The Grand Bazaar (Kapalıçarşı) in Istanbul is one of the largest covered markets in the world with 60 streets and 5,000 shops, and attracts between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. It is well known for its jewellery, hand-painted ceramics, carpets, embroideries, spices and antique shops. Many of the stalls in the bazaar are grouped by type of goods, with special areas for leather, gold jewellery and the like. The bazaar has been an important trading centre since 1461 and its labyrinthine vaults feature two bedestens (domed buildings), the first of which was constructed between 1455 and 1461 by the order of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The bazaar was vastly enlarged in the 16th century, during the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, and in 1894 underwent a major restoration following an earthquake.
The complex houses two mosques, four fountains, two hamams, and several cafés and restaurants. In the centre is the high domed hall of the Cevahir Bedesten, where the most valuable items and antiques were to be found in the past, and still are today, including furniture, copperware, amber prayer beads, inlaid weapons, icons, moth
er-of-pearl mirrors, water pipes, watches and clocks, candlesticks, old coins, and silver and gold jewellery set with coral and turquoise. A leisurely afternoon spent exploring the bazaar, sitting in one of the cafés and watching the crowds pass by, and bargaining for purchases is one of the best ways to recapture the romantic atmosphere of old Istanbul.