The oldest and largest covered bazaar in the world is situated in the heart of the city. One cannot appreciate this market without visiting it. It resembles a giant labyrinth with approximately sixty lanes and more than three thousand shops.
The bazaar consisted originally of two 15th century buildings with thick walls that were covered with a series of domes. In later centuries the streets around these buildings developed and were covered and new additions were made, turning it into a trading center. In the past each lane was reserved for a different profession and the handicrafts produced here were rigorously controlled.
Business ethics and traditions were strictly adhered to.
All types of jewelry, fabrics, weaponry and antiques were sold by merchants whose expertise in the trade went back for generations. At the end of the last century the bazaar suffered an earthquake and several fires.
Although it was repaired according to its original plan, it lost its former characteristics and deteriorated.
In the old days the tradesmen commanded so much respect and trust that people asked them to safeguard and to invest their money. Today the shops in many lanes have changed character. Trades such as quilt makers, slipper makers and fez makers only remain as street names now.
The so-called main street of the bazaar is lined with jewelry shops, and a side lane opening to this street is allocated to goldsmiths. Prices vary and bargaining is customary in these rather small shops.
Although the bazaar retains its former charm and allure, since the 1970's the modern and large enterprises near the main entrance offer better shopping opportunities for the tourist groups visiting Istanbul.
The covered bazaar is crowded and bustling the whole day. Shop owners insistently invite the visitors to their shops. In the large and comfortable shops at the entrance one can find examples of all the hand-made articles produced in Turkey.
The handmade carpets and jewelry sold here are the finest examples of traditional Turkish art. Every item on sale carries its tag of authen-ticity and it can be shipped to anywhere in the world.
Along with the carpets and jewelry, these shops offer a wide collection of high-quality Turkish silverware, copper and bronze souvenirs and decorative objects, ceramics, and onyx and leather goods.
The Spice Bazaar is another covered market place on a smaller scale. A small 15th century covered bazaar in Galata is still in use