The Grand Bazaar ( Kapalıçarşı in Turkish, meaning Covered Bazaar) is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with more than 58 covered streets and over 1200 shops which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily.
It looks like a labyrinth at first sight but it's actually not that complicated. All you have to do is to keep your eyes on the main street. The Bazaar was first constructed in 1464 with the order of Mehmed II 'the Conqueror' and had many restorations over the years due to the extensive fires and destructive earthquakes. There are tens of cafés, a police station, little mosques, in the bazaar tourists information points.
Kapalıçarşı, which burned in years of 1546, 1618, 1652, 1660, 1695, 1701, 1750 has always been repaired after each disaster. After all this, it had undergone great damage in the earthquake of 1766. It is partially burned in fires of 1791 and 1826. The bazaar which had just regain is composure was again shaken by an earthquake in 1894 this time. It catches fire again in 1954 at the latest and could only be repaired in five years. The major sections of Kapalıçarşı are:
Inner Bedesten : It was the first building to rise in Kapalıçarşı, actually it is Old Bedesten which forms the backbone of the bazaar.
Sandal Bedesten : It is the one with most number of domes in Kapalıçarşı. At present it can be accessed through two gates, one is through Kapalıçarşı and the other is through Nuruosmaniye district.
Other Sections : The architectural design of roads making up other sections apart from two bedestens is not symmetrical and geometrical, it has a scattered nature due to reflect its formation and the catastrophes it has gone through. In this way, it stays away from the closed bazaar style of the West and has a character of an Eastern bazaar. This laid back settlement; this scattered nature prevents the bazaar from being dull and at the same time gives it a romantic flavor. Such a complicated structure and settlement not only maintains the monumental state of the bazaar, but also makes it a palace for shopping.
Hans : Four adjacent sides of Kapalıçarşı is surrounded by hans which are separate units by themselves. Today the hans which are directly connected to the bazaar, that is, which can be accessed through the bazaar and not through an outside entrance are : Astarcı Han, Büyük and Küçük Safran Hans, Evliya Han, Sarraf Han, Mercan Ağa Han, Zincirli Han, Varakçı Han, Rabia Han, Jewellers’ Hani Yarım Taş Han.