The Spice Market and the Grand Bazaar: Crowded and All the Same?

Spices! The smell was a mixture of heaven and headache-inducing
Spices! The smell was a mixture of heaven and headache-inducing

Two of the major “must-see” sights in Istanbul are the Spice Market and the Grand Bazaar. But if I’m honest, I don’t see the appeal. Both places were suffocatingly crowded and though my research had indicated that they were different, they seemed to have all the same stuff, just a ton more at the Grand Bazaar. I did love the piles of lovely spices, and the amazing smells, but from stall to stall it all seemed the same.

Turkish Delight, Spice Bazaar, Istanbul
So lovely! But then the stalls were the same over and over and over
Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
We did pause for coffee in the Grand Bazaar, it was a moment of peace
Bazaar entrance, Istanbul
But it was so crowded! At times you had to push through the crowd like a linebacker. No fun.

Have you been to either? Could you tell a difference? It seemed sort of like the leather stalls in Florence; whether you’re at the San Lorenzo market or the Mercato Nuovo, everything seems like the same products repeated over and over ad infinitum.

Book Bazaar, Istanbul
Shady trees, few people, and books for the win!

Unsurprisingly, my favorite part of the Grand Bazaar was the nearly empty book alley behind the main complex. Some of the sellers had old/rare books, with stunning examples of calligraphy, some were clearly catering to students of Istanbul University, and some just had books. I forget if I mentioned this before, but I’ve started buying a copy of “Le Petit Prince” in the native language of each country I visit, so I was happy to add to my collection with a copy from one of these stalls. It’s called “Küçük Prens” in Turkish. Otherwise the Spice Market and Grand Bazaar gave me headaches and triggered a bit of claustrophobia. I’ll probably skip them both on future visits to Istanbul.

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9 thoughts on “The Spice Market and the Grand Bazaar: Crowded and All the Same?

    1. I did, but I do know a few women who traveled there by themselves who did not. I was with my male partner, so that probably affected things. I don’t like to make big generalizations about the friendliness of an entire nation of people, but we met the standard mix you would find in any big city, some friendly, some not. The man who ran our pension was extremely kind and generous and most of the people we met in the service industry were similarly kind and generous.

  1. I find the Spice Market disappointing, it’s mostly all the same tacky tourist things that you can also find in the Grand Bazaar. I do like the street of food stalls just outside the Spice Market though, lots of variety and interesting Turkish delicacies.

    The Grand Bazaar also has vast numbers of stalls selling identical souvenir items, but at least you can also find antiques, books, fabric, gold and jewellery etc.

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