From Taksim Square begins one of the most popular tourist pedestrian streets in Istanbul, Istiklal, which is almost 1.5 km long. Here you can simply walk and see the architectural buildings, you can shop in numerous brand-name supermarkets and small stores, you can visit restaurants with European or Turkish cuisine, you can take a ride on the historic streetcar, whose line has been operating between Taksim Square and Tünel station since the 1990s.
- History and Modernity of Istiklal Avenue
- The main attractions of Istiklal Avenue
- Taksim Square
- Holy Trinity Church
- The historic streetcar
- Madame Tussauds Museum
- Dogancay Museum
- Flower Passage
- Galatasaray Lyceum
- Museum of Innocence
- Church of St. Anthony of Padua
- Pera Museum
- Pera Palace Hotel
- Church of St. Mary Draperis
- Narmanly Khan
- Home-Museum of the Mevlevi Brotherhood
- Galata Tower
On this street today are the buildings of the embassies of the leading European countries. The curious tourist has a lot to see in and around the street. The objects of visit here are very interesting historical buildings, non-Muslim temples and unusual museums.
Istiklal Avenue is one of the most popular pedestrian streets in modern Istanbul
History and Modernity of Istiklal Avenue
Istiklal Street, now a pedestrian avenue, began to form in the Galata Tower area in the 15th century. At that time it led to the city gates from the Sloboda settlement and was inhabited mainly by the Venetians. Since the late 15th century it was settled by the Muslims. Particularly many Turks settled here during the time of Suleiman the Magnificent. As the suburb grew many foreigners settled here and opened stores and workshops and traded. At that time the street was called Main Avenue and was the center of crafts and trade.
As early as the 17th century, churches of various denominations and European embassies began to appear on this street. Even today, Orthodox, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and other churches can still be found in the street. In subsequent centuries, the street was actively developed, built up and stretched in a northerly direction.
By the mid-20th century the architectural image of Istiklal was finally formed
By the end of the 19th century, the street began to acquire characteristic European features in the architectural development, here appeared the subway line Tunel (1875). At the beginning of the 20th century, in connection with the victory of the War of Independence and the establishment of the Turkish Republic, the street was renamed into Independence Street, that is, Istiklal, which continued its development as a center of leisure and commerce.
Tunnel Station has been in operation since the late 19th century
Today Istiklal is filled with tourists at all hours of the day. It is crowded during the day and after sunset. During the day tourists sightsee, visit stores and cafes and restaurants, look at the alleys perpendicular to the avenue, immerse themselves in the special aura of modern Turkish civilization.
But to feel this aura even stronger, you need to take a walk here at night, when night bars and clubs with discos start working and street musicians come out on the avenue. However, it should be borne in mind that even in the evening and at night Istanbul remains a Muslim city, where provocative and too revealing clothing is not quite appropriate. And it is better not to visit the night places alone, but in small groups with a friendly disposition and not abusing alcohol.
There are a lot of cafes and restaurants on the main pedestrian street of the city
During the day on Istiklal you can eat at our usual McDonald's, Burger King, Starbucks, or you can visit Mado, Özsüt or Ramiz Köfteci. You can visit a coffee or pastry shop, a bakery or buy the traditional roasted chestnuts, a sesame bagel or corn from a stall. And, of course, the Flower Passage is a must-see.
It is better to devote a whole day to getting to know this street, if it is possible, of course. But sometimes one day may be enough.
On Istiklal you can feel yourself a part of the vast and endless human flow
You can start the walk along Istiklal Avenue from Taksim Square, which is very convenient to get there by Funicular, Metro or public transport (the same name stop), or you can start from Galata Tower up Galip Dede Street or from the funicular Beyoglu stop.
From the metro station of the same name tourists immediately get to Taksim Square
We will tell you about the most interesting sights of this street, starting from the side of Taksim Square, because from there the numbering of houses begins. If you start your journey from the other side, you can also study the sights in reverse order. So,
The main attractions of Istiklal Avenue
We start our walk along Istiklal Avenue with a tour of the historic Taksim Square, which today is one of the central tourist squares of the city. In the 16th century, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent allocated the place where the square is today as an Armenian cemetery. During the subsequent construction works were discovered ancient Armenian burial places. Today there are many hotels, cafes and stores, a metro station of the same name and public transport stops.
Taksim Square is one of Istanbul's most famous and largest squares
In the center of the square since 1928 stands a monumental sculpture called "Republic" (architect P. Canonica), glorifying the proclamation of the Turkish Republic and depicting the main heroes of this victory. Here you can see the leaders of the revolution Mustafa Ataturk, Fevzi Cakmak and Mustafa Ismet Inönü, surrounded by ordinary people.
Ataturk's closest associates and comrades-in-arms surround Ataturk in the Monument of the Republic
The large elongated building of characteristic Turkish architecture of the 1960s, located to the right of the monument, is also not unnoticed by tourists. This is the Ataturk Cultural Center, from which the famous Dolmabahçe Palace can be reached on the right along Inönü Street. On the same street are the German and Japanese consulates.
Pass the Ataturk Cultural Center and walk to the Dolmabahce Palace
On the other side of the Cultural Center is the Taksim-Gezi walking park, the territory of which is gradually shrinking due to the construction of numerous hotels.
Holy Trinity Church
7 Meshelik Street
When driving from Taksim Square along the left side of Istiklal Avenue, after the first block of buildings, turn left into Meselik Street, where in the courtyard is a very interesting and fundamental building of the Orthodox Greek Church of the Holy Trinity. Today this temple is active and is considered to be the largest Orthodox temple in Istanbul.
The belfries and dome of the Holy Trinity Church are clearly visible from Taksim Square
This Greek church was built here by the architect P. Kampanaki in 1880 in the Neo-Baroque style to replace the old Greek necropolis and the demolished wooden cemetery church of St. George. This was the first Orthodox single-domed structure in Muslim Constantinople, erected after the lifting of the ban on the construction of domed non-Muslim churches in the late 1930s.The openwork design of the facade of the Church of the Holy Trinity impresses and fascinates
The facade of the temple with openwork carvings has two symmetrical 4-story bell towers, which are clearly visible from Taksim Square. The interior painting of the temple was done by the Greek artist S. Megaklis, and the marble work for the floor was done by the sculptor A. Krikelis. Light enters the temple through 12 window openings, according to the number of apostles.
The Church of the Holy Trinity is solemn, bright and spacious
You can visit this temple, get acquainted with its Greek architecture, see an interesting painting of the life of Jesus every day from 8.30 am to 6 pm.
The historic streetcar
The first horse-drawn streetcars began to carry passengers in Istanbul in 1871. Electric streetcars appeared in the city in 1913-14. But this type of transport functioned only in the European part of the city until 1928. In the 60s of the 20th century, streetcar traffic in Istanbul was completely eliminated.
But in 1990, after Istiklal Avenue received the status of a pedestrian avenue, the historic retro streetcar on its section from Taksim Square to the funicular station was launched. And in 1992, streetcars began to run along the historic European part of Istanbul as modern urban transportation.
Historic Istiklal Avenue Tramway is the history and modernity of the street
A ride on the historic streetcar along Istiklal Avenue is a must to feel the speed of the last century and to touch the history of the city.
Madame Tussauds Museum
Istiklal Street 56-58
A ride on the historic streetcar is tempting, but you can accidentally pass by interesting buildings, shopping complexes and museums. Therefore, it is better to first walk along Istiklal Avenue on foot, but at the end of the journey you can also ride the streetcar.
For example, one of the world's largest wax museums Madame Tussauds is located in the Grand Pera Shopping and Entertainment Center. Here you can see figures of the world stars of cinema, sports, music, historical figures, etc.At the Tussauds Museum you can have your picture taken next to any celebrity
This museum is open daily.
40 Balo Street
At the intersection of Istiklal with Balo Street on the right-hand side, you can take a short detour to visit the Museum of Modern Art, which has been in operation here since 2004. This museum, housed in an old building that once belonged to a Greek family, is little known but rather interesting and distinctive.
This museum was created at the initiative and with the active participation of the famous Turkish-American artist Burhan Dogancay, and was intended to showcase his many years of creative exploration. All of Dogancay's activities were aimed at studying and exploring the city walls of the world, which, in his opinion, are a mirror of human society. This study helped awaken feelings and ideas in the artist, who expressed them in his works.Dogancai drew ideas for almost all of his works from the architecture of the city walls
To visit the Dogancay Museum is to plunge into the modern world of Turkish art
To visit this museum will be interesting both for fans of contemporary art and for those who are far from it. For an unconventional look of artists at the familiar world around us, embodied in the work of art, sometimes helps to see it from another unexpected side.
2 Sahne Street
At the intersection of Istiklal Avenue and Sahne Street is the very famous Flower Passage, a place slightly connected to the history of the emigration of the early 20th century. In the second half of the 19th century there was the wooden Naum Brothers Theater, which had performances of the classical repertoire. It is said that even Verdi's famous opera "Il Trovatore" was staged here earlier than in Paris.
The theater building was later badly damaged in a fire, and in its place the architect Cleantis Zannosa built Passage Christaki, which worked as a wine bar. The new fashionable European-style shopping structure was named after its new owner, the banker Efendi Christaki Zografos. The lower floors were occupied by dozens of retail outlets, while the upper floors were given over to luxury housing.
The Flower Passage is one of the most interesting buildings on Istiklal Avenue
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Passage became known as Said Pasha Passage, after the name of its next owner, the Grand Vizier. During the influx of Russian emigrants to Istanbul (then Constantinople), former noblewomen and impoverished baronesses from Russia actively traded flowers in this shopping center. Whether connected with this or not, but later there appeared a lot of flower stores, and by the 40-ies of the 20th century Passage was called Flower. But in the 50s the flower rows moved to the Egyptian Market, and the Passage building began to decay. Only by the 90s of the 20th century the restored Passage was reopened to the public.
The building, decorated with gilded stucco and stained-glass windows, is L-shaped, has an arched entrance with a clock and a glass dome above a gallery running from Istiklal to the Fish Market. Along the gallery closely spaced stores, stalls and restaurants.Why not sit in the Floral Passage restaurant under the glass dome?
Today, the Courtyard Passage, reminiscent of the setting of a French street, has a network of restaurants where you can just sit, have a cup of coffee and immerse yourself in the charming atmosphere of local aromas and folk music played by local musicians.
159 Istiklal Avenue
On the opposite side of the Flower Passage, behind the 50th Anniversary of the Republic Monument, is one of Istanbul's elite schools, the Galatasaray Lyceum. The history of this educational institution began in the second half of the 15th century, when the Imperial School of the Galata Palace began to function under Sultan Bayezid the Second, then renamed the Sultan Galatasaray School.
Galatasaray Lyceum is one of Istanbul's elite high schools
This school had junior, middle and senior classes, a hospital, a bath-hammam, and an ablution hall. The teaching was of the European, or rather the French standard. Only Latin and Greek were replaced by Turkish and Arabic. The teachers were not only local Turks, but also Armenians, Greeks, and the French. After the establishment of the Turkish Republic, girls could also become students at the school.
Today, both boys and girls are students of the Lyceum on an equal footing
Since the 1990s of the 20th century, the Lyceum became part of the Galata University, established on the French initiative. And the history of this educational institution can be found in the Galatasaray Museum.
The lyceum can be identified by its beautiful gates
Tourists, of course, do not go into the lyceum itself, but it is quite possible to take pictures against the background of its beautiful gates.
Museum of Innocence
18 Chukur Juma Street
If you turn left along Yeni Çarşı Street near the lyceum, you will reach one of Istanbul's most interesting museums with a very unusual name - the Museum of Innocence, voted Europe's best museum in 2014! Its birth in 2012, the museum is obliged to the popular Turkish writer, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006, O. Pamuk, who created it as if based on the materials of his novel of the same name, although the novel and the museum have their own separate stories.
Writer O. Pamuk not only created the Museum of Innocence, but also wrote a novel of the same name.
The idea of creating a museum of everyday objects of ordinary Istanbul citizens was born by the writer in the 1990s. To realize this idea, Orhan Pamuk started buying up various household items such as crockery, clocks, keys, furniture, newspapers and postcards, interior and jewelry, toys, etc. from antique shops and flea markets.
Pamuk then bought an old building on Çukur Dzhuma Street, where he later placed his entire collection into an exhibit assembled according to the chronology of the novel he wrote in 2008. The novel was about the tragic love of the Turkish rich Romeo and poor Juliet from the 70s of the 20th century.
The Museum recreates the domestic side of the characters of the novel, such as this room of Kemal
The essence of the novel is that a certain Kemal, the heir to a wealthy family, fell in love with his distant relative, Fusun, who worked as a sales clerk. Kemal initially knew that they were not destined to be together, but every time they met, he discreetly took something of Fusun's personal belongings or those related to her. Gradually, the young man formed a museum collection of his love, each item from which recalls one of the days he spent with his beloved.
Before his wedding to the bride chosen by his parents, Kemal gives his romantic collection to a writer and asks him to write a novel about his unfulfilled happiness and unfinished love, which the writer does. And Fusun, upon learning of her lover's impending marriage, disappears from his life and then dies in a car accident.
The Innocence Museum, based on the novel, consists of all the material details described in the pages of the book. All the material witnesses of tragic love are arranged on stands according to the 83 chapters of the novel: one stand - one chapter.Walking from booth to booth, tourists walk the path of the relationship between two young people
Those who have read this famous novel will be very interested to touch its material component and see the cigarettes smoked by Fusun, her fallen earring and Kemal's bed. For those who have not read the novel, it is interesting to get acquainted with the everyday life of Istanbul residents of the last century, after which you will surely want to get acquainted with the novel itself.
The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. On Thursdays, the opening hours are extended until 9 pm
Church of St. Anthony of Padua
Kaimakam Reshat Bay Street, 10
If you continue on the odd side of Istiklal Avenue, under the arched gallery connecting the houses with numbers 167 and 173, you can come to a beautiful active Catholic church, which you can visit daily. It is the largest Catholic church not only in Istanbul, but also in all of Turkey.
The Church of St. Anthony of Padua is known as the largest Catholic church in Istanbul
A beautiful red-brick neo-Gothic church building appeared here in 1912 (architect Giulio Mongeri) to replace the demolished church of the same name, built nearby by Italian monks in the early 18th century. That first temple was demolished because of the construction of the streetcar tracks.In front of the Temple, note the figure of Pope John 23 holding a dove
Subsequently, the new temple received the status of a small basilica, and in front of the entrance to the temple appeared a sculptural image of Pope John 23, who repeatedly preached here, with a dove in his hands. The interior of the temple conforms to classical Catholic canons - rows of seats, stained-glass windows, ceiling vaults with frescoes, peace and quiet.
The interior of the Church of St. Anthony of Padua is classic for Catholic churches
Interestingly, the two houses connected by an arched gallery, through which the road to the temple goes, are the property of the church, which gives a decent income from renting. The temple was built in honor of the famous Italian Catholic Franciscan Anthony of Padua, who lived and preached at the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries.
Franciscan Atnonius of Padua preached at the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries
You can visit this beautiful monument of architecture every day during the daytime.
65 Meshrutiyet Street
The Pera Museum can be reached only from Meshrutiyet Street, which runs parallel to Istiklal, and it is very easy to get there through the little street Kallavi, which begins opposite the entrance to the Temple of St. Anthony of Padua. At the exit to Meshrutiyet Street, you have to turn left.
The Pera Museum is a collection of works belonging to the Orientalist movement
This famous Istanbul museum, founded at the beginning of our century, popularizes the Orientalist trend in the art of the 19th century. The museum rooms are housed in the rebuilt space of the former Bristol Hotel. The facade of the hotel itself, dating from the end of the 19th century, has been restored and preserved intact.
In addition to the permanent exhibitions, the Pera Museum constantly hosts thematic exhibitions
One of the interesting permanent exhibitions is the collection of paintings. There are many works by Osman Hamdi Bey, the famous Turkish artist and founder of the Archaeological Museum. In addition to paintings, the museum has an interesting collection of Anatolian weights and measures, collected from ancient times to the present day and containing several thousand items. There is also an amazing collection of tiles and ceramics from the 18th-20th centuries.
In the Pera Museum you can get acquainted with classic works of art of Turkey
This museum, which allows you to get a closer look at Turkish art, is open every day except Monday. For opening hours on other days it is best to check the official website.
Pera Palace Hotel
38 Asmaly Mesjit Street
After leaving the Pera Museum, you can walk a little further and reach a beautiful late 19th century structure considered to be one of the oldest European hotels in Istanbul. It is the former Hotel Pera Palace, which is the architectural embodiment of a design by French-Turkish architect Alexander Valluri and combines neoclassical, art nouveau and oriental architecture styles in its appearance.
The Pera Palace is one of the oldest hotels in Istanbul
This hotel was built specifically for the passengers of the Orient Express, which linked Europe and Asia, so it was designed as a modern European building with all the latest advances. It was the first hotel in Istanbul to have electric lights, hot running tap water, and an electric elevator going up and down. The opening of the hotel in 1895 was accompanied by a grand ball.The Pera Palace is still a very luxurious and upscale hotel
This hotel was very popular. Ataturk stayed here and its 101 rooms are now a museum. Agatha Christie, who wrote her most popular novel, The Orient Express, also lived in this hotel. Her room has also been preserved for history. The name of the hotel also appears in the works of other writers - Hemingway, Green, etc. If you want, you can spend at least one night in this hotel, but the room must be booked in advance.
Church of St. Mary Draperis
215 Istiklal Avenue
Not far from the Church of St. Anthony, on the same side of the street, is another interesting Roman Catholic church, which is the oldest Catholic church in Istanbul. Its construction dates back to the 80s of the 16th century.
The entrance to the Temple of Mary Draperis is at the bottom of the metal staircase
This neoclassical temple structure, built by Swiss architects the Fossati brothers, is at the bottom of a steep flight of stairs framed by a metal fence. The exit to this descent is also under an arched gallery. In the 19th century, the church was the most venerated Catholic church in the city.
In front of the main entrance is a statue of the Virgin Mary, and above the entrance itself is an icon of the Virgin Mary. The icon of the Virgin Mary in the altar was a gift from a local Catholic Levantine, Maria Draperis, to the Catholic monks during the difficult times of the Ottoman conquest, when they had fled Constantinople to find a new temple near Galata because the previous Catholic temple in central Constantinople had been turned into a mosque. Although the temple suffered several times from fires and earthquakes, the icon was always saved, and after restorations it again adorned the altar.
The icon, given to the temple by Maria Draperis in the 16th century, is still located in the chancel
The three naves of the rectangular temple are covered by a single vault and the square bell tower is behind the building. The interior looks very beautiful and harmonious, but without being pompous. The interior contains 19th-century Italian paintings of the Virgin Mary, Francis of Assisi, Saints Joseph and Roch, as well as mid-20th-century frescoes and a statue of Anthony of Padua. The altar, which houses an icon of Our Lady of Mary Draperis, was decorated with pink Carrara marble in the second half of the 18th century. The stained glass windows with images of Clara of Assisi and St. Francis were made in Germany.
Ancient temples such as the Temple of Mary Draperis have an amazing aura
In the temple there are several tombs belonging to wealthy and noble Levantines of the 18th and 19th centuries, with named stone tombstones. You can visit this very interesting temple daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. But you should keep in mind that from 12 to 14 hours it is closed for the break.
180 Istiklal Avenue
After passing the building of the Russian Consulate (Istiklal, 223), a little ahead you should pay attention to the beautiful old Greek Baroque building of the 19th century with ornate columns and relief images, located on the even side.
This building once housed the Embassy of the Russian Empire
Дhe building housed the consulate of the Russian Empire in the twenties of the 20th century. Subsequently, Istanbul artists and writers lived here, opening their workshops. Today, this building, called Narmanli Khan, concentrates a large number of stores, which is interesting for tourists to stroll through.
And the courtyard of this structure, called the "Cat Passage," is known for an incredible concentration of Istanbul cats and felines.
Home-Museum of the Mevlevi Brotherhood
15 Galip Dede Street
At the end of Istiklal Avenue, when turning left, turns into Galip Dede Street, along which you can walk up to the Galata Tower. At the beginning of this street there is a small peculiar House-Museum of the Mevlevi brotherhood dedicated to the culture and religion of the dervishes.
The Mevlevi Brotherhood Museum is a very unusual and authentic place
In all the souvenir shops in Istanbul tourists pay attention to statuettes of whirling men in long dresses - these are local dervishes, whose ritual dances are now a popular Istanbul show. Who are they? Dervishes are Muslim monks who, during their rituals (mevlevi), go into a trance to make contact with the Almighty. The trance ritual involved wearing special clothes, reciting certain verses, improvising music, and spinning around in a long dance.
The abode of the dervishes of Istanbul was located in the Sufi monastery
From the mid-20s to the 50s of the 20th century, dervish rituals were banned by the state. Today the ritual dance is part of the cultural heritage of the dervishes and is performed as a spectacle for tourists.
Today in the halls of the former abode you can see a traditional dervish dance
Dervish Museum is located in the building of the former Sufi monastery, converted into a museum. The architecture of the building, which differs from traditional mosques, and the exhibits are interesting here. Among the exhibited museum rarities one can see musical instruments, household items of monks, their clothes.
Exhibits of the Museum of Dervishes take tourists back to historical times
Once a week you can go to an authentic ritual performance with a demonstration of traditional dervish dance. The museum's opening hours can be found out in advance on the museum's website.
2 Büyük Hendek Street
This historic structure of the 14th century is perhaps the most important attraction of the area. The curious tourist will enjoy walking around this tower, walking to the remains of the Galata Wall that once surrounded the city, climbing to its observation deck, admiring the Beyoglu neighborhood, the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn from above.
The Galata Tower is the most famous landmark of the Beyoglu district
You can read more about the history and architecture of the Galata Tower here.
Of course, it is impossible to tell about all the sights of such a rich neighborhood as Istiklal Avenue in one article. In addition to the listed temples, there are interesting mosques and Jewish synagogue, there are interesting mansions, so that the inquisitive tourist can always and everywhere to make their own unexpected discoveries.
And we suggest that at the end of such a rich journey from the Galata Tower down to the Galata Bridge and in one of its many restaurants to sit, relax and recall the interesting discoveries made during the day walking along Istiklal Avenue.