Taksim and Istiklal Street — TOP things To Do and See!
Istiklal Street is a must for all tourists in Istanbul. The name means “Independence Avenue” and is a long and colorful pedestrian street and grand boulevard that cuts through Beyoglu and located by Taksim Square. It is brimming with excitement and full off shops, restaurants, cafes, street shows.
Taksim means “division” or distribution”, and it was the focal point where the main water lines from the north of the city were collected to be branched off to other parts of it.
Istiklal street is one of the most popular and crowded streets of Istanbul. But you should visit also the streets and quarters near Istiklal to see the beauty and originality of this great city.
What to do and see in Istiklal Street and Taksim Square?
There are several things to explore in Taksim Square and Istiklal Street – the lively ambience and undeterred enthusiasm of people puts you in a merry mood for sure! You can get very close to Galata Tower if you walk till the end of Istiklal Street.
You can have a walking tour and explore small old streest of Beyoğlu district. Here you can seat in a small cafe and drink a cup of turkish coffee or take a look at antique shops.
By reaching the end of Istiklal street you can get to Karaköy area by walk (about 10-15 minutes) and have a nice time there. Because Karakoy is very popular place for all kind of cafes and restaurants and here the walls of the streets are covered with graffiti.
Enjoy the cultural center
Atatürk Kültür Merkezi is a multi-purpose cultural center and opera house. It is a gorgeous example of Turkish architecture dating back to the 1960s. Till date, it has hosted numerous theater performances, the Turkish State Opera and Ballet, concerts by the Istanbul State Symphony Orchestra and Choir, Modern Folk Music Ensemble, and Classical Turkish Music Choir, as well as the summer festival of Arts and Culture. This building is best seen at night – it looks stunning as the entire structure is illuminated.
Go for a ride
Did you know this area is a vital hub for public transportation and serves as the main transfer point for the municipal bus system and the central station of the Istanbul Metro network? The heritage tram line starts here, so you can hop on, go to the very end to Tünel Square, and then take a leisurely stroll back.
At the end of Istiklal street there is a historical funicular station — line F1 — which can get you down to Kabataş.
Churhces of Beyoğlu
Visit the Hagia Triada Church
Situated at the entrance of Istiklal Street, on the left, this church is a prominent landmark due to its dome and twin bell towers. It dates well back to 1880, and is a newly restored Greek Church of Holy Trinity.
Saint Antuan Church
Saint Antuan is the Roman Catholic cathedral in Istanbul. The church was built in 1725, but in the early 20th century, it was torn down to build a tramway. Architect Giuliu Mongeri rebuilt the church in 1912, and it is an example of Italian neo-Gothic and Tuscan-Lombard architect styles. It was originally constructed for the large Italian community living in Istanbul.
Saint Antuan is located on Istiklal Street. Walk away from Taksim Square and pass Galatasaray Square and a short time later, you will find Saint Antuan on your left. The church is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. Entrance is free but donations are encouraged. Daily mass begins at 8 a.m. Monday through Saturday and at 10 a.m. on Sundays. Mass is held in Polish, Italian, and Turkish.
Saint Maria Draperis Church
Saint Maria Draperis Church is one of Istanbul’s best kept secrets. It is one of the city’s oldest churches and most beautiful. It is not visited as often as Saint Antuan Church and is hidden compared to the more often visited Catholic cathedral.
The current Santa Maria Draperis Church was built in 1769. It replaced the original church which was destroyed by fire. Original Venetian artwork of Saint Anthony is housed inside the religious building. Well-known families, bishops, and financial benefactors from the 18th and 19th centuries are commemorated in the church. You can see their gravestones on a visit.
Crimea Memorial Church
The Crimea Memorial Church looks a bit out of place in Istanbul. The architecture will transform many tourists back to England thanks to its Anglican appearance. The church was constructed toward the end of the 1800s. It is a British national memorial to those individuals that died in the Crimean War.
The design is neo-Gothic and there is a walled garden that surrounds the church. Architect George Edmund Street designed the Crimea Memorial Church after a competition with three other gentlemen. The church has changed very little over the years. Services are still held at the church with a variety of nationalities attending regularly. Entry to the church is free, but donations are welcome. The Crimea Memorial is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Take a walk through Cihangir and Çukurcuma
Downwards from the Siraselviler Street along Taksim Square, you come across the famous neighborhoods of Cihangir (to the left) and Cukurcuma (to the right). The former is a lovely neighborhood famous for its energetic Firuzaga Coffee House – it is always full during day and night.
Cukurcuma is a charming and authentic neighborhood located along the way down from the Siraselviler Street. It is also a very interesting place famous for its antique shops, restored lovely houses, art galleries and cafes.
Shop for souvenirs
The streets of Beyoglu, Istiklal avenue and Taksim are the ideal places in the city of Istanbul, when it comes to buying souvenirs for people back home. There are shops of every kind selling diverse items like clothing, jewelry, books, handicrafts, and so on.
But don’t buy the first thing which you saw in the shop of Istiklal street — if you take a walk through small streets near Galata Tower, you can find a lot of interesting stuff with good prices.
Take a peek at the Fish Market
If you are a fish lover looking for a unique culinary experience, don’t forget to visit Balik Pazari or Fish Market. It is situated right beside the Flower Passage, and there are a plethora of stands selling mouthwatering foods like midye dolma or rice-stuffed mussels , midye tava or mussels fried in sizzling oil, kokorec or seasoned intestines from mutton or lamb that are skewered and grilled, etc.
If you walk down to Karakoy, try famous street food — balık ekmek, which means «fish in bread». It’s very delicious!
Museums of Beyoğlu
The Museum of Innocence
The Museum of Innocence was constructed alongside Orhan Pamuk’s novel of the same name. You don’t have to be familiar with the novel to visit the museum, however. The museum’s objects bring to life stories and memories of Istanbul from the 1970s, the time period in which Pamuk’s book is set.
The objects on display correspond to chapters from the novel. It is an incredibly unique museum and one that is quirky and different. The Museum of Innocence is in the neighbourhood of Cukurcuma and you will find it between Istiklal Avenue and Tophane. It is just a 12-minute walk from Taksim Square.
Museum of Illusions
If you like magic and illusions, then don’t miss the famous Museum of Illusions located on Istiklal. The museum has interactive, immersive, and entertaining exhibits for the entire family to explore. There are over 60 illusions to experience.
The Museum of Illusion also has a visual, sensory, and education space that challenges your perceptions. Whether you are on holiday alone or with the family, the Museum of Illusion is an all-ages destination.
The Pera Museum was opened in 2005 and offers visitors the chance to access high-quality cultural and artworks. The museum provides visitors with a combination of historic artefacts, famous paintings, traditional arts, and modern artwork.
The Pera Museum is home to the famous Turkish painting “The Tortoise Trainer” by Osman Hamdi Bey. The masterpiece was purchased for $3.5m in 2004. It is Turkey’s most famous painting. The private museum costs 25TL to enter. The museum is open from Tuesday through Sunday. It opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 7 p.m.
Madame Tussauds museum
Located in a 2,000 square meters venue of the Grand Pera building in Istiklal Avenue, Madame Tussauds is a sprawling wax museum and entertainment center. It is a famous museum chain for life-size wax replicas of celebrities, historical figures, and cultural heroes in the field of arts, sports, and politics. It is a great place to visit with family.
What to try: best coffee and street food in Beyoğlu
Try Best Coffee in Beyoğlu
This small coffeshop opened in 1967 and since that tima it’s still famous for great coffee quality — the great aroma and taste. Why Mandabatmaz? It means, that the coffee foam is so dense and thick that even «manda» (which on turkish means bull) will not drown.
Old Java Coffee Roasters Galata
Small cafe not far from Galata tower. The coffee is really delicious and also you can taste some sweet treats there.
If you are tired and want to have some brake — just walk a little fro Galata tower and take a chill in this place with a hot cup of strong coffee.
The first coffee store was opened in 2014 and today the chain include 73 stores in Turkey and abroad.
EsspressoLab is a place for real coffee and esspresso fans — the quality of drink is really very good.
Tea Or Coffee
It’s a small place in Cihangir district, not far from Istiklal street. The stuff is friendly and will help you to choose a drink with alternative milk. Coffee beans is good so you will enjoy your drink.
Located in the Cihangir area it’s a cozy and nice place where you can feel comfortable. Here you can find a selections of hot coffees and cold brews with really good taste. Take a drink and have a good time!
Try street food and local beverages
Roaming around Taksim Square and Istiklal Street can be exhaustingon an empty stomach, so don’t forget to sample the traditional culinary delights offered by restaurants, fast food chains, and local stands. Favorites include islak, which is hamburger made with a special tomato sauce and herbs and doner, a sandwich with beef or chicken. You can try a lighter snack like street corn with butter and salt too.
There are several veggie and vegan options too. Don’t forget to drink a glass of ayran – a chilled beverage made of yoghurt. And of course, you must satiate your sweet tooth with a wide selection of different kinds of sweets. Popular ones include the world famous Turkish delight that is goes best with coffee, and dondurma, an ice cream that is thick and almost chewy. The Nevizade Street, French Street, Flower Passage and Asmalimescit have some of the finest dining spots in Taksim.
Experience the beauty of street art
Street art has its own raw and gritty appeal, as you will discover while walking around Taksim in the evening. Hum to the amazing melodies belted out by talented street musicians and explore the side streets to check out the local graffiti. You are bound to be amazed by the creativity! Be shure that your phone or camera has full charge, because there are so much buildings and graffitı to take picture of!
Soak in a hamam
Located along the alley running down across the Flower Passage, the Galatasaray Hammam (Turkish Bath) was built by Sultan Beyazit the 2nd in 1481. The traditional bath culture of the Ottoman Empire is a coveted experience. You can soak in the inviting waters with fragrant oils and soaps, and spend a relaxing time here.
The public hammam is still an important part of the Turkish culture. It’s a place where you can relax, clean your body and soul, and have new expirience.
Go out at nighttime too!
Taksim has several bars and pubs providing a variety of entertainment. Nevizade is a popular street and night time entertainment area that is situated at the back of the Flower Passage, in the middle of Istiklal Street, where visitors may enjoy the lively atmosphere of its narrow streets with eateries, cafes, fish restaurants, meyhanes, dining places and more.
There is no dearth of hotels in Taksim, by the Taksim Square, near the Tarlabasi Boulevard. They will fit into your budget and are within quick reach of the renowned spots in the city. Getting to Taksim is easy too – it is conveniently accessible from the airport. Once you check in to a hotel and get settled in, you are all set for an unbelievable experience for a lifetime.