Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul is a busy street. In fact, it is the busiest street in Turkey. Also known as Istiklal Caddesi in Turkish or Independence Avenue in English, anyone visiting the city should spend at least a day exploring the 1.4-kilometer Street and all the side alleys leading off it.
The street is busy from morning until night, and not only is it immaculately clean and uniformed but buildings have a historical tale to tell that mostly relates to the Ottoman era. Often frequented by dignitaries, intellectuals and people of affluence, the cosmopolitan street was the place to hang out.
It is so easy to empty your bank account with everything that is for sale including clothes, music, technology, home décor, sports, and perfumes. Many shops are chain store brands so you can’t bargain over prices. Instead wander down side streets to find local shopkeepers who sit down with you, drink an apple tea, and discuss the price you want to pay, in the traditional Turkish way of haggling.
If art interests you but you don’t want to walk around galleries, then the street art tour might be more suitable.
There are a few churches in this area, but the biggest and best is the St. Anthony of Padua Church. The Venetian Neo-Gothic architecture of the inside is impressive. The church is a fully functioning place of worship for Christians that live in a predominately-Muslim country.
Perfect for both novice and experienced photographers who want a deeper look into daily life in Istanbul, it starts on Istiklal Avenue, heads towards the Galata Tower district and past major landmarks as well as giving a local insight into the urban life of this great city.
The Mevlevi Museum is a former lodge of the whirling dervishes of Istanbul and displays of their clothes, instruments, and reading books are open to the public. They also hold whirling dervish shows in the side hall that showcase the ancient Sema ritual. This museum is a great insight into the Sufism sect of Islam and Rumi, also known as one of the greatest poets in the world.
The Independence Monument stands in Taksim Square. A reflection of the Turkish war of independence, many Turks hold it in great esteem. First erected in 1928, estimations say that at weekends, up to 3 million people walk past this statue.
On back streets surrounding Istiklal Avenue, art galleries such as the Pera Museum and smaller exhibitions such as the Misir Apartmani in the Galata district, showcase up and coming artists, both international and Turkish.
Eating and drinking your way down Istiklal Avenue will take months because of the huge range of establishments open for business. Well-known western chains of fast food such as Burger King or KFC make a roaring trade with youngsters and partygoers, or alternatively, traditional Turkish lokantas serving cheap Turkish food are great if you are traveling on a budget. Likewise, high reputation restaurants serving pricey food often require a reservation in advance.
A local landmark and popular with tourists, the décor is typical of a street in France, but don’t expect French food or handsome French waiters! Live music played during the summer months provides a romantic atmosphere, while it is open all year for food or just drinks.