THE COVERED BAZAAR (KAPALIÇARŞI)
The world famous Covered Bazaar (Kapalıçarsı) is, owing to its architecture, history, location, and sheer variety of merchandise, one of İstanbul's most significant tourist sites. The Bazaar has eight different entrances, each of them facing one of the city's most important historic monuments. These include Nuruosmaniye Mosque, Çemberlitaş, the Beyazit Complex, Istanbul University and the Second Hand Book Bazaar. Built at the command of Sultan Mehmed the, Conqueror in 1461, the Bazaar initially consisted of just two warehouses (bedesten). In time, merchants began to set up their own stalls and workshops in the surrounding area. Dignitaries furthered the expansion with the addition of numerous caravanserais, so that soon the place had become a focus for trading goods from all over the empire. In the 16th and 17th centuries, however, the Bazaar suffered repeated damage from the fires that ravaged that part of the city, and in 1894 was destroyed altogether by an earthquake. After being rebuilt in 1898, the Bazaar underwent further renovation following the fires of 1943 and 1954.
In terms of structure, the visitor is confronted by what may at first seem a bewildering a maze of 61 streets. On closer inspection, however, it becomes apparent that there is, in fact, a reasonable semblance of order. The streets themselves are arranged on a grid-like system, and traditionally shopkeepers have tended to group themselves according to the type of goods they sell, whether it be jewelers, antiques, carpets, copper, or leather goods. Clues as to which area you might be in are often given by the names of streets, even if in some cases - the Street of the Turban Makers, for instance -the trades recalled are now mere vestiges of a colorful past.
The Bazaar also functions as an unofficial financial center, with a particular emphasis on gold and foreign exchange trading. Most shopkeepers will exchange different currencies. The Bazaar is open daily, except Sundays and public holidays, between 07:00 and 19:00.