Jul 11, 2013

Istanbul: Grand Bazaar & Spice Market

The next stop on our tour of Istanbul was the Grand Bazaar. I have to say, this was the part of the day I was least looking forward to. While researching Istanbul before our cruise, I stumbled across reviews of the Grand Bazaar and many of them warned us of pick-pockets, pushy salesmen, and vendors out to rip you off. Not the sort of thing you want to remember Istanbul by at all. So, we made mental note of the warnings and asked our tour guide to make a quick stop there anyway. When in Istanbul, right?

Upon arrival to one of the 18 different entrances to the bazaar, we could already tell this place was a total tourist trap. Hoards of people clambered around everywhere, pushing and shoving their way to the entrance (and to the teeny tiny bathroom just outside the gate). Once we were inside, the crowds spread out. With over 5,000 shops and 60 different streets to turn down, to say this place was large would be a complete understatement. It was MASSIVE. Not at all what we expected in terms of size. But it was quintessentially Turkish, like a scene out of a particular Disney movie. Ahem. I wholeheartedly expected to see Aladdin and Abu peek around the corner (I realize Aladdin might not be Turkish, but the bazaar totally had that Aladdin vibe). Anywho...the Grand Bazaar, while expansive and maze-like, left much to be desired where shopping is concerned. Even with 5,000 shops in house, many of them were the same as the next. Rows of carpet shops, chachki sellers, pashmina stores, jewelry huts, and tea houses...but very limited variety in each. After walking through multiple alleyways, we rarely saw anything unique. Just the same set of shops, one right after the other. Prices were quite expensive, too...especially for the kinds of things being sold. So, we bought a few postcards, tried some Turkish Delights (ehhh, so-so), and purchased an ornament for my travel Christmas tree, then made our way back outside (after begging for directions) to meet back up with our tour group. As part of our tour on Day 2 in Istanbul, we made a stop at the Spice Bazaar. 
More on that below...


The Spice Bazaar was very similar to the Grand Bazaar, but on a much smaller scale and included more tea, nut, and spice vendors than souvenir peddlers. D and I enjoyed the Spice Bazaar much more than the Grand Bazaar, partially because it was less crowded, but also because the vendors were friendlier and the prices were lower. You seemed to get more individualized treatment in the Spice Bazaar. D and I got to sample a wide variety of pistachios (I had no idea there were so many kinds!), traditional Turkish Apple Tea (brought a box of it home, too), and ate our weight in Turkish Delights made with real organic honey instead of sugar like the stuff sold in the Grand Bazaar. Much, much tastier! Don't get me wrong, the Grand Bazaar is still something to be experienced, but save your Lira and belly for the treasures of the Spice Bazaar. You can thank me later. ;)



Missed any of my recaps of Istanbul? No worries, you can catch up here!

21 comments:

  1. Ah, all the food & spices!! SO neat!

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  2. Good to know! I'm in turkey in a month but only 2 days in instanbul so I want to make sure I don't waste time on places - spice bazaar it is!

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  3. The spice bazaar looks like a very unique experience! I would love to go and see it. Turkish Delights on the other hand...not a big fan of rose flavored candy >.<I hand them once and immediately wished I hadn't haha

    http://californianstateofmind.blogspot.com/

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  4. First, love the Aladdin reference, its my 2nd fave Disney movie. Also, love that the second spice market picture has a sign that says Aladdin! Also, it seems that all of the smaller areas of cities are the more authentic while the bigger areas are huge tourist traps. I love going to lesser known areas :)

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  5. That Bazaar is like a dream come true! All of those fresh spices and tea leaves... Sigh. My aunt is heading to Istanbul next month. I might have to "encourage" her to bring some back for me ;-) Thanks for sharing your adventures!

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  6. Love that you have a travel Christmas tree...I've wanted to have/collect one for sometime, but always forget to look for ornaments while traveling! UGH!!

    It's disheartening to read that the Grand Bazaar fell into the lure of trapping tourists, I hate so badly when things get tarnished by the lure of making the almighty dollar.

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  7. I was never really interested in visiting Istanbul until you started to write about it! I honestly had no idea just how many interesting things there were to see! I'm sure visiting the Grand Bazaar must have been an experience, but as a foodie, I probably would have preferred the Spice Bazaar as well. :)

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  8. Wow -- this looks amazing! It has always been on my bucket list to visit a souk, seeing and smelling all the wonderful things to buy! What a great experience!

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  9. Wow you would not be able to get me out of there. All those colours, details, and textures! Talk about sensory overload...what a fun place to photograph! I love all the pictures. Okay it is settled I have to add a spice bazaar to my list of things to see.

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  10. Ohhhh...this looks fabulous! Your pictures are gorgeous!

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  12. I loved Istanbul. Such a beautiful city.
    The Spice Market was my favorite place to visit and seeing the Blue Mosque at nights was spectacular.
    Love your pics!
    http://astridsnow.blogspot.com

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  13. All the colours are amazing! I bet the smells were awesome too! I love Asian/Middle Eastern markets, they are always the highlight of a trip.

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  14. OMG I would die if I got to go to the Spice Bazaar. I always buy spices, grains and such in bulk so it would be heaven.

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  15. I FELL in love with Turkish Apple tea and brought a box home as well. Sooo good!

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  16. Hello. I recently visited Turkey and Istambul. Loved it! Do you if thers is someone who would send me some tea by mail (I'm sure we could arrange a way to pay for it!) Thank you!

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  17. Great post; thank you! I only have a few hours in Istanbul next week and I have to choose my sights carefully - you've convinced me to check out the Spice Market instead of the Grand Bazaar, so thank you!

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    1. Awesome! Happy to help...and enjoy your trip!! :)

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  18. For more info about Istanbul please visit http://magiccityistanbul.blogspot.com/

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