On the European side of Istanbul lies the district of Beyoğlu and right up the middle of what was once a very Eurpean neighborhood is Istiklal Caddesi (Independence Street). It’s trendy and somewhat overpriced, but I typically end up there anyway because the vibe is so cool and it’s a convenient place to agree to meet friends. Here is a short collection of photos from the area. To read a bit about the atmosphere in Istiklal Caddesi, be sure to read the related blog post.
This is the Turkish equivalent of the passeggiata. Crowds come not just for shopping or hanging around for coffee, tea or a drink, but also just to promenade up and down the (mostly) pedestrian-only street. A tram runs the length from Taksim Square at the top down to the funicular that descends under Galata down to within one block of the ferries at Karaköy, Galata Bridge, and the Golden Horn.
The buildings along the avenue are very European and represent Istanbul’s efforts to get modernized when the Ottoman Empire was falling behind and held the nickname “The Sick Man of Europe.” Many of these buildings house restaurants or cafes, and a second-floor perch is a great way to people watch.
The side streets are quiet and labyrinthine during the day. My publisher for The Yogurt Man Cometh, Çitlembik, is down here somewhere and the first several times I tried to find it, I only ended up lost and asking locals who had never heard of the name of the short street. But at night, restaurants and bars spill tables and patrons into the street. Pictured here is Nevizade, an area quite popular with a younger crowd.
The bars in Nevizade and the surrounding area are perfect for some live music, watching an important futbol match (all of them), and having an Efes Pilsner or a glass of rakı.
A shop selling lamps made with mosaic patterns of colored glass.
Turkish ice cream or dondurma is an unusual sort. Made with the powder of orchid bulbs, it is elastic and the vendor routinely plays tricks on the buyer.
Onlookers laugh as this woman gets the full battery of acrobatic/sleight-of-hand pranks you can do with an ice cream cone. Eventually you get to eat it.
Is there a Romani band in the house??? Not sure where these guys were going in such a hurry, but it was a stitch to see them play on the run. The clarinetist makes a call during the accordion solo. Maybe there was a Romani wedding party somewhere and they needed directions?
Must have been a lovely place to live back in the day. Not far from here is the hotel where Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express — Pera Palas. I did a hotel inspection there once and was shown her room. Some day I need to post that story. Funny bunch working there at the time and the place was really worn down, yet you could sense how amazing it once was. You could get in under $100/night in 2006. Then they got a makeover. NOW look how much they want for it. Zowie. I missed my chance.
A few paces off Istiklal Caddesi near the top, almost to Taksim Square is Aya Triyada, a Greek Orthodox Church. Here it is under some surprise snow in Istanbul.
Past the other end of Istiklal and down the hill a bit toward the sea is Galata and Galata Tower. When I first visited back in 1997, there wasn’t much to see here but the tower. Now a bunch of nice cafes and restaurants have sprung up around it and the streets have been cleaned up and made over. Really nice!
Çiçek Pasajı or Flower Passage is the now covered courtyard of a 19th century building. It is now occupied by a lot of seafood restaurants where you point to your fresh catch in the deli counter. It was once a sort of rambunctious place for a drink and a meal, but became very touristy. It certainly has its charm and the food’s decent, but you are definitely overpaying.
Down a side street, Sahne Sokak, which is right next to Çiçek Pasajı, is a short street market. It is called the fish market (Balık Pazar), but there is more here than that. You can buy a popular street snack in Istanbul: fresh steamed mussels. Or get them deep-fried and laid out in a half-loaf of bread. These guys are also selling kokoreç, lamb intestines. An acquired taste I haven’t acquired. I note that the last syllable is pronounced “retch.” I’ll stick with the mussel sandwich (midye sandviç)
There are a couple of churches along Istiklal Caddesi, including this one: the Church of San Antonio di Padua. It’s a nice place for a quiet moment just a few steps off the street.
This might give you some bearings. From a rooftop up above Galata, looking out across the opening of the Golden Horn toward Old Istanbul. Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia is peaking in on the left and Sultanahmet (the Blue Mosque) is off in the distance. Istiklal off to the right up the hill from Galata Tower.
Read about a stroll down Istiklal and why I love it so much.
Looking for a car hire in Turkey?