Istiklal Avenue is the most popular street in Istanbul. It is on the European side of the city. The avenue, 1.4 kilometers long, stretches from Taksim Square to Galata Tower. At the center, you will find Galatasaray Square. On weekends, almost 3 million people walk down the Istiklal. You will see many Ottoman-era buildings here in Art Deco, Neo-classical, Neo-Gothic, and Art Nouveau styles. It is the nerve center of Istanbul with shops, cafes, hotels, restaurants, boutiques, cinemas, and theaters. One must try here is a ride on the red vintage trams.
Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul was called ‘Cadde-i Kebir’ in Ottoman times, which means Grand Avenue in Turkish. The area was popular with the Ottoman intellectuals and foreign visitors to the city. In the 19th century, Constantinople (now Istanbul) was called ‘Paris of the East’ because of this İstiklal Avenue.
The Turkish Republic came into being on 29 October 1923. The name of the avenue was changed to İstiklal meaning Independence. It commemorates the victory in the Turkish War of Independence.
The red heritage tram service runs the length of Istiklal Avenue from Taksim Square to Tünel. The service was stopped in 1961 but was brought back again in 1990.
Istiklal Avenue – Quick Facts
|Istiklal Avenue||The most important street in Istanbul – shops, cafes, hotels, Ottoman era buildings, vintage tram rides.|
|Location||Beyoğlu, on the European side of Istanbul.|
|Address||Istiklal Cadessi Beyoğlu/Istanbul|
|How to Reach||Metro station: Sishane, Taksim|
Tram Stop: Galatasaray, Sishane, Taksim
|Open Times||All-day and night|
|Top Attractions||Flower Passage, Atlas Arcade, Majestic Cinema, Saray Muhallebicisi, Art Galleries, Tram Ride|
Top 9 Things To Do In Istiklal Avenue
1. The Flower Passage – This is an arcade in a gorgeous well-maintained building from the Ottoman period. The building originally housed a theater that was destroyed in a fire. Post-1917 and the Russian Revolution, many Russian ladies sold flowers here giving it the name. Now, you will find many cafes here, wine bars and restaurants.
2. Atlas Arcade – This building dates back to the 1870s and contains a movie theater and shops. The structure was renovated after fire damage. A walk through this place gives you a glimpse into the lives of the locals. Check out the top historic shopping arcades on Istiklal Avenue.
3. Whirling Dervish House – Turkey is home to the famous sect of whirling dervishes – a type of white costume spun round and round while praying. One of the most unique things you can see in Istanbul. The building on Istiklal Avenue is a museum too.
4. Majestic Cinema – A small auditorium with the feel of vintage movie-going. The cinema screens Turkish and English movies.
5. Saray Muhallebicisi – This is one of the best places to satisfy your sweet tooth in the city. It is a patisserie offering traditional Turkish sweets like baklava, lokma and more.
6. Pandora Book Store – A quaint bookstore in the middle of the bustling avenue. You will get bestselling books in English and Turkish, maps, travel books, and stationery.
7. St. Anthony of Padua Church – One of the biggest churches in the area. The building is of Neo Gothic architectural style. This is a functioning place of worship.
8. Art Galleries – The Pera Museum and Misir Apartmani are a few galleries on Istiklal where talented artists put up their work. Both local and international artists are featured here.
9. French Street – Just off Istiklal Avenue, is a part of town that is decorated like French cafes. It looks charming.
Take a ride on red vintage trams for a heritage experience. You will find them every few minutes. These red trams run from Taksim Square down the road through Galatasaray to Tünel. The trams have been around for decades blending the past with the present.
Istiklal Avenue Shopping
There are plenty of shops lined up along the street. Many of them are chain stores where you cannot bargain over the prices. But if you just wander down the side streets, you will see many local shopkeepers selling clothes, perfume, sports, home décor items, music, and souvenirs of the city and Turkey. You can sit down with them, drink apple tea, and haggle in the traditional Turkish way.
Street Photography Walk
There is a street photo tour that starts on Istiklal Avenue and heads to the Galata Tower district. You will see many landmarks here. Plus, you will get a local insight into the urban life of Istanbul.