Bezesteni is perhaps one of the most characteristic samples of many buildings that can be found in several parts of the historic center and deserve more attention as they are small treasures indeed.
Built by Sultan Mehmet II in 1455 – 1459 AD it is one of the oldest Ottoman buildings still standing in the center of Thessaloniki. It was used by the Ottomans for a number of commercial and financial activities thus making it a very important center for every region that had one.
The building’s architecture is typical of the 15th century Ottoman style that can be found in other similar buildings in Greece (Serres) or abroad, mostly in the Balkans. Its name means Fabric Market (ben = fabric in Turkish, bezesten).
An institution of great importance for every Ottoman city
Trading valuable objects and artifacts, safe keeping important documents and controlling the quality of the merchandise and money were some of the functions/services that each Bezesteni was responsible for at a daily basis.
It is characterized by some rare architectural elements that differentiate it from the majority of the buildings. In the roof there are six well preserved domes in 2 rows while the main structure has 4 entrances. Inside the building seven double arches support the two main pillars of the structure.
It remained vibrant and active until the destructive fire of 1917. After the destruction the building took its final form while new additions were built in order for new stores to be added. Even today you’ll find several small shops that offer fabrics, jewels, and flowers thus keeping a part of its historic commercial character.
Although Bezesteni is not as impressive as other Ottoman buildings, its importance lies to the fact that it is a part of the old Ottoman Thessaloniki that still remains alive. A reminder of the common architectural legacy this city shares with the Balkans.
A small visit will not disappoint all those who wish to feel a glimpse of the eastern, Ottoman spirit of the city! You can easily find it in Venizelou Avenue heading north, just before Egnatia St in the center of the city.