İstiklal Avenue stretches 3km starting in the historical district of Beyoğlu at Taksim Square and ending at the 2nd oldest sub-way in the world called the Tünel in the Karaköy district. İstiklal Avenue is the one of most famous areas of Istanbul and was named the Grand rue de Pera during in the 19th century by travellers because of the eastern and western influences of the street.
The 3km precinct street is lined by late Ottoman buildings built around the 19th and 20th centuries and offers you a huge variety of shops, galleries, cinemas, theatres, libraries, restaurants, tea houses, café’s and bars and historical buildings.
In the centre of the street you will find the Galatasary Square, thought be careful not to miss it. You will recognise you are there when you see a widening of the street and the single road which cuts across İstiklal Avenue and normally has a constant flow of taxis along it.
At the bottom of İstiklal in the Karaköy district you will find the Tünel the 2nd oldest sub-way in the world. The Tünel was built around 1975 and takes you from the end of İstiklal down the very steep streets of the Karaköy district to the start of the Galata Bridge. It is a blessing when you have to walk from the Galata Bridge up to İstiklal. However don’t forget to walk down the streets of Karaköy you will be amazed at all the little shops and old buildings in these narrow cobbled streets.
About a 3rd way down İstiklal you will come across the Roman Catholic Church, Santa Maria originally built by Italians in the 1725 and then rebuilt around 1906/1912. The Church is still in use and run by Italian priests and offers mass in Italian, English and Turkish. You may also visit the church during the day. But keep a keen eye as you’re walking down the street as the church is set off from the street but is marked by huge iron gates.
İstiklal is pedestrianised but watch out for the historical red Tram of İstiklal which travels up and down the street. Don’t worry you will hear it coming by the sound of its bell ringing.
As you walk along İstiklal you will see many embassies, schools and official buildings. Also remember to look up to view some of the wonderful architecture of İstiklal Street.
But don’t just stay on İstiklal; you must wander down the side streets. The easiest way to begin to explore is to walk to the end of İstiklal at the end you will find the Tünel and opposite the Tünel you will find Çiçek Pasajı the Flower Passage here you will find a beautiful area of small intimate resturants and bars where you can sit down to Turkish cusine and the local drink of raki.
If you walk through this area you will come out in the back streets of İstiklal in an area called Nevizade where you will find bars and restaurants along the streets which offer great atmosphere especially in the evening time.
Another great area to visit in the evening time is the Asmalimescit which offers narrow streets crowded with bars and restaurants of all cuisines. In the evening time you can find live music, great atmosphere and alfresco bars and restaurants. Also in and around this area you will find the Balık Pazzar or Fish Market where you can see the day’s catch and find some of the best fish restaurants in Turkey.
As you can see a visit to Istanbul is not complete with out going to İstiklal Street, not only for the great shopping on offer, but to soak up the atmosphere, history and culture of Istanbul.
Tell us your experiences of İstiklal Street….
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