Istanbul: Beyoglu, Taksim Square and Istiklal Street

What is there in Taksim? Simply everything! History, culture, art, shopping, entertainment of all kind, Turkish food, all kinds of people, rich and poor, cosy and posh, anything… It is where you should not leave Istanbul without seeing. Taksim (a.k.a Beyoglu and Istiklal Street is the main part) lies on a historic region. The region is alive nearly for 24 hours. There are many opportunities for different tastes for entertainment.  I recommend you to lift your head up in the street once in a while not to miss the historic buildings all around. The old buildings mostly host modern venues. You may be surprised to see a fancy venue in a very old and neglected building or in a backyard. I’ll be writing about my favorite places and places you may like to see in Taksim area (mainly on Istiklal Street):

Taksim Square Map
Istiklal Street

Cicek Pasaji

1. Cicek Pasaji & Nevizade (Çiçek Pasajı & Nevizade): Cicek Pasaji is an arcade hosting Turkish cousine restaurants, mainly for dinner, traditional Turkish alcohol “Raki” (Rakı). Raki is a strong booze (45% alcohol) with a dominant anise taste. It is diluted with water and drunk slowly, together with cheese, melon, appetizers (meze), etc. Nevizade is the street by Cicek Pasaji with open air restaurants similar to the ones in Cicek Pasaji. I personally prefer the ones in Nevizade street.

St. Antoine Cathedral

2. St. Antoine Cathedral: It is the largest cathedral of the Roman Catholic Church in Istanbul. The original cathedral was built in 1725 by the local Italian community of Istanbul, but was later demolished and replaced with the current building which was built between 1906 and 1912 in the Venetian Neo-Gothic style. The cathedral is run by Italian priests. Saturday mass is in Italian and begins at 19:00, Sunday mass is in English and begins at 10:00, and Tuesday mass is in Turkish and begins at 11:00.

360 Istanbul

3. 360: 360 is a fine dining restaurant – bar – club on the roof of a building on the Istiklal Street (next to the St. Antoine Cathedral). It has a magnificent Bosphorus and Golden Horn view. Special events are held in the club as well. I recommend you to visit their web site and make reservations beforehand: Click here to visit official web site

NuTeras

4. NuTeras: It is another roof-top fine dining restaurant – bar, with fantastic Golden Horn View. It is on Mesrutiyet Street (Meşrutiyet caddesi) (parallel to Istiklal Street) and next to Pera Museum. Click here to for more information and reservations

Beyoglu Hayal Kahvesi

5. Beyoglu Hayal Kahvesi: It is one of the best live rock music bars in Istanbul. Famous singers and bands perform here every night. Quality music and audience guaranteed. You may run into a celebrity among the audience any time. It is on Buyuk Parmak Kapi street (Büyük Parmak Kapı sokak) (On the left when going down along Istiklal Street). Click here for more information

Galata Tower

6. Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi): Galata Tower is a 650 year old, 67 meter tall tower. It has a fabulous view of Golden Horn, Historic Peninsula and Bosphorus. The tower is open to public, so you can enjoy the view from the top (there are elevators). There is also a restaurant, café and a nightclub on its upper floors where special Turkish and oriental shows are held. Click here to for more information and reservations

Asmalimescit

7. Asmalimescit: Asmalimescit is a bohemian region with cafés, restaurants and art galleries on the streets. Generally preferred by artists and intellectuals. You can find all kinds of cousines (Italian, Far East, American, etc.) along with Turkish cousine (“raki” & “meze”). I suggest Asmalimescit instead of Nevizade for raki & meze.

Babylon

8. Babylon: Babylon is a multi-purpose performance center and live music venue of Istanbul. It hosts local and international jazz, latin, brasilian, reggae, world music and electronica scene. You can listen to world-famous bands in Babylon. Click here to visit official web site

Taksim POI
Of course there are many more, and I’ll be adding new places in time. One last word -a little warning- about Taksim; as it is a very crowded region, I advise you to keep an eye on your personal belongings. Also I’ve heard some incidents where tourists had been deceived and accompanied to some shows where large amounts are charged. So be careful about strangers approaching friendly (Turks are generally hospitable, and some people may approach with true feelings; but it is better to be safe than sorry).