s road, or Kalpakçılar Caddesi in Turkish. There are 61 of these indoor streets in all.
Shopping in a Turkish Bazaar
Both the Covered Bazaar and Grand Bazaar offer other products, such as furniture, jewelry, carpets and leather, and many visitors make separate trips to both markets to see what each one has to offer. Although the merchants operate fairly large businesses and move a high volume of merchandise, especially in Istanbul, the selection of goods depends on the time of year and availability of products. In other words, shopping at these markets is not quite the same as shopping in a Western mall or retail store.
If you’re planning a trip to Istanbul and either of these fabulous bazaars, you’re going to want a comfortable home base located nearby. The Grand Bazaar is located within a mile of the Hotel Buyuk Keban. We’re located in the heart of Istanbul’s Old City and offer easy access to these and many other major attractions.
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