The Anti-Tourist

I like to beat new paths for myself.

Grand Bazaar: Tourist Trap or Treasure Trove?

By 12:57:00 , , ,

When planning for your first trip to Istanbul, you'd be hard pressed to find a travel guide that doesn't recommend a visit to the Grand Bazaar. One of the world's oldest and largest covered markets, it covers over 60 streets and houses around 3,000 shops - but with over 90 million tourists visiting it per year, does it still have that genuine Turkish feel to it?

At the height of its popularity, every kind of product imaginable could be found within the streets of the bazaar - from carpets to gold, spices to leather goods. Whilst these can still be found there today, I got the strong feeling that their sellers are completely focused on you, the tourist, which means that prices are ridiculously hitched up, and quality has significantly gone down.

Don't get me wrong: after having visited the Bazaar for myself, I would still recommend a visit. Strolling through its wandering corridors is an experience in itself, not to mention its beautiful architecture and design. I still had the time of my life snapping away at the vibrant ceilings and products on display (as you might notice from this longish post)! 

Be warned though; if you're entering the Bazaar for that authentic Turkish shopping experience, you're wasting your time. Gone are the days when the shop owner would invite you inside his shop for some ├žay whilst showing you some of his finest wares. The more probable scenario is a hurried man calling you over to sell you anything he possibly can, and after some expected haggling, you are encouraged to move along to allow new customers through. 

Another problem with the Bazaar today - there remain many skilled artisans within its alleys selling their craft, but you'll probably find them squashed between the larger shops, selling fake designer handbags and touristy trinkets. Unfortunately, these kind of shops pop up wherever masses of foreigners visit. 

My solution to this problem? Wander away from the Grand Bazaar. Tired of its hustle and bustle, I exited through one of its gates and stepped right into (completely by accident) a smaller but definitely more genuine market. Books lined many of these stalls (sadly in Turkish), fruit vendors sold me some delicious pomegranate juice and no one pushed their products under my nose. 

Sometimes, getting lost is the best way to find something true. 

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