The Hans of the Grand Bazaar

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.

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

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Maria

    Spinning gold – my favorite pics but all of them are incredible and I find it difficult to leave this page.

  2. Ana M.

    Dear JürgenHow are you?I wrote to you after buying your book “For 91 days in Istanbul” a few months ago, I came back to the city at the end of March and we will come back next year in March again.I have a question that maybe you can answer. LAst time we climbed to the Büyük Valide Han roof and it was great, but next time we would like to find a han with the views to the Aya Sofia.I do not know if you have seen a film called ” Taken 2″ in spanish they have translated it as “Connection Istanbul”, it is a very forgetable film but in one of the scenes they are running trought the roofs I am not sure if of the Grand Bazaar or from one of its hans. The domes are not as deteriorated as in the Bükuk Valide and the views are of Aya Sofia. I am triying to find the place.Do you have an idea of any other han in that area that can be climbed and that you could recommend? I am sure that if there is somebody who can help me with this information it is you or Mike.Thanks in advance!Ana Morales

    1. Juergen Horn

      Hello Ana,

      I’m going to send you an email about this…

      1. Joan

        Hi Juergen, I am living now at Istanbul, and studying at ITÜ. I am doing a work about all the Eminönü area and I would like to catalogue and map all the hans in the zone. I have read the Ana´s comment about the rooftop and I was wondering, if you don´t mind, if you can send me the adress if exists any han that can lead me to a rooftop close to Aya Sofia. Thanks.Joan.

        1. Jorien

          Hi Joan,
          I’m doing a research on Hans in Istanbul as well (and I have also studied Architecture in ITU). Any chance you would like to share your findings with me?
          Thanks in advance.

    2. Jeno

      Dear Ana,I am also very interested to find out how to get on to the Grand Bazaar rooftop area as seen in the movie “Taken 2”.Did you get any closer to find it out?Any help is very much appreciated.Thanks,Jeno

  3. Jeno

    Dear Juergen,Just realized that you have already replied to Ana, and I should have addressed my question to you.Would be glad to have any advice on how to get onto the rooftop area of the Grand Bazaar, as seen in the movie “Taken 2”.Thanks a lot,Jeno

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