Monday, January 9, 2012

Grand (Covered) Bazaar & Nuruosmaniye Street

Dear readers,

Welcome to another "catch-up" article! After this one, I have one more and then I will be current!

One of the places I love to visit, but rarely get a chance to, is the Grand (Covered) Bazaar and Nuruosmaniye Street!

Grand Bazaar (Nuruosmaniye Entrance)

Nuruosmaniye Street
Although I live in Istanbul, I honestly can't remember the last time I went to the Grand Bazaar... it was probably over a year ago! I live in Levent - don't own a car (yup, I don't!) and even if I had one, getting to the old part of the cityfrom Levent where I live is a pain in the neck because of the traffic! I can go taking mass transportation but would have to take a taxi to the metro, switch over to the indoor finicular in Taksim and then the tram in Kabataş! I have done this, but in better weather!

But, once I arrive, I always kick myself for not visiting more often! And... you don't need to necessarily go to the Grand Bazaar to buy something... it's even fun just walking around and eating at one of the restaurants or cafes in the Bazaar or around Nuruosmaniye Street!

There's a certain charm and energy at the Grand Bazaar that you don't find in other parts of the city. I can't explain why I feel this way, but I do!

Grand Bazaar
Just walking up and down all the streets filled with all sorts of shops... the colors... the kaleidoscope of people...the interesting architecture (although repairs are definitely in order!)... what can say - you have to experience it for yourself to understand what I mean!

The shop owners at the Grand Bazaar, called Kapalı Çarşı in Turkish are known for their "persistence" in attracting customers, but compared to just even a few years ago, they have learned to become a little less pushy! Deep down, I don't think they mean to harass visitors, but sometimes because of the language barrier and the amazing competition, they tend to come off more arrogant than they really are (most anyway!)... 

For example... I run into the same problem... I guess living abroad for over 30 years and having blonde hair (although lots of Turks have blonde hair too thanks to hairdressers - including me), they think I'm a tourist! Normally, they don't bother Turks in the same way. Sometimes, if I hear one more "hey lady... come look at my shop", I think I will scream! Now, if they said this very simple sentence in Turkish, "Hanımefendi... dükkanımıza uğramazmısınız?", I wouldn't react the same way. But, in English, it just sounds crass to me! However, once you start talking to most of the shop owners, they are really very nice people and are willing to give you a helping hand to find what you need if they don't have it!

After a very long absence, I went to the Grand Bazaar on December 21 and then again with my sister on January 3rd.

I took a taxi on my first visit and got off at the entrace to Nuruosmaniye Street (see picture above) because I enjoy walking down this pedestrian only street lined with upscale jewelry, carpet, porcelain and handicrafts shops. Every time you turn, there's a new one shop... one example is Armaggan at No. 65 Nuruosmaniye Street (

This newcomer to the neighborhood opened about 6 months ago I believe (don't know for sure) and the 7-story shop sells top quality jewelry, objects, home and natural dye textiles by Turkish designers. There is also a cafe and restaurant (called Nar and managed separately) on the top floor, which I hear is very good, offering regional Turkish cuisine.

As my time was limited, I didn't get a chance to go into Armaggan, but did call my friend Sevan Bıçakçı ( and was thrilled to find out he was at his store, soI went to visit him because we hadn't seen each other in ages, although we speak on the phone from time to time!

The way to go to Sevan's shop is very simple.. hang a right (if coming from the main street) or left (if coming from Grand Bazaar side) at the corner of Armaggan and then make a right onto Gazi Sinan Paşa Sokak and walk down about 1/2 block and Sevan's shop is on the right hand side of the street.

Sevan and I met around 7-8 years ago when I interviewed him for an article for The Guide Istanbul (I was the General Manager and Editor-in-Chief of the English language magazine from 2001-2010).

Back then, this shop was just a simple workshop where this AMAZING jewelry designer created the most beautiful and one of a kind and unique rings that you can imagine! We just warmed up to each other then and although we rarely get a chance to see each other, I know we both have warm feelings towards each other!

Sevan is a worldclass jewelry designer (and known internationally) and unfortunately many designers have tried to copy his designs, but to no avail! Sure, some of the pieces might look the same, but the workmanship and products used are no where near the quality of his work! Never forget, nothing is like the original!

Sevan Bıçakçı rings

Sevan Bıçakçı ring

Sevan Bıçakçı Necklace
Besides rings for women and men, Sevan also designs necklaces, bracelets, brooches, etc. His designs are truly exquisite and if you have to ask how much they cost, you can't afford it... but, looking doesn't cost a dime!

We had a lovely time with Sevan...

Sevan Bıçakçı (left), me (right)
We had tea... chatted and caught up, did a little bit of gossiping and promised that we would try to see each other more often!

Sevan also has a boutique on Akaretler Row right next door to the W Hotel, so if you don't get a chance to go to the Grand Bazaar, you can visit his shop in Akaretler.

My next stop after Sevan's store was the Grand Bazaar itself. I aimlessly walked around a bit to see if anything was different and yes... I noticed two stores that were not their before (I bet there are much more, but these two shops are on the main street as you enter the bazaar on Kalpakçılar Caddesi, so they're hard to miss and a little different from the "normal" shops!)

First, I was shocked to see a branch of MAC, a cosmetics brand - so much so that I didn't take a picture. I just couldn't imagine a shop selling makeup, eyeliners, lipstick, etc at the Grand Bazaar.

The second shop was Vakko Scarves and Ties (

Vakko Scarves & Ties
Vakko is a longstanding Turkish brand and was established in the early 1900s in Istanbul. First specializing in hats, they branched out to scarves and ties and today, they have many branches in Istanbul and other cities throughout Turkey as well as in some countries abroad. There spectrum of goods range from anything and everything for men and women - from apparel, shoes, bags, home textiles etc. to their own brand of chocolates (which are absolutely delicious!). There store at the Grand Bazaar makes sense because the products sold are 100% Turkish and are their own designs! I own several Vakko scarves and I love wearing scarves!  

I also stopped by two other stores on my first visit. The first was my long time jeweler  Orient Jewellery, also on Kalpakçılar Street at No. 126. I met Burhan Alkaç, the owner of this shop about 20 years ago!

Burhan Alkaç (Orient Jewellery)
I was still living in New York City then and during one of our trips to the Grand Bazaar, my sister and I met him and throughout the years, purchased many pieces of jewelry from his shop.

Orient Jewellery

Orient Jewellery
Mr. Alkaç is a very reputable jeweler and he's also very reliable. He only works with 18 karat gold for his gold designs and most of the designs most of the jewelry himself. He's a good acquaintance to have at the Bazaar!

The last shop I visited at the Grand Bazaar was Abdulla Natural Products ( located on Halıcılar Caddesi No. 58/60. As its name suggests, all of their textiles (blankets, towels, etc.), soaps, etc are produced with natural materials.

Abdulla Natural Products
I was specifically looking to buy a new blanket for my bed, but unfortunately couldn't find the size I needed, but the shop has topnotch home textiles, soaps and other accessories at affordable prices

Abdulla's "sister" store is Fes Cafe which is right next door... And, I did stop by Fes Cafe both times, but their other branch on Ali Bey Türbesi Street No. 25/27 which is a block off of Nuruosmaniye Street...
Fes Cafe
The first time, I just had a cup of espresso on the patio... but the second time when I went with my sister, we sat inside and each had a falafel wrap with a side of greens which was absolutely delicious and only 15 TL!
Fes Cafe
The emphasis is on the cafe at this branch, however, there is a small section with a selection of Abdulla Natural Products merchandise too. Also, this branch has a more extensive menu compared to their branch at the Grand Bazaar.

To reach Fes Cafe, hang a right on the corner where Sofa Arts & Antiques ( is when coming from the Grand Bazaar side, or left if coming from the other side...

Sofa Arts & Antiques
Sofa is a great shop if you are looking for unique items.. let it be callligraphy, antique rugs, all sorts of objects, maps, ceramics and more. Kaşif Bey the owner is very knowledgeable and even if you don't purchase anything, you will enjoy having a conversation with him! When I was chatting with him, I found out that he opened a branch in Galata on Serdar-i Ekrem Street No. 47, so you can swing by there too.

If you want to enjoy a "typical" Turkish homestyle meal, one of the best places in the area is Aslan Lokantası...

 Aslan Restaurant is on Vezirhan Street at No. 70. Again, very easy to reach because this street runs parallel to Nuruosmaniye Street ... so if heading towards the Grand Bazaar, hang a left before entering the first entrance to the Grand Bazaar at the end of Nuruosmaniye Street, or a right after you exit the Grand Bazaar and walk through the Nuruosmaniye Mosque.

The restaurant has been around since 1988, it is open Monday-Saturday from 11:30am to 3:00pm, alcohol is not served, but major credit cards (except American Express) are accepted.

The last place I visited on my "mini" Grand Bazaar tour on my second visit was Nick's Calligraphy Corner (

Nick's Calligraphy Corner
My sister I went to an area called "Iç Bedesten" lined with shops specializing in antique jewelry, etc. and this teeny tiny shop is a gem and so is its owner! He is a highly talented craftsmen and designs gold leaves with all sorts of religious (all religions) and non-religious figures... I had a chance to meet him a couple of years ago when I stopped by to interview him for an article we were preparing.

Nick's Calligraphy Corner
 I highly recommend that you visit his website for all the details. His work is so beautiful that I cannot do it justice here in a few short words... you have to see it for yourself!

The Grand Bazaar and its surroundings are truly an amazing and mystical place! There's a lot of "old", with a mix of some "new"! In fact, you can say it's the first shopping mall in the world. It has around 5,000 shops spread out on 60 streets and alleys offering anything and everything from souvenirs, leather, copper, gold, jewelry, textiles, antiques, carpets and so much more! It was built between 1455-1461 and commissioned by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror. It was further enlarged in the 16th century by Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent and renovated in 1894 after an earthquake. It is an experience that you will find like in no other place!
Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar is open Monday-Saturday from 9:00am to 7:00pm and is closed on bank holidays. For more information, visit their official website:

If you want to take a trip down "historical" lane, use your imagination as you walk around this wonderful site created by the Sultans and Ottomans!



  1. Hello! Very nice blog. I was looking for some personal experiences of the Grand Bazaar in English and came across your site. I've linked from my website to this article (at the bottom of the page) and have shared your blog with 15 American writers who will be coming to write Istanbul this May. I hope that is okay. Thank you.

  2. Hi Yeşim... thank you very much for your note and support... unfortunately due to some personal problems I haven't been able to post in my blog for the last couple of months... my mom passed away on March 8th and life has been very hectic and sad but I will once again be online soon. Tell the american writers to feel free contacting me if they need any assistance!