Magazine topic: 
Life around the world
Total votes: 90

Turkish Delight: how to Haggle in Istanbul's Grand Bazaar

by : 
James Penn

Entering Istanbul’s truly ancient ‘Grand Bazaar’ is like wandering into Aladdin’s cave. For almost five hundred years, this is where the commerce of this big, bustling city has taken place. One immediately notices all sorts of Turkish delights: mountains of spices envelope the air in a unique smell, traders barter furiously and try to make tourists understand that their family will starve unless they buy their overpriced wares.

The shopping experience could not be further away from the soul destroying, boredom-inducing nightmare that is a Saturday ‘down the shops’ in the UK.  The ‘Grand Bazaar’ is the largest covered market in Turkey, with a total of 3000 shops covering 61 twisting and turning streets.

It’s a wonderland and Alice would certainly be comfortable in this rabbit warren of shops and stalls. As I well know, shoppers have to hide in the back streets in order not to break the promises that they ‘would definitely come back and buy this beautiful item’.

So what to buy in the Grand Bazaar? Well, my advice would be to stay clear of the beautifully advertised ‘100% Genuine Fake Watches’ and instead plump for carpets. The Turkish see carpets as the French see wine. As pieces of art. The  workmanship that goes into each individual carpet is breathtaking and therefore they can be very expensive.  So how to 'haggle' these prices down? I present to you my guide to haggling:

1. Go in with prior knowledge: for example the No1 carpet makers in the world are the Uzbekistanis (I know, I would have never guessed either!) closely followed by the Afghans.  So always ask the heritage of each carpet.

2.   Traders are extremely friendly; they’ll always offer you some delicious apple tea. Take it. It’s great just chatting to them, they’ll invariably tell you their whole life story and how they all became the best carpet seller in the whole of Turkey.  Most of them will be able to recite every single player of your chosen local football team as well; it’s as if it is on the exam they have to pass in order to be able to rent a stall in the Grand Bazaar.

3. They’ll quote you an asking price. Explain to them that you’re a poor student and couldn’t possibly pay such an outrageous asking price. They enjoy haggling as much as you do!

4.  Half the asking price and then add ‘some’. If you stick at 50% of the asking price then you will insult them, adding this little bit extra means the apple tea will keep flowing.

5.    Be realistic. They do this for a job and you can’t expect to out haggle an expert.

6.   By going to and from stalls then you can play one off against another, competition is never so fierce than that between two traders that are trying to sell an overpriced carpet to an innocent girl on her ‘gap year' that wants some ‘authentic Turkey’ to bring back and pin on her wall when she’s goes back to University.

7.  If they offer you Turkish delight then take it.  This is proper Turkish delight, not the overly sweet version of ‘Turkish delight’ we have here in the UK. Pistachio nuts and icing sugar are the key ingredients.

So whether you buy a chess set, complete with miniature Sultans and their imperious armies, some fake Calvin Klein tops then Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is a true Turkish delight.

Language level: 

Have you ever been to a market similar to this? Where was it? What did you buy and did you have to haggle?


hadia's picture
hadia 6 February, 2016 - 17:26

We have bazaars like this in our country too but that's really the biggest I've ever heard about :)
As James Penn says,
" The ‘Grand Bazaar’ is the largest covered market in Turkey, with a total of 3000 shops covering 61 twisting and turning streets."
Wow! Really Alice should wander around here! :))) IWhen I was doing my matriculation i read about ''Istanbul'' as it was a chapter about the city in our Urdu book (Urdu is our national language) Well! That's really an amazing place to visit! I wanna visit it too :)))
By the way, article was really interesting to read , thanks a lot :)

15 users have voted.
aygul's picture
aygul 31 October, 2015 - 13:37

I live in İstanbul and I have been grand bazaar.I bought some food and lokum. I love lokum. Its delicuos

19 users have voted.
Bosnianchild's picture
Bosnianchild 13 September, 2013 - 14:30

No, I haven't been except Bosnian bazaar's. Every town has it. There are lots of things ; clothes, food, etc.

22 users have voted.
Natalija's picture
Natalija 19 March, 2013 - 15:37

I lived in Istanbul for three years, so I had the opportunity to buy at Istanbul's Grand Bazaar. First time I came there, I was surprised with the crowd. I think there were thousands people and I was just looking for my parents, in order to not get lost. We bought a carpet. There was a plenty of carpets, in every color and it was hard to choose only one. But i chose the red one.
Mother and I bought some dresses and father bought a leather jacket. We tried lokum, and it's very delicious, but a little hard for my taste.
Although crowded, this market is really beautiful, with so many nice things to buy and people to see. People were very warm and hospitable, but I had to haggle, of course. If you don't haggle, they will sell you things in higher price, twice or more higher.
My father is an expert for haggle, I must say, so next to him, we were safe;).

22 users have voted.
ipek c's picture
ipek c 9 March, 2013 - 10:59

We have got amazing desserts. In example Turkish Delight. In Turkey, We say "lokum" and we have got "Gaziantep Baklava".

22 users have voted.
dona cenja's picture
dona cenja 8 March, 2013 - 09:57

I agree with you lekjana...Bazzar of Kruja is a beautiful place with many things..

17 users have voted.
dona cenja's picture
dona cenja 8 March, 2013 - 09:57

I agree with you lekjana...Bazzar of Kruja is a beautiful place with many things..

16 users have voted.
Demy's picture
Demy 14 January, 2013 - 10:24

Yes.I was in Turkey and in ‘Grand Bazaar’
It is very intresting and useful place.
I love it))

19 users have voted.
Etibar98's picture
Etibar98 3 December, 2012 - 16:12

yeah.of course... It was at Baku..... I bought very interesting and ancient necklace and surely it was very expensive... but I had to haggle...

16 users have voted.