Istiklal Street is the most popular and cosmopolitan street of Istanbul. Millions of people flock to this street each day. Shops, passages, cafes, restaurants, bookshops, cinemas and consulate buildings make this street a great center of attraction.
Fancy boutiques and shops down the buildings in Istiklal Street will definitely take your attention but do not forget to look up as well! So that you can see great structures of 19th Century adorned with Art Nouveau and Neo-Classical architecture.
History of Istiklal Street
The biggest reason for the colorful characteristic of Istiklal is the hybrid culture of this area since 1850. After the opening of many embassy buildings in this area during the late Ottoman period, this street has been an area of settlement by the foreign people. French and Italians, named as Levants, Orthodox Greeks, Armenians and Jewish people settled here.
When many rich families and ambassadors settled there, architectural development peaked and a lot of mansions, hotels and official buildings were built.
Pera (the name of Beyoglu district back in those days) was leading this galloping development. As an extension of urban and cultural development, Istiklal Street, known as Grand Rue De Pera or Cadde-i Kebir (Big Street), appeared in Pera district.
Things to Do in Istiklal Street
Istiklal Avenue is a street of 1.5 km length that begins from Taksim Square and goes until Tunnel Square. Alongside the Istiklal Avenue and in the by-streets, there are many interesting places to see.
1. Taksim Square
Taksim Square is just like the heart of the city. Celebrations, demonstrations and protestations are generally held here. Famous Gezi Park protests, which were kindled by the youth who were against the governmental plan to turn the park into a shopping mall, took place there as well.
There is a two sided statue in Taksim Square symbolizing the foundation of the Republic of Turkey. One side shows Mustafa Kemal Ataturk wearing a military uniform while leading the War of Independence and the other one shows him wearing a suit while leading the reforms.
The first stop of Nostalgic Tram, with which you can travel along Istiklal Street, is just next to the statue. Tram is carrying people from Taksim Square to Tunnel Square just like in the 19th Century.
One of the icons of Taksim Square is the hotel named The Marmara. There is a good restaurant named Kitchenette at the square. While you are walking from the Taksim Square to Galatasaray High School you may see the Madame Tussauds Istanbul on your right-hand side.
2. Galatasaray High School
While walking to Tunnel from Taksim Square, there is a high school building that takes attention with its monumental gates. It is a big school founded by the state in 18th Century during the westernization period. It is still one of the most prestigious high schools in Istanbul.
Just next to Galatasaray high school, on Yeni Çarşı Street, there is a cafe named Ara Cafe. It belongs to Turkey’s most famous photographer Ara Guler.
After following Yeni Carsi Street, one can easily arrive in Cukurcuma. In Cukurcuma, there is Museum of Innocence, which is opened by the Nobel Prize winner in literature Orhan Pamuk.
On the parallel to the Yeni Carsi Street, there is a street full of restaurants named Cezayir Street which is a very nice place to eat delicious food and enjoy a glass of wine accompanied by live music.
3. Cicek Pasaji
In Galatasaray Square, there is a building named Çiçek Pasajı dating back to 1870. When you enter this building, you will see fish restaurants next to one another. It is a lively place famous for local musicians, mezes and well known restaurants.
At the exit of Çiçek Pasajı, there is Beyoğlu Balık Pazarı (Beyoğlu Fish Market) and souvenir shops. While you are strolling the neighboring streets of Beyoglu Fish Market, you may see some 19th Century shopping centers of Istanbul such as Avrupa Pasaji. The area has also some secret gems like Uc Horan Armenian Church and Üç Yıldız Şekerleme (one of the best Turkish delight shop in Istanbul).
4. St. Anthony of Padua Church
Saint Antoine de Padua Church is located inside a big courtyard behind a big entrance door in Istiklal Avenue. It is a busy church that accepts foreign and local visitors every hour of the day.
This catholic church was initially built in 1763 for the French and Italians living in the area. The original building, which was demolished while the avenue was being renovated, was rebuilt in 1911.
The structures inside the garden of the church may make you feel like you are in Venice due to the exquisite architecture and beautiful windows.
Getting its name from a small mosque that no longer exists, this street is full of restaurants, art galleries and pubs. Fish restaurant called Mavi Melek in this street is my personal favorite with its fresh fish and delicious mezes.
The Asmalı Mescit street is like a passage between Istiklal Street and Meşrutiyet Street, which is parallel to it.
6. Mesrutiyet Street
Mesrutiyet Street also has a lot to offer. In addition to hotels like Pera Palace, Palazzo Donizetti, Soho House and The Marmara Pera, there are fabulous restaurants such as Big Chefs, Meze by Lemon Tree and of course one of a kind Mikla Restaurant are among them.
7. Pera Palace Hotel
8. Tunnel Square
It takes its name from Tunnel, which is world’s third oldest metro system. As a two-stop underground train, Tunnel has been active since 1875.
It was built by a French named Eugene Henri Gavand who had hard time to go up through Galata ramp to Pera. It is the oldest metro system after London and New York. It takes its passengers from Karakoy neighborhood and goes up to Istiklal Street. Tunnel Square is also the last station of nostalgic tram that leaves from Taksim Square.
This post may be useful: Best Restaurants in Taksim
Istiklal Street Map
Istiklal Street Map
How to Get to Istiklal Street
First of all you need to find the Tram Station in Sultanahmet. You can take the tram in the direction of KABATAS. You can leave the tram at the last station named Kabatas and take the Funicular F1 from there to Taksim Square. Funicular is one stop vehicle that helps you climb up Taksim Square from last tram stop (Kabataş)
Take the tram in the direction of KABATAS from Sultanahmet
It cross the Galata Bridge and arrive to Kabatas, then use Funicular F1
Things to Do in Istiklal Street by Serhat Engul