In Ottomon times called as the “Cadde-i Kebir”, then in French “Grand Rue de Pera” and today is called as the Istiklal Street, is probably the most famous and historic streets not only in Istanbul but in all Turkey as well.
1,4 km Street starts from the well known Taksim Square and ends at Tunnel that is connecting Beyoglu district to Karaköy by the Golden Horn.
Istiklal has been the center of cultural and social life in Istanbul since the old times. Today the face of Istiklal may have changed quiet a lot, however the spirit remains the same and is still the center of cultural and social life in Istanbul as well as a rising star for food and entertainment.
So let's start with the tour of Istiklal!
Before we start from Taksim square you may want to have a look at the famous Gezi Park that's been an important agenda of Turkey since last May. Gezi Park is located right behind the square on the right hand side. Take a look at some photos taken at Gezi Park.
Kızılkayalar: We are back in the square. Before we start you may grab a special wet burger from famous Kızılkayalar located in the enterance of İstiklal Street. It is one of the special tastes of İstiklal for sure and goes well especially in late hours after a couple of drinks :)
Ağa Mosque: is the only Mosque located in İstiklal Street and has a history over 400 years.
Rumeli Han: Right next to Ağa Mosque, there's the Rumeli Han, originally built as houses during the 19th century and nowadays used mainly for small workshops and cafes. There's also a small stage in Rumeli Han, called as Haymatlos Stage in which there are some live music performances from time to time.
İnci Patisserie: İnci Patisserie or bakery is famous with its great profiteroles. İnci has a 68 year background in İstiklal street and for sure is among the stops of İstiklal flavors.
Atlas & Suriye & Terkos Passages: İstiklal can also be considered as one of the shopping districts of the city in which lots of well-known Turkish and international brands opened up stores on this street. However, for me the passages in İstiklal are much more interesting for shopping rather than the regular stores. In Atlas, Suriye and Terkos passages you may find a lot of daily and stylish clothes, costumes, posters, antiques and a lot of accesories. They're worth exploring!
The Hall : There are probably countless bars in İstiklal, however the reason i mention The Hall is because this place was turned from a 140 year old church into a stage and bar. Even if you do not see an event, just have a peak inside.
Çiçek Passage: Çicek Passage is another historic building located in İstiklal, nowadays hosting couple of restaurants while during the 19th century this place was built as a theatre house. You should give a short break in Cicek Passage and have a Turkish beer in its historic atmosphere.
Fish Market & 3 Horan Church: As you leave Cicek Passage, just on the right hand side you will see the Fish market. I know it doesn't smell that good and may not be that attractive but just walk inside for 2 minutes until you reach the 3 Horan Armenian Church hidden behing the curtains right after the benches where they sell fish. It's quite an othantic location for a church and you'll definitely feel like you found a treasury while the door keeper opens those curtains for you!
Ara Cafe: Located right next to Galatasaray High School in İstiklal. This cafe belongs to the famous Turkish photorapher Ara Guler. It's likely to coincide some Turkish movie stars and artsts in this cafe. You may give a break with a ginger lemonade or winter tea in Ara.
Fransız (Cezayir) Sokağı: If you go behind Galatasary Hİghschool after you leave Ara Cafe, you will see the Fransız Sokağı (Street) that has been renovated couple of years ago which has plenty of restaurants and bars inside. The street is located on the sides of the stairs going down from Taksim to Çukurcuma area.
Mısır Apartment: Is one of the most beautiful apartment buildings in Istiklal. Famous 360 restaurant is located on the top floor of this apartment. Suggest that you go up and have a look at the view from this restaurant as well.
Saint Antuan Church: If you went up to the 360 in Mısır Apartment, you should have seen a nice brick tower in your view on the right hand side. That tower belongs to the Saint Antoine Church which is the most important Catholic Church in Istanbul having the largest community. Church also has a remarkably beautiful architechture and is definitely worh seeing.
Salt Beyoğlu: If you'd like to add some art to your tour, you can have a look at the exhibitions in Salt Beyoglu in which many important contemporary artists present their work in here. Also note that Salt Beyoglu had also been one of the hosts of latest Istanbul Bieneal this year.
Robinson Crusoe Bookstore : İstiklal is also famous with its book stores. Robinson Crusoe is not only one of my favourite bookstores but is among my favorite places in general on İstiklal Street. Nice to spend some time with the books and forget how time passes in here..
Asmalı Mescit KV: And now we are here in Asmalımescit which has been the center of entertainment in Istanbul as from the end of 90's. There are many restaurants, bars, and cafes in this area however KV located in an open air passage connecting to the Tunnel is one of my favorite places. This place is decorated with colored light bulbs hanging from the trees, quite casual as it is in the passageway but surely is a nice stop in Asmalımescit in which you can feel the vibe of that area.
Antiochia: Do you want to have some real Turkish food now ? Antiochia is specialized in Antakya food that is located in South East of Turkey and if you feel hungry and you can find a seat inside, you should try the food in Antiochia for sure.
Paris-Teksas Outlet (Tunnel): In case you couldn't do enough shopping in the passages, you may also have a look at Paris-Teksak Outlet located in Tunnel Square. You can find some basic itesm of cool international brands at really affordable prices in here.
Historical Tram: Finally reached the Tunnel square. Now it's time to go back to the Taksim square. Could be really nice to take the historical tram instead of walking back through all that crowd. Or if you still have energy you can continue your tour following the signs of Galata.
But Galata is another region to explore, so i leave this topic for next time..