This is the largest covered market in Istanbul. It was originally founded by Mehmet II in 1461 in order to provide traders with a safe and orderly place in which to do their daily business. The market was enlarged during the reign of Süleyman I and finally rebuilt to the present plan in 1701. There are a total of 65 streets within this market , which is a covered area totalling 30.702 m2. It is surrounded by a large number of hans-trading inns,which have access to the interior of the bazaar, making them a part of it. Each of these deserves separate notice. Today, the covered bazaar contains a mosque,a mescid - chapel mosque, 21 hans ,2 bedestans(where the valuables were kept an sold) 7 fountains, one well, 1 sebil fountain , one þardivan - free standing fountain - and 3300 shops. It possesses a total of 187 portals, others small gates. The doors are closed at 7p.m. and approximately 50 guards patrol the bedestan throughout the night. Befor electricity ,the bazaar was lit by huge oil lamps. The arab traveller Ibn Battuta ,visiting Istanbul with a Kipchak caravan sent by the Kipchak Başbug Özbey Han mentions the existance of a market in the area of the Grand Bazaar almost a century before the Turkish conquest of the city.
The Bazaar was burnt down five times, the most serious damage was inflicted during the fires of 1546 and 1651. An earthquake in 1894 and fires in 1954 which destroyed more than half the Bazaar damaged the traditional features of the structure. The two Bedestans of the Bazaar are known as Sandal Bedestan and the Cevahir Bedestan.
1. Sandal Bedestan: Also known as the new Bedestan, was built by Mehmet II. It is supported in stone piers and had four doors which were closed 50 years ago. The interior of these vaults were arranged in sections for use as an auction room by the town prefect - Þehremini - Cemil Topuzlu in 1914, for the sale of Antiques rugs and jewelery.
2. Cevahir Bedestan: The Ýç or inner vaults also known as the old Bedestan, it was reserved for the sale of Antiques. It was constructed over walls dating from the Byzantine period, and is covered by vaults and copulas supported by 8 piers. The total area is 1336 m2. During the Ottoman period, jewellers or members of the populace could store valuables here in large iron trunks which were under the shops. These were replaced by safe deposit boxes when banks came into being.
During the Ottoman period valuable artefacts, fabrics, furs weapons and rugs were bought and sold in Bedestan. Hence it constituted a merchantile treasury. Now resorted, Bedestan has been provided with more light.