On first encounter, the Grand Bazaar (Kapalıçarşı in Turkish) may feel like disorganised chaos. But when you start to look a little deeper you find a method to the madness. The Grand Bazaar used to be divided into sections that specialized in crafts from gold and silver to leather and carpets, and within these sections were hans (caravanserais or inns). There were places for traveling merchants to both rest and to business. They were normally formed around a courtyard with a fountain in the middle for washing, a kitchen or coffeehouse, along with workshops, and stores. Many Grand Bazaar hans were dedicated to a certain craft, and some still are.
Courtyard of Zincirli Han, Grand Bazaar
The Zincirli Han, Grand Bazaar is one of these caravanserais, which would have presumably dealt in chains (zincir means chain), but now it is a more mixed affair. Set over two floors, with shops on the ground floor and workshops on the second it is a bit of a Grand Bazaar secret that popular with those ‘in the know’. The courtyard, complete with a marble fountain and trees is particularly attractive, as are the pink facades of the stores themselves.
Zincirli Han Turkey is a truly authentic, working piece of live history, and you get the feeling it hasn’t changed for centuries. It is a very intimate, friendly, and low-key place, which is extremely photogenic. You can still see craftsmen plying their trade, preserving traditional skills, and the little coffee shop in the corner serves hot drinks to all the neighboring shops. The storeowners usually play backgammon, sip their tea, and put the world to rights during their free time.
Sisko Osman, owner of the famous carpet store. Photo by Zaman Gazetesi
One of our favorite carpet stores is Şişko Osman’s shop, one of the most established stores of the Grand Bazaar. Osman and his family have been collecting and selling hand-made Turkish carpets for seven generations. They have the finest quality of hand-woven Anatolian rugs that he acquires from all over the country. As part of the tradition, vendors at Şişko Osman will offer you Turkish tea or coffee. Do not feel obliged to make a purchase, just chat with the guys and if a carpet or kilim catches your eye feel free to ask price and bargain. This is how it works in the bazaar.
Take the tram to the Beyazit/Grand Bazaar/Kapalıçarşı stop from where it is just a short walk. Zincirli Han is surrounded by jewelry shops in Grand Bazaar, and the closest gate is the Mercan Gate.