Taksim Square and İstiklal Avenue: The Art and Leisure Center of İstanbul

Taksim Square and İstiklal Avenue are the globally known and very important symbols of İstanbul throughout the years. Taksim Square is located at the beginning of İstiklal Avenue located in one of the most vibrant and non-sleep districts of İstanbul: Beyoğlu. Taksim is always an active and joyful district in both daytime and nighttime. It is a very touristic place and you can feel that cosmopolite environment when you are inside of it. 

There are lots of tourist places in Taksim and İstiklal Avenue. You can enjoy the traditional Turkish food in very chic restaurants or you can have delicious street food while you are walking down the İstiklal Avenue. There are lots of stores, malls, cafes, bars, and taverns. The cosmopolite structure of Taksim provides satisfaction for every type of person and every sense of fun. Besides, the nostalgic vibe of İstiklal Avenue will hunt anyone at the first sight. 

Getting to Taksim Square

Since Taksim Square is the meeting point of İstanbul, getting to Taksim Square is quite easy. If you land at Sabiha Gökçen Airport, you can get on a “Havabus” that goes to Taksim for a humble price. Also, you may take the E11 bus that goes to Kadıköy. From Kadıköy, you can get on Kadıköy-Kabataş ferry and get off in Kabataş. Then you can use funicular from Kabataş and get off in Taksim Square. 

From İstanbul Airport the easiest and fastest way to go Taksim is getting on a “Havaist” bus. İstanbul Airport is a new airport so public transportation is not provided yet, but the construction of the metro is continuing. If you are in Sultanahmet you can use the T1 tram line and get off in Kabataş, then use the F1 funicular line and get off in Taksim Square. 

If you are in Şişli or Beşiktaş you are very lucky there are lots of ways to get to Taksim Square. You can use various buses, Marmaray, M2 metro lines, and minibuses from both of them. From Üsküdar, it is very easy. Get on Marmaray and get off in Yenikapı station. From there you should get the Yenikapı-Hacıosman metro and get off at Taksim Square. 

If you are coming from Kadıköy and don’t want to use sea transportation you can get on Metrobus from Söğütlüçeşme and get off at Zincirlikuyu station. Then, get on Hacıosman-Yenikapı metro and get off at Taksim station. 

History of Taksim Square and İstiklal Avenue

Taksim Square and İstiklal Avenue have always been the symbol of İstanbul from past to present. İstiklal avenue is one of the most visited streets of İstanbul. The nostalgic vibe of İstiklal Avenue has always been there. It is started from Taksim Square and ended in Tünel district. Galatasaray High School is in the middle of the avenue. The avenue has started to be shaped in the Byzantium period. During that period, the churches and monasteries were found there which was named Pera.

At that time, most of the population of Galata lived inside the walls. After Ottoman Empire won İstanbul back the developing trade make the Latins move to the Haliç and Bosporus. So the area in between them started to gain value and the silhouette of İstiklal Avenue was seen. As the trade developed the migration got to increase and the cosmopolite structure is always kept. Lots of different nations lived and different languages were spoken. 

Taksim Square got its name from the “maksem” structures which were used during the 1732-1733 years for transferring water to the city. The structure is useless now but it is not broken down you can see when you go to Taksim. The popularity of Taksim was increased as the İstiklal Avenue became a top and the tram lines were worked so the transportation got easier.

Top Things to See

There are lots of things to see in Taksim and İstiklal Avenue in Beyoğlu. If you don’t know where to start here are the top things to see before you turn back.

Taksim Square

Taksim Square is located in Beyoğlu and one of the most famous points of İstanbul and even Turkey. Around the square, there are lots of bars, restaurants, nightclubs, museums, or any place you would have fun. Both local and foreign tourists love the atmosphere of the Taksim most probably according to its cosmopolite vibe. Taksim Square has become a square during the Republic period and be a witness of lots of historical and social events.

One of the important marks of Taksim is the Taksim Republic Statue which was placed in the square in 1928. The making process of the statue lasted for 2.5 years. One side of the statue represents the Turkish Republic and the other side represents the Turkish Independence War. On the statue, there are Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his allies. 

İstiklal Avenue

İstiklal Avenue which was known as Grande Rue de Pera back in time located in Beyoğlu. The Avenue is 1.4 km long. İstiklal Avenue is always crowded both in the daytime and nighttime. The cosmopolite structure is kept in any area. Globally famous brands and the passages that sell cheap clothes meet there, while coffee houses meet with nightclubs. There are various options to eat, to drink, to stay, to see, and goes on. It is not possible to find the thing you are looking for in İstiklal Avenue. 

Galata Mevlevihanesi

Whirling Dervishes in Galata Mevlevihane Museum, Istanbul

Galata Mevlevihanesi is very old and famous mevlevihane (mevlevi lodge) which is also named as Kulekapı Mevlevihanesi located in Beyoğlu. It is built by İskender Paşa in 1491 and it is the first mevlevihane that was built in the city. It is used as lodges and classrooms for religious education. Then, it became complex but in 1925 with all the dervish lodges are closed by the law. After that law is accepted, the main part of mevlevihane used as primary school and the other parts used with different targets.

As time passes and changes, this building becomes functionless and in 1975 it is turned into a museum named “Divan Literature Museum”. A couple of restoration is done to the building from time to time. After the last one which is started in 2007 and finished in 2011, the name of the museum is changed and renamed as Galata Mevlevihane Museum. 

Galata Tower

Galata Tower and Galata Neighborhood

Galata Tower is not just the symbol of Beyoğlu but also the symbol of İstanbul city. The name of the tower is coming from the district it is located.  It was used to use as an observation tower during the wars in between the Galata walls. The tower has 11 floors where you can use rock stairs from the basement to the fourth but there is also an elevator between the basement to the sixth floor. From the sixth floor to the eighth floor, you can use steel construction stairs.

The first floor is used as the museum shop where you can buy souvenirs. From the second floor to the fifth floor, you can watch the simulation of Hezarfen Ahmed Çelebi who flew from Galata Tower, the works of that period, the photographs of the Independence War, and lots of information. Also, there is a permanent museum and an exhibition area on these floors.

The sixth floor is a transition; on the seventh floor, there are view binoculars. On the eighth floor, there is a view terrace where you can enjoy the İstanbul and beautiful sea. Also, you can have a meal on the ninth floor after you breathed the İstanbul on the terrace. 

Çiçek Pasajı

Çiçek Pasajı which is also known as Cité de Péra is built in the land of Naum Theatre in 1876 after the Great Beyoğlu Fire in İstiklal Avenue. After the fire, Hristaki Zografos bought the land and built the Cité de Péra which opens to Theatre Street. The structure was involved 24 stores and 18 luxury apartments. In 1908 the Grand Vizier Küçük Said Paşa bought the building. “Çiçek” means flower in Turkish and during the truce years, lots of flower stores were opened there. So that, the building named Çiçek Pasajı.

In the 1940s taverns were started to being opened there which attract lots of people. The flower stores are moved to other places in 1950 and taverns were opened there instead and at the end of the 1950s there was no flower store in there and the name of it remained as a memoir. Çiçek Pasajı has the identity of being the home of taverns from then to the present. 

Nevizade

Nevizade is found in the Beyoğlu district of İstanbul and right next to the İstiklal Avenue. Nevizane is popular for its bars, restaurants, pubs, and taverns. This popularity is originally started after the closure of Krepten Pasajı in 1970. The restaurants and the bars in the Krepten Pasajı were moved to the below street which is Nevizade and that culture has been continuing there. Nevizade culture is very important for the texture of the city. Before the bars and restaurants, there were little industrial ateliers and body shops in Nevizade.

Asmalı Mescit

Asmalı Mescit is a popular neighborhood of Beyoğlu in İstanbul. The popularity of Asmalı Mescit has started quite a recent time. After the beginning of the 2000s, it became one of the greatest and joyful regions of nightlife in Asmalı Mescit. Especially in the summertime, you can enjoy great music, delicious food, and nostalgia at the same time on the tables in the streets.

Karaköy-Beyoğlu Tüneli

After London, Karaköy-Beyoğlu Tüneli is the second oldest metro all around the world. The construction of the train, line, station, rails, etc. has started in 1871 and was completed in 1874. The service of the train has started in 1875 and still works very well. The line is 573-meter-long and in 1910 the system of the tünel has changed into electricity.

In 1970, the Tünel is restored completely by a French company by keeping its originality. It is fascinating that kind of transportation still works effectively. You can reach Karaköy to Beyoğlu or vice versa in just 90 minutes. 

Historic Tram

The historic tram line used to be used as main public transportation beginning from 1871 to 1966. Then, it used to be functioned by horses at first then turned into electricity but in 1966 the tram lines were closed. However, in 1990 after the Taksim to Tunnel road closed to the traffic, the tram line started to work again with the name of “historic tram”. It would not be the main transportation from now on but it becomes a symbol of Beyoğlu.

It has only 2 wagons and goes 1.65 km as a one-line-tram. It carries approximately 2500 passengers daily. You can also use it as transportation but it mostly attracts the tourists by making them feel the nostalgia.

Church of the Holy Trinity

The Church of the Holy Trinity is also known as Hagia Triada Greek Orthodox Church and is located in Beyoğlu. It is the largest church around the Pera region and it is dedicated to the trinity of Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. The construction of the church has lasted 13 years. It is open on the 11th of September 1880 and built by the Greek community. It is one of the most splendid churches of all time.

The church has two bell towers and is noticed by its Gothic style. The templon where the icons are found is made of marble and the windows are made of stained glass which is stunning. The icons of templon are mostly inspired by the Byzantium period. The church is restored and reopened again in 2003. It is one of the greatest signs of the cosmopolite structure of İstiklal Avenue. 

St. Antoine of Padua Church

St. Antoine of Padua Church has the largest community of Catholic Christians in İstanbul and one of the greatest symbols of cosmopolite life in Beyoğlu. The origin of the church is going back to the year 1230 which is built by St. François. However, this church is damaged three times by the fires in the 1600s and rebuilt but in 1696 after the last fire, the location of the church is moved. In 1724 during the Ottoman Empire period, a new church is built in Pera named St. Antoine.

The church is built on behalf of the catholic citizens and their families who work in this land and are blessed. The outer design of the church is very attractive with its red walls. In 1912 the church has opened for worship. St. Antoine of Padua Church always catches the interest of both foreign and local tourists. Most of the local people from İstanbul still visit the church and make a wish during Christmas time no matter they are Christians or not.  

Pera Museum

Pera Museum is located in Tepebaşı district and found by Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation in the year 2005. The foundation has been aiming to serve and present a wide range of cultural and artistic pieces. The Bristol Hotel was restored carefully by preserving the originality to turn into a museum. The collections which are belonging to Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation are exhibited in the Pera Museum.

The collections named “Orientalist Painting”, “Kütahya Tiles and Ceramics”, “Anatolian Weights and Measures” are exhibited there. The values of the collections are told, the exhibitions are shown, verbal and educational events are planned in the Pera Museum to transfer the value of art and culture to the next generations. Besides, every year temporary exhibitions of global artists are made in there. It is worth seeing to get to know about Turkish and Ottoman art and culture better. 

Cezayir (Algeria) Street (French Street)

Cezayir Street is located in between the Beyoğlu and Tophane districts as their connection. Cezayir Street is a blind alley and it is right behind the Galatasaray High School. It is also known as French Street after a company bought most of the buildings on that street. The whole street has wide stairs and with every step, you take you can feel the Mediterranean vibe from the stores, restaurants, and cafes on the street. 

It is quite a narrow street but you won’t even notice it with the nostalgic and warm vibe it gives you. The red tones of the street double the warmth. You can enjoy the warmness as you listen to high-quality music with the drinks in your hand.

Galatasaray Hamam

Galatasaray Hamam is found in Galatasaray Complex and was built in 1481. The hamam is built by the order of Sultan II. Bayezid. The story of the hamam is quite interesting. Sultan II. Bayezid ran into a man named Gül Baba next to a shelter and he started to talk to him about his wishes. Gül Baba said that built that land a complex and hamam that stayed for centuries. Sultan accepted the wish of Gül Baba and did what they said.

So the hamam has been opened more than 500 years now. The wish of the Gül Baba is accepted. You can still use this hamam after those years; you should try this experience if you want to know Turkish culture better.

Museum of Illusions

Museum of Illusions is opened in the year 2019 in Beyoğlu after the other branches in the big cities of the world. In an illusion show, everybody knows there is a secret behind it but no one explains it to you. The museum is located in Narmanlı Han and has three floors. You can enjoy the museum whether with your friends or your families or even just by yourself. There are more than 60 illusion shows in the rooms that will blow your mind.

You can find yourself upside down, in an infinity room or magical tunnel. Besides these, the items used in illusion shows are exhibited in the museum that you can take a look at. The walls of perception will be dashed.

Gezi Park

Gezi Park is located in Beyoğlu in between the Cumhuriyet, Asker Ocağı and Mete streets. It is a public park and one of the greatest symbols of Taksim Square. In 1806 a barracks is built in front of the Park and used as headquarter by the protesters during the 31st March Protests (1909). As time passes, the barracks became useless and turned into the Taksim Stadium in 1922. After the importance of the stadium disappears in 1940 it is decided to turn it into a public park.

Gezi Park is the first park built in the Republic period. On the 28th of 2013, the government started to cut off the trees and break the walls without any notice. The people started to protests to protect nature and the situation. Then, the protests got bigger and turned into protests against the government’s politics all around Turkey. Police got into the battle with the people lots of people were exposed to pepper gas for days. Lots of people were injured and eight civilians were dead.

Food and Drink

There are lots of places to eat and drink on İstiklal Avenue with many of the options. To find what you are looking for to eat or drink, first, you should take a look at the list below.

İnci Pastanesi

İnci Pastanesi is opened in 1944 by Luka Zigoris in Beyoğlu in the Cercle d’Orient building. Even though İnci Pastanesi is moved from there the same incredibly good taste continues. At the beginning of the 1940s, Luka Zigoris started to make profiteroles and sell to the other patisseries. After a while, the fame of profiteroles was becoming to be heard he opened own place. It is quite a small place and hard to find to sit in but it worth waiting for. 

The secret formula of profiteroles is kept for years and years so the same taste can be provided. You must try the profiteroles but besides them, there are lots of delicious desserts here.

Saray Muhallebicisi

The first Saray Muhallebicisi is opened in Kasımpaşa in 1935 but moved to Beyoğlu in 1949. Also, Saray Muhallebicisi is the first muhallebici in history and keeping its secret of taste very well. For 86 years the quality and the taste of the products have persevered with maximum efficiency. Of course, you can eat lots of delicious desserts in Saray Muhallebicisi. However, you should also try their breakfasts, böreks, and other delicious food. Especially, you have to try their döner you won’t regret it.

Mandabatmaz

In 1967 Mandabatmaz is opened in İstiklal Avenue and started to make people love Turkish coffee. Even though everything is changed in İstiklal Avenue Mandabatmaz never changes. It is the best Turkish coffee you can ever try since their roasting methods are completely different and kept as secret. Before do shopping, after dinner, or on a lunch break, Turkish coffee is always a need and you should not go anywhere else from Mandabatmaz to drink.

Lades Menemen

Lades Menemen is opened in 1969 in Tarlabaşı Street and it was originally opened as Lades Muhallebicisi. Menemen is a traditional Turkish food that is mostly eaten for breakfast in Turkey. In fact, it can be eaten any time of the day. If you want to eat a very delicious menemen you should eat in Lades Menemen in Sadri Alışık Street/Beyoğlu. Also, you don’t need to eat just menemen, there are various options of food in there. You won’t regret it even for a second.

Hacı Abdullah Lokantası

Hacı Abdullah Lokantası is opened in Beyoğlu in 1888 and there it is still the only branch. Hacı Abdullah serves you the best Turkish traditional food including desserts, drinks, böreks, olive oiled mezzes, etc. Labor is everything for Hacı Abdullah Lokantası so the running of the place is passing from master to his apprentice.

Hatay Medeniyetler Sofrası

If you want to have a delicious kebab, Hatay Medeniyetler Sofrası is the right address. The owner and head chef of the restaurant is very young and talented. 90% of the products coming from Hatay. Also, if you are lucky you can watch the special shows of the chef while you are eating the most delicious kebab in Turkey. You can have lunches or dinners in there with your friends and families. Don’t forget to make a reservation before you go. 

Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir

Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir is opened in 1777 as a candy shop. Even the Ottoman palace was the customer of Hacı Bekir candies. In the 19th century, an English tourist bought Turkish delights from Hacı Bekir and brought them to his country and the fame of Turkish delight has started there. Hacı Bekir is the one who makes the “lokum” famous. In the present, the 5th generation of the family is in the business. If you came across by you should try the Turkish delights and akide candies. 

Şampiyon Kokoreç

Şampiyon Kokoreç is firstly opened in 1962 in the Beyoğlu Fish Bazaar. Kokoreç is important street food in Turkish culture. The fame of Şampiyon Kokoreç has started in that small place and spread all around İstanbul then all around Turkey. People were just coming to eat that Kokoreç from different places. As the years passed, Şampiyon Kokoreç got bigger and bigger and that incredible taste can be experienced all around the country. From now on there are 39 branches.

J’adore Çikolata

J’adore Çikolata is a chocolate gallery in Beyoğlu. In a very small place, there are lots of chocolates in different shapes, colors, and tastes. However, all of them are certainly delicious. Also, the place is very cozy and European. Besides, you can eat desserts with delicious chocolate. “Oh la la Beatrice” is the classical dessert of there, you should give it a try.

Midpoint

Midpoint is opened in 2002 and has lots of branches but the Taksim is different from the others. In Taksim Midpoint you can enjoy the infinite view of the beautiful sea and the Bosphorus on its terrace. Also, you can eat very delicious food from all around the world including Turkish traditional food. You will love the modern and warm atmosphere of it. 

Parole Café

Parole Café is opened in Beyoğlu in 2014 which is not that old but very popular and loved. Parole Café is located at the entrance of Suriye Pasajı which is one of the most characteristic buildings of Beyoğlu and was built in the 20th century. The atmosphere of the café is sincere, enjoyable, and peaceful. Also, the nostalgic vibes of the building and Beyoğlu maximize them to the top. The café has three floors which are serving with café, restaurant, and lounge concepts.

You can eat delicious food both traditional and global with humble prices and great service. Besides, the cocktail and alcohol drink menu are quite wide that it is certain that you find the one you will love. Also, Parole provides an opportunity to host groups of people in your celebrations, business meetings, birthday parties, etc.

Limonlu Bahçe 

Limonlu Bahçe as they also referred to as the first chill-out zone of İstanbul and is located in Beyoğlu. It is opened in 2001 and the name of the place is coming from the lemon trees in the garden. Besides the chaos, crowd, and noise of Beyoğlu, it is the place where you can take a breath for a second and have something to eat or drink. It is right behind the French Palace as you go down to the Tophane from İstiklal Avenue. 

Besides the lemon trees, there are also plum, magnolia, jasmine, etc. trees in the garden where you can eat your lunch or drink your coffee in the middle of magnificent smells. Also, you Limonlu Bahçe is suitable for organizations such as birthday parties, meetings, and various occasions. All you have to do is call for a reservation.  

Where to Stay

In İstiklal Avenue you can find any hotel that suitable for your budget. You can spend your night in a suite of a luxury hotel or in a hotel which is very cheap and lacks facilities. It is impossible to can’t find a hotel that proper for you as it is all up to your desires and budget. İstiklal Avenue will be here to serve you all of them.

Safety

Taksim Square and İstiklal Avenue are quite safe. However, since it is touristic and very crowded, thieves and frauds can try to hunt you, so you have to be very careful while you are hanging around. Keep your cell phone inside the pocket of your jacket and your bag closer to you.

Additionally, you should stay away from the Tarlabaşı district (a close district to İstiklal Avenue). Tarlabaşı is one of the most dangerous districts of Beyoğlu or even İstanbul.

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

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