ISTANBUL — The Bazaar Quarter

This is one of Istanbul’s most fascinating areas and is a must to visit. In this district you will find the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market both of which are places where you can shop to your heart’s content as there seems to be almost an unlimited supply and range of goods. There are many beautiful mosques in this area as well.

The sights found here are:
New Mosque
Spice Bazaar
Rüstem Pasha Mosque
Golden Horn
Süleymaniye Mosque
Prince’s Mosque
Kalenderhane Mosque
Tulip Mosque
Beyazit Square
Book Bazaar
Valide Han
Grand Bazaar
Çorlulu Ali Paşa Courtyard

New Mosque

New Mosque
The name New Mosque is deceptive because this is not a new mosque and dates from the end of the 16th century. It is found at the southern end of the Galata Bridge next to the Spice Market. It is one of the most prominent features of Istanbul’s skyline. The New Mosque was started by Safiye who was the mother of Mehmet 111 but it took 66 years to be completed and was finished by Turhan Hatice, the mother of Mehmet 1V. The exterior of the mosque has a high courtyard, two narrow minarets and a central dome with several smaller domes flowing down from it. The interior has beautiful Iznik tiles and lots of gold and marble. Several sultans are buried in the courtyard.

Spice Bazaar

Spice Bazaar
The Spice Bazaar is found next to the New Mosque. It is known locally as Misir Çarşisi which translates as ‘Egyptian Bazaar’ which is due to the fact it was built using money paid as duty on Egyptian imports. The main produce of the market has always been spices but now includes herbs and other foods such as honey, nuts and turkish delight. You will also find goods such as clothing, ceramics and toys as well as cafes. Although this bazaar is much smaller than the Grand Bazaar it is a lot easier to navigate your way around. After visiting the Spice Bazaar make sure you also visit Hasircilar Caddesi which is the narrow but interesting bazaar street running west from the market building. Here you will find lots more shops selling spices, snacks and housewares.

Rustem Pasha Mosque

Rüstem Pasha Mosque
This small but beautiful mosque is found near the Spice Market off the Hasircilar Caddesi and is found on a high platform above several shops via a spiral staircase. It is a little hard to find but persevere because it is worth the effort. It is known for its beautiful Iznik tiles which cover the walls as well as the mihrab and mimbar which have amazingly vivid colours and designs. The mosque is built in an octagonal plan and has a single minaret with a central dome on top of four semi domes supported by octagonal columns and arches. Rüstem Pasha was the son-in-law and Grand Vizier of Süleyman the Magnificent and he built this mosque to be much smaller than that of Süleyman but he did want a mosque that was artistic and magnificently decorated and this he achieved in this mosque.

Golden Horn

Golden Horn
This body of water separates the old and new parts of Istanbul. In the past the Golden Horn was a trading harbour and a popular place to live in the Byzantium period and over time it has been used for many purposes including lots of factories that were built along its banks. You won’t see any factories here today but in their place are many parks and walking areas that have been built for people to enjoy. The Galata Bridge crosses the Golden Horn at its mouth and it connects Eminönü in the old part of Istanbul to Galata on the newer side. There have been several bridges built over the Golden Horn since the middle of the 19th century but the bridge you find here today was built in 1992 and it opens in the middle to let taller boats through. It is a great place to stand and admire the city from both sides. There are several fish restaurants here as well so you can enjoy the view while you dine.

Traveller's Tip

A great time to visit the bridge is at sunset when the yellow light settles on the water giving it a golden glow and the view of the skyline of the city is just magical at this time.
Süleymaniye Mosque

Süleymaniye Mosque
This is the most important mosque in Istanbul and is the second largest. It was built for Süleymaniye the Magnificent by the renowned architect, Sinan between 1550 and 1557. It is found above the Golden Horn and was built on the site of the old palace, Eski Saray. In the grounds of the mosque are a former hospital, soup kitchen, schools, caravanserai (a type of inn to provide food and lodging to travellers) and a bath house. This complex fed over 1,000 of the poor in the city every day. The interior of the mosque is quite magnificent with its beautiful tiles from Iznik and the coloured glass. The main dome is 53 metres high and has a diameter of 26.5 metres which makes the height of the dome from the floor exactly double its diameter and helps with the feeling of light and spaciousness. The tombs of Süleymaniye and his family are found in the garden behind the mosque and you can visit these.

Prince’s Mosque

Prince’s Mosque This is another mosque complex built for Süleymaniye the Magnificent by the renowned architect, Sinan. It was built in 1548 and was Sinan’s first major imperial commission. It commemorated the memory of Süleymaniye’s son, the crown prince Mehmet who was killed by order of Roxelane, the jealous wife of the sultan. The mosque has a square base and a large central dome flanked by four half domes and numerous smaller, subsidiary domes. The tomb of Mehmet is found at the back of the mosque and it contains one of the finest painted domes in the city.

Traveller's Tip

If you happen to be visiting the mosque on a Friday you may see groups of women visiting the tomb of Helvaci Baba which is found on the complex. For over 400 years it has been the tradition to visit this tomb which is said to be able to cure crippled children, solve fertility problems and find husbands for those people who come here and ask for these things.
Kalenderhane Mosque

Kalenderhane Mosque
This former Byzantium church stands on the site of a former Roman bath near the western end of the Valens Aqueduct. It has been rebuilt several times between the 6th and the 12th centuries but was converted into a mosque in 1453. It is named after the Kalender brotherhood of dervishes who used the church as its headquarters for a few years after the Ottoman conquest. It is a classical example of churches that were converted into mosques and it has the cruciform layout characteristic of the period when it was built. You can still find evidence that this was a church with some of the surviving decorations such as the marble panelling in the prayer hall and the fragments of frescos in the entrance hall.

Tulip Mosque

Tulip Mosque
The Laleli or Tulip Mosque was built by Sultan Mustafa III from 1760 to 1763. It is the finest example of the Baroque style by Ottoman imperial architect Mehmet Tahir Aga. The mosque was built on a high terrace over a complex of shops, whose rents were intended to financially support the mosque complex. Underneath the mosque structure is a great hall, supported by eight huge pillars with a fountain in the centre. The walls and the mihrab and mimbar of the mosque are built from variegated marbles in red, blue, yellow and browns and are decorated with semi-precious onyx and jaspers. The interior contains beautiful stained glass windows and there is a central dome with semi-domes found in the corner arches. There are also Iznik tiles, and a band of calligraphy encircles the upper walls.

Beyazit Square

Beyazit Square
This is officially called Hürriyet Meydani or Freedom Square and is found in front of the University of Istanbul near the Book Bazaar and the Grand Bazaar. It was once known as the Forum Tauri under the Romans but was expanded and renamed in Byzantium times as the Forum of Theodosius. You can still see some of the huge decorated columns from Byzantium times. Today this square is popular with locals as it is the venue for a flea market on weekdays and there are plenty of cafes to sit in. On the northern side of the square is the main gateway of the University of Istanbul and in the grounds of the university you can see the Beyazit Tower which was built as a fire lookout in 1828. On the easern side of the square is Beyazit Mosque which was built in 1506 and is the oldest surviving imperial mosque in Istanbul.

Book Bazaar

Book Bazaar
This is the second-hand book bazaar found in an old courtyard between Beyazid Mosque and the Grand Bazaar. It is one of the oldest markets in Istanbul and is built on the same site as the book and paper market in Byzantium times. It is also where the booksellers had their shops in the 18th century. At this time the market was the most important centre for the sale and distribution of books in the Ottoman Empire and was a meeting place for intellectual people. The importance of this place has lessened with time because of more modern bookshops as well as the rise in popularity of selling books via the internet but you can still find old books as well as new ones and even some examples of Ottoman miniature pages. This bazaar is open daily except on Sundays and during public or religious holidays though some of the smaller shops may have different opening hours.

Valide Han

Valide Han
If you wander down the many streets between the Grand Bazaar and the Golden Horn you will find some old Ottoman commercial buildings. The most important of these is the Valide Han, which was used to store goods coming off the ships anchored in the Golden Horn, and as a hotel for travelling merchants. The Valide Han was built by the Valide, who was the Sultan’s mother, who as regent to two sons and a grandson ruled the Ottoman empire until her death in 1651 as a result of a coup led by her daughter-in-law. It is still a working building and visitors are welcome to have a look around. Opposite the Valide Han are two more 18th century hans, the Büyük Yeni Han and Küçük Yeni Han.

Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar
This is one of the largest covered bazaars in the world and is a feast for the senses. It is quite easy to become dioriented in the maze of streets lined with over 4,000 shops. If you love shopping combined with a great deal of bargaining then this is the place for you. Even if you don’t like shopping it is something to experience and should not be missed. Here you will find beautiful Turkish carpets, glazed tiles and pottery, copper and brassware, clothing including lots of leatherware as well as coffee shops to sit and relax in after a few hours or more of shopping. The bazaar dates from 1453 and was established by Mehmet 11 after his conquest of the city. There are several gates you can use to enter the bazaar but the easiest ones to get to are Carşikapi Gate which you can reach from the Beyazit tram stop and the Nuruosmaniye Gate from the Nuruosmaniye Mosque. The bazaar is open every day except Sunday and on Islamic holidays.
For information about theGrand Bazaar visit the website at: http://www.grandbazaarturkey.com

Traveller's Tip

Before visiting the Grand Bazaar prepare yourself to be hassled by many of the shopkeepers. This is all part of the experience of the Grand Bazaar. Also make sure that you allow plenty of time to shop here as it can literally take hours to walk its entirety as well as stopping to take a look at the various shops. Many of the shops sell similar products and comparing prices before you buy is a must.
  • If you haven’t had enough of shopping after the Grand Bazaar be aware that the surrounding streets also have lots of shopping opportunities.
    Çorlulu Ali Paşa Courtyard

    Çorlulu Ali Paşa Courtyard
    This courtyard formerly belonged to a religious school and was built for Çorlulu Ali Paşa who was the son-in-law of Mustafa 11, the grand vizier under Ahmet 111 between 1707 and 1708. It is found just outside the Grand Bazaar and is a popular place for students and other locals to come and have a tea or smoke a water pipe or nargile. You enter the courtyard from Yeniçeriler Caddesi via two alleyways and as long as you can successfully get past the several carpet shops found here without being hassled then you can relax in one of the cafes. This courtyard is an oasis of coolness and calm after the excitement and noise of the Grand Bazaar.