The Hidden Hideaways of the Istanbul Grand Bazaar

By

9th Jul, 2013


N
obody visits Istanbul without going to the Grand Bazaar right? But if like Nessy, your aim is to stay off the beaten path, finding the hidden secrets of such an almighty tourist hub might seem like a challenge. That isn’t to say they don’t exist…

Inside the Grand Bazaar, what you need is a magic word, and that word is han, the Turkish name for a medieval traveler’s inn. Some date as far back as the 15th century, known more commonly in Persian as a caravansai, combining kārvān (caravan) with sara (palace). Hidden hans can be discovered throughout the bazaar, marked by small signs, but sometimes not, above inconspicuous narrow doorways. Located mostly near the outer walls on your marketplace map, peep through these mysterious passageways and head down the rabbit hole to find the real treasures of the Grand Bazaar.

Leave the bustling thoroughfares and tourist tat behind you.

And retreat into another world…

A typical hans is an open-air courtyard inside the walls of an enclosure with a single portal wide enough to have once allowed the passage of travelling merchants with their camels.

Here, in the arched chambers and niches, merchants and their animals could rest, have access to food and water (some had elaborate baths), and set up temporary stalls to sell or exchange their goods with other tradesmen in the bazaar.

Today, the hans no longer serve as hotels as such, but more as quiet back-offices to the overwhelming bazaar.

Wander up stairways and into corners to find secret places to eat and shop in peace.

The shopkeepers of the bazaar aren’t likely to give you directions to their mealtime havens, but in the hans, a table for two and fresh homemade local delicacies await.

Looking out over a leafy courtyard…

Or a place to escape from the heavy heat and hagglers of the bazaar with a cold drink in the shade.

Some hans are less well-maintained than others and might look less inviting…

But oftentimes these are the most authentic, with all their original brickwork and character.

This is Tolga and his atelier hidden away on the upper floor of an old merchant’s inn. He makes traditional Turkish ‘caftans’ and said I could take his picture if I agreed to show him Paris!

In another corner of the han, this very sweet little man offered me a hat from inside his tiny trading niche. I was probably the only customer he’d seen that day.

Some hans cater more to the local shopkeepers than others …

A man gets a clean shave during his lunchbreak in a very compact little barber shop.

In one corridor of a han, I found that a man had even set up a living space within the walls of the Grand Bazaar…

Spot the Grand Bazaar cave dweller.

Don’t be afraid to venture into corners of the courtyards and climb a capricious stairway or two …

It might just lead you to a penthouse view over the rooftops of one of the largest markets in the world.

Ideal for some roof hopping …

The view isn’t bad!

… and all that through narrow little doorways hidden in the colourful chaos of the Grand Bazaar!

But even when you leave the calm of the hidden hans, there are still treasures to be found of course. Just look up.

If only those walls could talk…

:::

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:

.

You Might Also Like

Comments

More in AbandonedDon't Be A TouristNostalgiaOff-Beat & Little Known

Hot Off the Press

Editor's Picks

salemwitchmuseum

Welcome to Halloweentown, USA

“I think I saw the Head Witch of Salem in Trader Joe’s today,” I remember my mother saying. “She was wearing a pointy hat and cape in front of me at the checkout.” Welcome to Salem, Mas...

Trending 1,264
parisianbohemian

The Secret Bohemian Dinner Party in Paris

Behind the ominous door at number 8 Rue de Conservatoire, a secret bohemian dinner party awaits... Up the theatrical marble staircase, knock at the door on the first floor to find your eveni...

Trending 7,026
delaney

The Miniature Library of Forgotten Curiosities

If you can't have your own velvet-curtained library complete with dusty volumes, mysterious documents and antique treasures, how about a miniature one? On my internet travels today, I stumbled upo...

Trending 3,536
catacombs25

Penetrating the Paris Catacombs: Level One

We were told to dress in inconspicuous clothing, wear sturdy boots and gloves, bring food supplies, an ID in case of arrest and a rosary in case of the unimaginable. We met our host to the underworl...

Trending 14,339
dopples

13 Things I Found on the Internet Today (Vol.XCVII)

1. A Biblical Theme Park in Florida Photographer Daniel Cronin to the ancient and sacred land of Orlando, Florida to visit The Holy Land Experience, a Biblical theme park owned and operated by the...

Trending 21,197
connecticut

For Sale! The Ghost Town that Nobody Wanted

Johnsonville, Connecticut may be completely void of (human) inhabitants at present and characterised by those particular houses where one might occasionally see the faint shadows of children in ni...

Trending 162,644