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Shopping for Backgammon sets in the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul.

Last updated on April 18, 2024

The Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar, or Kapali Carsi, in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople), is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with dozens of covered streets and thousands of shops. Its origins date back to the 15th century when the reigning Sultan laid the foundations for a textile market near his palace in Constantinople. Today it is listed as one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors every day. It is a must-see destination for every visitor to Istanbul, Turkey.

You can easily spend a day exploring the Bazaar’s covered streets. It offers a visually pleasing and aromatically stimulating experience, with vivid colours, sounds and scents. No visit to the Grand Bazaar would be complete without a souvenir to mark the occasion. There are literally thousands of objects to choose from including antiques, rugs, food and spices, Meerschaum, textiles, traditional handicrafts, pottery, jewellery and, of course, backgammon sets. There is no doubt that the best place to buy a backgammon set is the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.

Holy Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, Istanbul.


Backgammon, which is known locally as Tavla, is played everywhere. You can see Tavla being played in shops, cafes, bars, restaurants, pensions and even on the streets. Tavla is quite possibly the national pastime. You can compare Tavla to other backgammon derivatives in our Deluxe Backgammon post on backgammon variants. The Tavla board is identical to a backgammon board, but there are a few minor differences in the rules. Unlike backgammon:

·         There is no doubling cube.

·         The winner of the opening roll, rerolls the dice.

·         You cannot waste pips when bearing off.

·         There is no ‘hit and run’ in the home board.

·         The winner receives one point for a normal win and two points for a gammon. There is no backgammon.

Backgammon sets

The Grand Bazaar, as well as being an absorbing tourist experience, is a memorable place to acquire a Deluxe Backgammon set. Traditional Turkish backgammon sets are handmade, often from walnut, and will be inlaid with coloured wood or mother of pearl. There are a few things to remember when shopping for a backgammon set in the Grand Bazaar. Read the Deluxe Backgammon post on


The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul.
Grand Bazaar.

Shopping tips

·         It is a popular destination, in part catering to the tourist market.  There is bound to be a lot of cheap, low-quality tourist souvenirs on offer. Look for the shops that specialise in backgammon sets because they will stock authentic pieces.

·         Shop around and compare quality and prices. Because the attention from the vendors can sometimes be intense, be prepared to walk away.

·         Beware that some of the cheaper backgammon boards are made in Syria and are targeted at the tourist market. There is nothing wrong with these boards as such, but if you are looking for a genuine Turkish souvenir make sure you are certain of its origin.

·         Be prepared to haggle or even play backgammon against the owner for a discount. The official price will often be inflated by 20-30% to allow a haggling margin. Start at 60% of the ‘official’ price and negotiate. Participate and enjoy the experience.

·         Examine each backgammon set carefully before making an offer. Handmade sets will never be perfect, but be on the lookout for obvious construction flaws and careless workmanship.

·         Ensure the inlays are genuine, a fine seam should be visible to the naked eye. Avoid backgammon sets with painted points because these are likely to be low quality.

·         Take your time in selecting your Deluxe Backgammon set. Don’t be pressured into making the sale.

Above all, enjoy the experience of acquiring your backgammon set in the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul. It will give you countless hours of playing pleasure, but it will also contain memories of your stay in Istanbul.


  1. Ivan Ivan

    I experienced the Grand Bazaar on Instanbul when I was backpacking in the 1980s. I bought myself a locally crafted wooden backgammon set for a pittance it was used extensively throughout my travels.. I still have it, although it’s a bit battered and bruised!

    • Jason Jason

      Hi Ivan, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am sure that backgammon set has seen a lot throughout your extensive travels. I am also sure that playing backgammon helped you meet a lot of interesting people. If you are looking for a new set, take a look at our extensive reviews of all kinds of quality backgammon sets. Thanks for taking the time to comment, I hoping you are still enjoying playing backgammon, Jason

  2. Owen Owen

    Been there and bought a backgammon set! I enjoyed the whole bargaining process. It involved a lot of haggling a couple of games of backgammon with the owner before we settled on the price. All good fun and I got a nice backgammon set that has a traditional Turkish look.

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