Spice Bazaar

In Istanbul’s historical peninsula, Fatih, Spice Bazaar is one of the most popular attractions for tourists. It is located in Eminönü, and it will cherish your eyes – and your nose. The name is self-explanatory, yet it has so many more to offer you besides spices and has the feature of being one of the first bazaars in Istanbul.

There are 90 stores inside the Spice Bazaar. You can see, observe and shop confectionery, traditional outfits, medicinal plants, you can buy Turkish delight for your loved ones, different kinds of nuts, and coffees. It also has historical importance by being built in 1660 by Turhan Sultan.

Spice Bazaar, which has survived 2 big fires, was originally a place for cotton and quiltmakers but by the time they were replaced by jewelry stores and herbalists. In this article, you will find a comprehensive explanation of Spice Bazaar and its relevant structures and constructs, and hopefully an answer to all of your questions.

View of the interior of the spice bazaar

Visiting the Spice Bazaar

Whether you need something or not from Spice Bazaar, you must go there and see all the cultural and food-related beauties. It will enchant you for sure. And why not try out some new spices or coffees when you are already there? Anyway, you will not be able to resist them most probably.

You can go there with your friends, your lover or your family. Yet going alone is recommended (by me) since there are a lot of distractors that can divide you, they might not want to stay at a store that you want to visit.

Additionally, going with children is also not recommended since there are lots of candy shops and toys, they would want to buy them all 🙂

How do you get to the Spice Bazaar?

Spice Bazaar is in Eminönü Square, right next to it. As you go across from the Eminönü steamboat pier, you will be able to see the Spice Bazaar. It is also behind the New Mosque.

Going to Spice Bazaar from Sultanahmet

From Sultanahmet, you can take the tram and stop at the Eminönü station and you can arrive at the Spice Bazaar with a short walk within a few minutes.

Going to Spice Bazaar from Taksim

If you want to go to Spice Bazaar from Taksim, you can use the funicular line to go Kabataş, and then take the tram from there to Eminönü to go to Spice Bazaar.

Going to Spice Bazaar from Kadıköy

From Kadıköy, you may use the Eminönü steamboat, and then there is just left to go across the street to arrive at Spice Bazaar.

Going to Spice Bazaar from Beşiktaş

You can take the bus 28 or 28T from Beşiktaş to go to Eminönü, you can walk to Kabataş which will take 20 minutes, and then take the tram, or you can use the Eminönü steamboat to go there.

Going in a car is possible, but you may have trouble finding a parking spot. So, if you do not want to use public transportation, taking a taxi is recommended.

Visiting hours of the Spice Bazaar

Spice Bazaar is open to visitors from 08:00 AM to 07:30 PM on weekdays. On Saturdays, the bazaar is open between 08:00 AM to 08:00 PM, and on Sundays, you can visit the Spice Bazaar between 09:30 AM and 07:00 PM.

As an exception, Spice Bazaar is available for visits between 09:30 AM and 07:00 PM on January first.

Spice Bazaar is closed on Eid al-Fitr (Ramadan Holiday) and Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice), in addition to 29 October Republic Day. On the other holidays and special days, it is open to visitors.

Entrance fee of the Spice Bazaar

There is no entrance fee for visiting the Spice Bazaar, you can go there for free.

When to visit the Spice Bazaar?

People generally visit the Spice Bazaar on Saturdays, around 4 PM which makes that period the most crowded for Spice Bazaar. When looked at in general, the most popular time to visit Spice Bazaar is around 4 PM every day. 

If you do not like crowded areas, you may prefer to go in an early hour, especially on weekdays. Statistics show that on Wednesdays the Spice Bazaar is the least crowded.

How long to spend in Spice Bazaar?

Statistics illustrate that people spend around 15 minutes and 1 hour in the Spice Bazaar. Of course, this time changes according to what you plan to do at Spice Bazaar. You may spend more time when trying to decide which product or goods to get.

Keep in mind to compare and contrast the different prices for the same or similar products, look at various shops before buying something, which can extend your time of visit.

What is the Spice Bazaar famous for?

Spice Bazaar is mostly famous for its herbalists which you can find rare plants. You can shop for various medicinal and other herbs, with limitless possibilities. Other than that, there are lots of essential oils, foods including dried fruits and nuts, ceramic shops that you can shop gifts for your relatives, textile shops. Besides all of those, there are also various jewelry and souvenir shops.

Spice bazaar gets its name from spice shops
Spice Bazaar gets its name from spice shops

History of the Spice Bazaar

The Spice Bazaar was built to serve as an economic income source for the New Mosque, which makes it a part of the New Mosque. Various architects worked on the project of the New Mosque.

The first designs of the bazaar were made by Davut Ağa. But unfortunately, he died a year after making his first designs. Later, authorities assigned Ahmet Ağa to get into his place, he continued his work until III. Mehmed, sultan of that time, dies. After this occurrence, the designs continued 63 years later, by architect Mustafa Ağa.

Spice Bazaar’s other name is Egyptian Bazaar, and the reason for that is that among the various countries that send goods to this bazaar, Egypt always sent the most goods. 

Due to Istanbul’s strategic position, Spice Bazaar was one of the most popular bazaars to bring goods from the east and send them to Europe. Back then, the sea was an important way for trading and Eminönü’s location is perfect for this purpose. This explains why this bazaar and Kapalıçarşı is in Eminönü. Over time, Spice Bazaar served various matters, for instance, it was used as a madrasa at some point.

View of the New Mosque from Halic
View of the New Mosque from Halic

Formerly, Spice Bazaar was referred to as “New Bazaar”, or “Valide Bazaar”. The reason why they called it Valide Bazaar is because of Hatice Turhan Sultan and Safiye Sultan. Safiye Sultan was the one who started the construction of the New Mosque and Hatice Turhan Sultan was the one who decided that the construction of the New Mosque (and hence, Spice Bazaar) needs to be continued. 

Hatice Turhan Sultan intended to build a new complex in the city, but she could not find any appropriate place for it. After a long search, she decided the best place was where Safiye Sultan’s unfinished mosque and bazaar plans. By her command, they continued the constructions.

Even though it is known that Spice Bazaar was built in 1664, the history of it lies even back. In the beginning, there was another bazaar in that area, which was serving the Jews, named “Makron Envelos”. The majority of the trade business was being done at Makron Envelos.

As the Ottoman Empire conquered the area, a new mosque was built near there and Spice Bazaar was made specially to serve as an income source. After that incident, the majority of the Jews has migrated to Balat.

There are 2 main fires that occurred in the Spice Bazaar. The first one happened on March 8, 1668. This one was not that big and did not give great harm to the bazaar. It mostly affected the shops outside of the bazaar. But in the second fire that happened on a January night of 1961, it was almost completely burned down. This frightening fire lasted 2 days and caused big economical damage.

Also, it was exposed to various fires due to having wooden properties in the 18th century. Each of them damaged the economy in some way.

After those fires, İstanbul municipality restored the bazaar, some say that those restorations killed the soul of the bazaar yet there were no other choices.

Who is Hatice Turhan Sultan?

It would not be fair as I discussed many things about Spice Bazaar and past Hatice Turhan Sultan since she is an important figure in the history and construction of Spice Bazaar. She was one of the most powerful sultans in the Ottoman Empire.

She is from Ukraine, and she is among several women who could advise other executives in the empire. She was captured by the Tatars when she was just a child, and later was saved by Blind Suleiman Pasha and then sold to Kösem Sultan. When things were hard for the Ottoman Empire, Hatice Turhan Sultan took over the administration and ran it on her own for a while successfully.

She is known for writing letters that are full of courage to the sultans, to warn them and give pieces of advice. The letters that she wrote to Gürcü Mehmed Pasha and Grand Vizer İpşir Mustafa Pasha are the most popular ones.

She is also known to do lots of charity works. She opened new coffee shops, farms, and other shops. She also allocated a budget for those who do not have economic power or are economically disadvantaged, especially to cherish them during Ramadan.

Who is Safiye Sultan?

Another important figure that has a crucial role in the construction of the New Mosque and the Spice Bazaar, Safiye Sultan is the wife of Murad III and the mother of Mehmed III. Although there is no specific evidence of where she from is, she thought it to be originated in Albania. She was kidnapped and given to Murad III when she was 13. She is another woman in the Ottoman Empire that had power in domestic and foreign affairs, especially after her husband Murad III died.

She was the one who started the design and the construction of the New Mosque and the Spice Bazaar. Besides New Mosque and Spice Bazaar, she had contributed to other various mosques and fountains, and other buildings all around the city.

The architecture of the Spice Bazaar

Spice Bazaar is designed like the letter “L” with a closed top. It has 6 doors: 2 of them being big and 4 of them being little. All doors have a name. As an architectural style, Spice Bazaar is a typical example of Ottoman architecture which is mainly characterized by minimalism, elegance, and usefulness. It has the feature of being a double bazaar, which means it consists of two bazaars. 

Entrance of the Spice Bazaar at Eminönü Square
Entrance of the Spice Bazaar at Eminönü Square

It is built with bricks and stones. At the beginning and the end of the bazaar, there are porticos that have floors above them. To get to those floors, you need to use the stairs. Back then, those second floors were used as a court to solve the problems between merchants and customers.

What to buy at Spice Bazaar?

You can find a wide range of products in Spice Bazaar, from secondhand shopping to gifts. These are some of the most common things to buy at Spice Bazaar:

  • Spices, of course
  • Herbal teas
  • Beautiful colored glass chandeliers
  • Pieces of jewelry – gold, silver, steel, and stone
  • Cups
  • Glasses
  • Turkish coffee and special cups for Turkis coffee
  • All the things relevant to hookah
  • Pillows with different shapes and designs
  • Turkish delight
  • Candies
  • Deserts
  • Textile products
  • Ceramic
  • Diamond
  • Dried fruits
  • Nuts
  • Delicatessen
A shop in Spice Bazaar
A shop in Spice Bazaar

If you want to buy coffee, Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi is the most popular coffee shop that you can buy various kinds of coffee. Do not forget to visit there, even if you are not buying anything. On the other hand, it is not inside the bazaar but next to it.

How much money should you bring with you?

It depends on what you are planning to buy of course, but make sure that you have more than you think you need – do not forget to bargain! In fact, learning tricks about bargaining is recommended before visiting bazaars in any place.

Places to visit around Spice Bazaar

In Eminönü, there are lots of places to visit. These are some of the places that are close to Spice Bazaar that I recommend you visit as you come this far to Spice Bazaar:

  • Flower Market: Very closely located to Spice Bazaar, you can find various products regarding agriculture and farming. Some people refer to this market as a small oasis. You can buy various plants and plant seeds, and even pets.
  • New Mosque: It is known to have one of the longest construction periods, which is 66 years, and also known as Sultana Mosque.
  • Balkapanı Inn: This inn is around 500 years old and it is built by the command of Fatih Sultan Mehmet. It is famous for the Byzantine cellar underneath. There are hearsays that there is a hidden passage from this cellar to Hagia Sophia.
  • Eminönü Square: Of course, when you are in Eminönü, you visit Eminönü Square. You can find a lot of products including household appliances, clothing, gifts, books and so on. Additionally, the view is amazing, and you must go to dine in a fish restaurant by the sea.
  • Turkey İş Bank Museum: This museum exhibits pieces regarding banking, and was used as a post office in the 1890s.

Safety

As in many places with this kind of structure, people are often afraid of theft incidents and snatching events. Public order is well prepared in the Spice Bazaar, and even if you find yourself as a victim of theft the cops and the security guards will help you immediately. There are security cameras all around the bazaar to keep it safe.

Spice Bazaar can be quite crowded during noon
Spice Bazaar can be quite crowded during noon

Further information and tips

You must experience feeding the birds around the New Mosque, do not forget to do this as you walk out from the Spice Bazaar. Also, if you have the opportunity, go with someone who knows the Space Bazaar well because it has kind of a complex structure and the chances of you getting lost are pretty high. 

The tradesmen there might be very insistent for you to buy things, do not get tricked and determine the things you will buy beforehand to not spend any unnecessary money on things you do not need. As I mentioned earlier, ask every single shop before buying anything to not pay more than it needs.

To not pay more to a product than it’s worth, be careful about the pricing in the bazaar. Going with someone who knows the market might be helpful if you do not have this opportunity. It is recommended to make a quick search about the prices before you go to Spice Bazaar.

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

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