The Old Bazaar, or Stara Čaršija, is located on the eastern bank of the Vardar River and is the largest bazaar in the Balkans. The earliest documentation of commercial buildings on the site dates to the 12th century, but the bazaar was built up during the Ottoman period, becoming the main economic and commercial center. Much of the remaining architecture today dates to that period, with numerous mosques, hans, caravanserais and other Ottoman buildings. The bazaar was damaged by earthquakes in 1555 and 1963, and during both World Wars, and has subsequently been reconstructed and restored on several occasions.
The traditional buildings are mostly two stories, with commercial space on the ground floor and residential space on the upper floor. Many of the buildings that were once used to house travelers, or as harams, have been converted to museums or galleries.