Exploring the Oldest Bazaars in Iran

Nothing is more enjoyable than wandering through the traditional markets of Iran when traveling. Traditional markets provide an excellent opportunity to get closer to the culture and customs of different people. Many cities in Iran have well-known conventional needs that have always been the center of gathering and income generation. But which cities have the best traditional markets in Iran?
What are the unique offerings of the Tabriz Grand Bazaar?

The Tabriz Grand Bazaar, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of the largest and oldest covered bazaars in the world. Visitors can explore a myriad of lanes selling carpets, jewelry, spices, and traditional handicrafts. The bazaar is also famous for its Qajar-era architecture and bustling atmosphere.

Prepare to haggle, as bargaining is part of the shopping experience. Dress conservatively to respect local customs, and carry cash, as many vendors do not accept credit cards. Also, be ready for a sensory overload of sights, sounds, and smells.

 Iran’s traditional markets are very welcoming to tourists. Many shop owners are happy to share the stories behind their wares and offer tea to visitors. Signs and price tags are often in Persian, so having a translation app or a guide can be helpful.

The best time to visit these markets is in the morning when they are less crowded and the weather is cooler. Avoid national holidays and religious mourning periods when markets can be closed or very busy.

Absolutely! Iranian markets often have sections dedicated to food where you can taste local delicacies, fresh bread, regional sweets, and traditional drinks. It’s a great way to experience Iranian culinary culture.

 Look for hand-woven carpets in Tabriz, miniature paintings and silver filigree in Isfahan, termeh (traditional handwoven fabric) in Yazd, and inlaid woodwork in Shiraz. Each city’s market has its specialties reflecting the local art and culture.

Frequently Asked Questions: Exploring Iran's Traditional Markets

What you will read in this article:

Tabriz Grand Bazaar Tabriz Grand

Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest traditional markets in Iran and the world, located in the center of Tabriz city. This bazaar, registered as part of the Silk Road on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1389, boasts unique and beautiful architecture representing Iran’s rich culture and history. The “Grand Bazaar” includes various sections with features and specific goods. Some of the most famous areas of Tabriz Bazaar are:

  • Sadeqiye Charsuq: Charsuq is where several market alleys meet, usually characterized by open spaces and domes. Sadeqiye Charsuq is one of the oldest and most beautiful Charsuqs in Tabriz, dating back to the 7th century AH. In this Charsuq, shops sell carpets, textiles, clothing, handicrafts, and more.
  • Timcheh Mozaffari: Timcheh refers to the smallest unit in the market with fewer chambers and more enclosed spaces than a Charsuq. Timcheh Mozaffari is a sub-section of the Qasaris (fabric sellers) and was constructed in the 8th century AH. It is known for its ornate chambers and the patterns under its dome.
  • Haj Mirza Alinejad Caravanserai: A caravanserai refers to a more extensive market section with many chambers and open spaces. Haj Mirza Alinejad Caravanserai is an ancient caravanserai located in the southeastern part of Tabriz Bazaar.

Tehran Grand Bazaar

Tehran Grand Bazaar is one of the capital city’s most critical economic, historical, and tourist centers and one of Iran’s traditional markets located in the 12th district of Tehran. This bazaar, registered as a national heritage site of Iran in 1977, covers an area of over 105 hectares and consists of various sections, each specializing in its unique goods and crafts. Also known as the “Grand Bazaar,” it represents Iran’s rich culture and history and houses significant historical buildings such as mosques, shrines, baths, schools, and more.

Tehran Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest markets in Iran, dating back to the Qajar period. It was established during Fath Ali Shah Qajar (1800-1834 AH) reign and flourished during Naser al-Din Shah Qajar (1848-1896 AH). Throughout history, Tehran’s bazaar has played a significant role in the country’s events due to its location on major trade routes and the presence of political and social factors.

Isfahan Grand Bazaar

Isfahan Grand Bazaar is one of the traditional markets of Iran and a historical and tourist attraction in the city of Isfahan, often referred to as “Half of the World.” It was constructed during the Safavid era and is considered one of the oldest and largest bazaars in the Middle East. Situated in the heart of Isfahan, between Naqsh-e Jahan Square and Atiq Square, this bazaar consists of various sections, each offering unique goods and crafts. It symbolizes Iranian culture and art and encompasses numerous historical buildings within its confines.

Yazd Traditional Bazaar

Yazd Traditional Bazaar is one of Iran’s traditional markets and a historical and cultural attraction in Yazd, symbolizing the city’s trade and handicrafts. This bazaar features beautiful and unique Iranian-Islamic architecture and includes various sections such as alleys, Timchehs (small marketplaces), caravanserais, mosques, schools, baths, and water reservoirs. In this market, you can find various goods and souvenirs of Yazd, including gold and jewelry, Yazdi sweets, dates, carpets and rugs, fabrics, copper and metalware, and more. The most famous part of Yazd Traditional Bazaar is known as Khan Bazaar.

Khan Bazaar is considered the longest and most authentic bazaar in Yazd, built during the Qajar era and the reign of Naser al-Din Shah. It is near Khan Square and beside Khan Bath and Khan Theological School. The structure of this bazaar is in the Safavid style and is adorned with tilework, marquetry, plasterwork, and paintings by Reza Abbasi. Several alleys with specific trades and old shops are found within this bazaar.

Vakil Traditional Bazaar, Shiraz

Vakil Bazaar is one of Iran’s oldest and most famous traditional markets, built in Shiraz during the Zand dynasty under the order of Karim Khan Zand. This bazaar is listed as a national heritage site in Iran and has been a model for other historical markets. Its architecture is in the Safavid style and features tilework, marquetry, plasterwork, and paintings by Reza Abbasi. Within this bazaar, several alleys are specializing in various trades, some of which include:

  • Khansar Alley: You can find plaque sellers and gold and jewelry vendors in this alley. It is called Khansar Alley because most plaque sellers in this alley are from Khansar. Here, you can purchase various gold and silver jewelry at reasonable prices.
  • Terme Alley: Terme Alley houses vendors of Terme, a famous sweet in Shiraz. Terme is a salted and vinegared legume known for its various health benefits. You can acquire high-quality fresh and dried Terme in this alley at reasonable prices.
  • Alaqqehbandan Alley: In this alley, locksmiths specializing in traditional locks, known as Alaqqeh, can be found. Alaqqeh locks are opened and closed using keys and handles and were traditionally used to secure homes’ doors, caravanserais, wooden chests, and more. While their popularity has diminished due to modern locks, they still hold their charm.

Kermanshah Traditional Bazaar

The history of Kermanshah’s old bazaar dates back to the construction of the western customs house in the city approximately 150 years ago during the Qajar era. The market, known as the Old Bazaar of Kermanshah, is now called the “Dark Bazaar” due to its setting within the city’s historical neighborhood. The most captivating aspect at first glance into the Dark Bazaar is the colorful and beautiful fabrics seen throughout the market. These fabrics are used for making Kurdish clothing.

Kermanshah Traditional Bazaar is situated alongside the historical Emad al-Doleh Mosque and Shahbaz Khan Bath. Visiting the bazaar allows you to simultaneously explore Kermanshah’s traditional and artisanal industries and admire the historical landmarks of the city’s ancient fabric. While wandering through the Dark Bazaar of Kermanshah, do not forget to indulge in the traditional and delicious sweets of the city, such as Kak and date sweets, and savor their exquisite flavors.

Kashan Traditional Bazaar

Kashan Traditional Bazaar is one of Iran’s traditional markets, built during the Safavid era, and it was registered as a national heritage site in Iran in the year (1976 AD). This bazaar features beautiful and unique Iranian-Islamic architecture and includes various sections such as alleys, Timchehs (small marketplaces), caravanserais, mosques, schools, baths, and water reservoirs. In this bazaar, you can find various goods and souvenirs of Kashan, including gold and jewelry, fabrics and rugs, Kashani sweets, herbal products, and much more.

The New Bazaar is one of the sections within the Kashan Traditional Bazaar, constructed during the Qajar era under the rule of Fath Ali Shah. This bazaar comprises 120 small and large shops with front-facing verandas and upper rooms between the Dolat Gate and Fayaz Square. Several spacious caravanserais with tall four-sided courtyards and ceilings are built within the spaces between the shops. This bazaar is considered one of Iran’s most unique markets due to its creative design and beautiful decorations.

Arak Traditional Bazaar

Arak Traditional Bazaar is one of Iran’s oldest and most beautiful traditional markets, dating back to the Qajar era. It is one of the earliest structures built in Arak, where various tradespeople are active. This bazaar boasts unique architecture and geometric symmetry, lending a captivating beauty to the complex.

Arak Bazaar was constructed during the early 13th century AH (Shamsi) on the orders of Yusuf Khan-e Gorji, the ruler of Arak, under the rule of Fath Ali Shah Qajar. The initial building of this bazaar was known as Sepahdar A’zam Caravanserai, which also gave its name to the mosque and school within the bazaar. One of the reasons for building the bazaar was the strong economy of the region of Iraq (Arak). The high quality of agricultural products and the global fame of Saruq rugs necessitated the establishment of a central market for product sales. The construction of the bazaar took about twenty years and underwent significant developments and changes over time.

Qazvin Traditional Bazaar

Qazvin Traditional Bazaar is one of Iran’s traditional markets with roots dating back to the Safavid and Qajar periods. It is an architectural masterpiece showcasing geometric symmetry and intricate brick and tilework decorations. This bazaar previously served as the international trade center and the region’s economic hub.

Qazvin Bazaar was built during the early 11th century AH (Shamsi) by Shah Tahmasp Safavi, who chose Qazvin as his capital. The initial structure of this bazaar was the Shah Abbas Caravanserai, which later transformed into the Mosque of the Prophet. During the Qajar era, the bazaar experienced expansion and significant changes, adding new sections. Qazvin Bazaar became the international trade center connecting Europe and Russia during that time.

Chabahar Traditional Bazaars

If you’re seeking a unique and different travel experience, Sistan and Baluchestan is your ideal destination. This southeastern Iranian province, known for its hospitable and welcoming people, the beautiful shores of the Gulf of Oman, picturesque landscapes, and culturally rich markets, captures the heart of every traveler. Among these attractions, Chabahar stands out in the south of the province. While in Chabahar, do not forget to explore the local and traditional markets.

The bazaars in Chabahar differ significantly from other traditional markets in Iran. Most of these bazaars are open-air and offer various goods. In these markets, you can delight in the aromatic spices and local delicacies of Sistan and Baluchestan. Moreover, you will find delicious coffee and chocolates in these markets. Baluch Market is one of the most famous markets in Chabahar, filled with vibrant colors and aromas. So, if you travel to Chabahar, visit its traditional markets and be amazed.

Traditional Markets of Bandar Abbas and Bushehr

If you want to buy various affordable goods, don’t miss the Tah-kanjis (sailor markets). These markets, primarily found in the southern ports of Iran, are where sailors and crew members of cargo ships bring goods to Iran. These goods are imported without customs duties, making them more reasonably priced. The Tah-kanji markets of Bandar Abbas and Bushehr are among the most famous of their kind in southern Iran. In these markets, you can find almost anything you can think of. So, when you visit a Tah-kanji market, open your eyes and enjoy the shopping experience. These markets are some of Iran’s most captivating traditional markets.

Traditional Markets in Northern

Iran Traditional markets in Iran’s north operate as daily markets and are part of the attractions of northern Iran. These markets, held on specific days of the week, are places to buy fresh and local agricultural and livestock products. In every north of the city, you can find a daily market. You need to know which part of the city it’s held in and on which day. In these markets, friendly and hospitable people, aromatic and colorful vegetables and fruits, and an open and intimate atmosphere will give you an incredible feeling. Most vendors display their goods on carts or the ground.

Summary of Iran's Traditional Markets

Some of Iran’s traditional markets may have significant differences compared to others. However, each represents the culture and traditions of the region in which they are located. Human relationships and handicrafts of each area are evident in that region’s market. Therefore, each traditional market has its beauty and value. So, if you’re interested in traveling to different cities, visit each city’s need to discover the unique and exciting products you’ll find there.