Both the Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Spice Bazaar are closed on Sundays. Important Note: The Grand Bazaar is a very serious ‘husband boredom zone’, you would be wise to dropkick old Grumplestiltskin into nearby Ayasofya Hamami (see Hammam), or risk the consequences. Second Important Note: You are expected to bargain, but it is thoroughly pointless trying to do so when wearing a diamond-studded Franck Muller and clutching a croc Birkin. Alrighty, stock up on cash, purses out and off you go...
Have your cab stop at the Nuruosmaniye Gate entrance. Before you plunder the actual Bazaar, there are a couple of gems you should see. With your back to the gate look up Nuruosmaniye Cad., on its right at #53a is Sofa / 520 2850 / kashifsofa.com / a treasure chest of antiques and jewellery, Kasif is an expert on Iznik ceramics and a mine of info. Now, turn right into little Ali Baba Türbe Sok. just after Sofa to find the newer, mod branch of Fes Café (the original comes later). Guys, if you wish to find the extraordinary Sevan Biçakçi (see Adv. Shop) simply cont. up this alley and first left into Kutlu Han, he’s on the left at #16. Just before you enter the Nuruosmaniye Gate, to your right is Nur Carpets and Kilims / Verzirhan Cad. 86 / 527 4683 / with fab antique kilims, and #71 Etno / 527 4683 / contempo locallydesigned handicrafts. Enter the gate, trot through the garden passage to the Bazaar and plunge in. All the lanes are named and signposted at intervals up above, so if you get lost follow the signs to find your way back here, or run around panicking, whichever you prefer. The main artery is Kalpakçilar Cad. First up on the right at #4 is jeweller Kirgiz, for emeralds and diamonds; next door are Kafkas / 522 0326, and Mehmet Cümbus for more girls’ best friends, with Timucin at #24 / 522 6357, ask to see the hidden jewels. Carry on and take the first right down Sandal Bedesteni Sok., great for kaftans, but also for Chalabi / 522 8171 / gold and Ottoman trinkets, and Doctor Antik / 522 7549 / beaut trad embroidery and glass. Retrace to Kalpakçilar Cad., turn right then immediate left to find the leather section of the Bazaar. Up front at #22 is Koç / 527 5553 / the best of the best, luxe, leather and fur jackets. Retrace back to Kalpakçilar, turn left to cont. into Takkeciler Sok. On the first corner with Divrikli Sok. pop into Carpet Inn / 527 6206 / carpetinn.com / for real Turkish carpets, kilims, suzani and more. On the next corner along (with Keseciler), don’t miss Cashmere House / 527 6960 / cashmerehouse.com.tr / just past the fountain. Ilyas is the pash-man extraordinaire, and could sell a bike to a fish. All colours, all qualities, incl. the fine, furry and pricey shemina. All pashed up, retrace to the cistern and turn right. Head straight along Takkeciler Sok. to find fine handmade pottery and tiles at #82 Iznik Works / 522 4242 / iznikworks.com, then stop at #49 Ethnicon / 527 6841 / ethnicon.com / for one-of-a-kind contempo kilims. Across at #58 is Dhoku / 527 6841 / dhoku.com / the perfect mod antidote to the endless same-same carpets and kilims you see everywhere else. The owners have a great eye and stock some very high quality antique pieces and rare finds in the warehouse that you can ask to see. Further down on the right is Meha / 527 6841 / meharug.com / the Bazaar’s best original ushaks. Trot on and turn right at the fountain into Halicilar Cad. On the left is Dervis / 514 4525 / dervis.com / for natural soaps and opp. is Abdulla / 527 3684 / with towels, hammam accessories, rustic fabrics and fur throws.
Next door is the famous Fes Café (see Coffee). Just after it, make a right for the oldest part of the Bazaar, the Cevahir Bedesteni, and clock the lovely old brick vaulted roof. This area has a bunch of antiques, old silver and whatnot, but be sure to ask for export certificates for anything over 100 years old. On the first corner to your right is Erdun Collection / 526 7628 / for lanterns new and old, and opp. is Eski / 512 5238 / a tiny shop specialising in manuscripts, gravures and old icons. Head left now for jeweller Serhat Geridonmez’s shop (opp. Masjed), which has unique, handmade old Ottoman and Hellenistic designs, crafted together with antique beads or stones (ask to see what’s in his safe...). Follow the road, cross the main road of the Bedesteni and ramble on. The next right brings you to Lale / 522 4600 / a whopping collection of silver tableware, everything from contempo to vulgar, and next door the colourful strings of coral, turquoise, and lapis of Stil Inci & Kuyumculuk / 512 2839 / bead shop extraordinaire. Drop by Nick’s Calligraphy / 513 5473 / nickscalligraphy.com / on the corner next to the beads for unique calligraphy intricately carved onto leaves. Now, retrace and continue along Bedesteni Sok., stopping by #268 for Ali Gulec’s bauble and gem-string shop, and you’ll exit under the ‘bye-bye’ sign. Aww... So sweet. Take the first right into Keseciler Cad., go past the fountain, turn right into Takkeciler Sok. then swivel left into Zenneciler Sok. and eventually slip right into belly dance costume street, Yag˘likçilar Cad. Still with us? Good, we’ve got more to go yet. Shimmy on and you’ll pass S¸ark Kahvesi on the left, the Bazaar’s oldest coffee shop. Keep going, soon on your right is Halicilar Cad., on the left hand side at #5 is one of the best secrets of the Bazaar – Eski / 536 580 4882 / look for the ‘Inter Milano’ sign outside / is an Aladdin’s cave of unique art and antiques, and the staff are very resourceful with finding collectibles. Further down on the right is Dilek Hed Esya / 522 0578 / for handmade backgammon and chess sets, and hand-painted Kütahya ceramic. Back on Yag˘. Sokag˘i, you’re now entering the fabric quartier. Choices. If you want a quick bite in one of the Bazaar’s most authentic Turkish restaurants, turn left and take the first right into Sari Haci Hasan Sokag˘i. At the first intersection with Gani Çelebi Sok., look up for Havuzlu’s neon sign and tuck in. If not, back at Yag˘. Sokag˘i, two lanes up on your right is Perdahçilar Sokag˘i, zip down and a few stores down on your left at #48 is Muhlis Günbatti / 511 6562 / this charming raw stone vault is home to a large collection of Afghan and Turkish fabrics, some of which have been artfully transformed into dressing gowns and kaftans. It’s back to Yag˘. Sokag˘i, swing right and the next left is little Cebeci Han. if old Azerbaijani and Suzani textiles and bedspreads are your thang, the first shop on your right is #1 Ismail Deregozu / 511 8336. Across from Çebeci Han, on the right hand side of Yag˘. Sokag˘i is the even smaller alley Çukur Han. Scramble through and soon on your right is a teeny ‘courtyard’, home to weeny Turquaz (see Adv. Shop.). Retrace to Yag˘. Sokag˘i one last time and carry on right. For a real treat, stop at #57 Sivasli Yazmacisi / 526 7748 / and ask Murat to show you his fabric stash. It’s no surprise that international fashion designers frequent this deceptively ordinary-looking store.
Finally, carry on along Yag˘. Sokag˘i to the very end, and on your right by the exit gate is Egin Tekstil / 528 2618, renowned for their waffle towels and patterned bathing fabrics. You’ve done it! You’ve probed deep into the very bowels of the Grand Bazaar. Olympian Shopper! Now, if it’s around lunchtime, head straight on out of the Bazaar here and about 10 mins walk downhill will bring you to the Rüstem Pasa¸ Mosque, with its fab tile interior, or turn right here onto Hasircilar Cad. and follow your nose to the fabulous and fragrant Egyptian Spice Bazaar (Misir Çars¸i). It makes Dubai’s Old Spice Souk look like a paltry salt and pepper set. Just before the entrance is Kurukahveci / 511 42 62 / for fresh Turkish grinds, to have here or to go. Inside the Spice Bazaar, you’ll also find top quality Persian and Russian caviar. As you first enter, head left down the hall towards the harbour to Aladdin and Hayat spice stores for the most coveted lokum (Turkish delight), and look for goody bags at Tura. Exit towards the Eminönü tram stop, and eyes up to see Hamdi (see Lunch). Fab ’babs!