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Hidden Corners Behind the Grand Bazaar

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Istanbul is the kind of place which favors bold exploration, as we learned after a day spent in the maze of streets around the Grand Bazaar. The city is filled with quiet, secret spots… if you can muster up the courage to go down that darkened hall, into that empty courtyard, or up those crumbling stairs.

Secret Hans Istanbul

Of course, I’m not recommending that anyone skip off willy-nilly into Istanbul’s abandoned buildings. We ventured into a couple places that I would never go into were I by myself, or were it after dark. But a cautious exploration of the old hans around the Grand Bazaar can be very rewarding.

Our day began in the Subuncu Han, near Eminönü Plaza. This han itself doesn’t have much to recommend it, just a bunch of jewelry stores surrounding a tiny courtyard, but there was a great locals-only spot for lunch on the second floor. Instead of sitting down in one of Eminönü’s döner shops for an overpriced lunch geared toward tourists, we munched on excellent and very cheap lahmaçun (Turkish pizza) with a few guys who work in the han.

We progressed steadily from Eminönü towards the Grand Bazaar, every once in awhile escaping the crowds to duck into another han. We found gold and silver-smiths at work in the Leblebici Han, and watched a couple men train flocks of trick pigeons in the Büyuk Yeni Han. And in the gray, French-influenced Stamboul Yeni Tcharchi Han, we were the only people at all. A young guy witnessed our hesitation about venturing down an long, dark tunnel-like hallway in the Sair Han, and encouraged us to proceed without fear. At the end, we found a nargile workshop. The most well-hidden nargile workshop in the world!

Inside a couple hans, we were able to get onto the roofs for amazing views of the city. The first was at the northwest corner of the Sair Han; before going inside, you can scale a flight of stairs directly to the roof. But the better view was at the massive Büyük Valide Han. Here, we were approached by a key-wielding man who knew exactly what we wanted. “Go on roof, yes?” A small five lira tip later, we were up on top, looking over the city and the Golden Horn.

It was an incredible day out. If you’re interested in doing something similar, check out a great book called Istanbul’s Bazaar Quarter, by Edda Renker Weissenbacher and Ann Marie Mershon: a comprehensive guide to the Grand Bazaar and the streets which surround it, with four self-guided walking tours.

Locations on our Map: Subuncu Han | Sair Han | Büyük Valide Han

Self-guided Han Tours In Istanbul

Han Tour Istanbul
Han Bird
Han stairs
Han Mosque
Han Sail
Han Arches
Han Bride
Hans Of Istanbul
Inside Han
Grumpy Han Kid
Street Photography Istanbul
Han Curve
Han Door
Han Wood
Han Tower Istanbul
Istanbul Travel Blog
Apartment With A View Istanbul
Büyük Valide Han
Büyük Valide Han
Hans Istanbul
Spooky Istanbul
Büyük Valide Han
Büyük Valide Han
Büyük Valide Han
Falling Light Into Darkness
Büyük Valide Han
Relaxing In Istanbul
Süleymaniye Camii
Istanbul Seagulls
Büyük Valide Han Secret Tour
Istanbul Han Walking Tour
Tourists In Istanbul
Gay In Istanbul
Istanbul Travel Blog
Phone Service In Istanbul
Window Design Istanbul
Chair Istanbul
Hole In The Ground Istanbul
Büyük Valide Han Mosque
Büyük Valide Han Street
Breed Pigeons Istanbul
Büyük Valide Han Street
Go Shopping Han Istanbul
Shopping Blog Istanbul
Looking Out Istanbul
Simit Seller Istanbul
Crowded Istanbul
Han Crowded Istanbul
Knitting Han Istanbul
I Heart Istanbul
Hans Istanbul
Chair In The Sunn
Glass Roof Han Istanbul
Tiles Han Istanbul
Weird Han Istanbul
Being All Jazzy In Istanbul
Empty Streets Istanbul
Walking In Istanbul
Big Han Istanbul
Bucket In Istanbul
Gül Han
Shedding Light Istanbul
Pigeons Istanbul
Feeding Pigeons Istanbul
Yellow Han Istanbul
Spiral Stairs Istanbul
Big Bears Man Istanbul
Parked Istanbul
Shadwo Walker
Dirty Hands Istanbul
Making Baseball Hats in Istanbul
Washing Hands
Tunnel Life Istanbul
Spndel Istanbul
Packing Nargiles Istanbul
Nargile Fabric
Critical Look In The Mirror
Büyük Valide Han
Büyük Valide Han Perfect Light
Hat Factory Istanbul
Corte Turkey
Old Machine Istanbul
Carpet Maker
Fixing Carpets Istanbul
Working The Machines Istanbul
Nargile Scrubbing
Sawing In Istanbul
Metal Dervish Dancers
Nargile Spinner
Welding Nargile
Old Boom Box Istanbul
Getting A Chari
Worker In Istanbul
Nargile Han Shop
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June 21, 2013 at 2:22 pm Comments (7)

The Hans of the Grand Bazaar

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The Grand Bazaar is really a city unto itself. The main thoroughfares are where you’ll find the most popular shops and restaurants, but just like any city, the coolest spots are tucked away in its less-visited corners.

Silver Han

In days past, the hans of Istanbul functioned as inns; places for traveling merchants to rest and do business. Most frequently, the hans consisted of courtyards with a fountain for washing, and a kitchen or tea house. The Grand Bazaar, naturally, was a major hub for merchants, so it’s unsurprising to find so many hans within its walls.

Most hans were dedicated to a particular craft, and many still are. You can find gold-spinning in Astarcı Han, chains in Zincirli Han and silver merchants in Kalcilar Han. Wandering through the courtyards, you can find smiths practicing their craft… melting gold, for example, or hammering out a piece of copper. Happily, they seem to be accustomed to tourists, and don’t mind if you politely enter their shops for a quick photo. It’s great fun watching them at work, performing tasks that have been unchanged over the last few centuries.

Most of the hans are small and run-down, but many are lovely. The Zincirli Han, for example, is particularly photogenic, with all-pink shopfronts, a marble fountain and trees. And our favorite is the airy and comfortable Iç Cebeci Han, where you can dependably find guys sitting around in the sun drinking tea and playing backgammon.

If you stick to the main drags, a trip to the Grand Bazaar can be hectic and stressful. So make sure to duck off into the little pockets of relative tranquility offered by the hans, and check out some of the activities which have kept the Bazaar running for 500 years.

Great Resource: Self Guided Walking Tours Through Istanbul’s Hans

Pink Han Grand Bazaar
Turkish Crescent Han
The Third Man Istanbul
Han Copper Grand Bazaar
Workshop Hans Istanbul
Working In Istanbul
Old Hand Istanbul
Old Orient Lamps Istanbul
Worker Hans Istanbul Grand Bazaar
3 Little Dudes
Han Entrance
Sultan Hats Istanbul Grand Bazaar
Silver Shop Istanbul
Spinning Gold Istanbul
Copper Wire Spinning Istanbul Hans
Portraits Han
Dish Han Grand Bazzar
Grand Bazaar Tunnel
Secrets Istanbul
Tea Garden Han Grand Bazaar
Silver Decoration Grand Bazaar
Fountain Grand Bazaar
Smoking In Istanbul
Melting Work
Schmied Grand Bazaar
Melting Pot Istanbul
Black Smith Istanbul
Fungus Dome
The Hole Grail
Istanbul Portraits People 2013
Tunnel han Istanbul
Gold Han Istanbul Grand Bazaar
Shoe Maker Grand Bazaar
Carpet Strings Bazaar
Making a Carpet
String Ball
Looking Inside Istanbul
Green And Rost
Welding
Istanbul
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June 10, 2013 at 10:57 am Comments (10)
Hidden Corners Behind the Grand Bazaar Istanbul is the kind of place which favors bold exploration, as we learned after a day spent in the maze of streets around the Grand Bazaar. The city is filled with quiet, secret spots... if you can muster up the courage to go down that darkened hall, into that empty courtyard, or up those crumbling stairs.
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