Submitted by: Maria Snyder
Lined with cafes, clothing shops, bookstores, restaurants, and apartments above the street level, this is a lively, constantly changing scene. I've seen strolling students, tourists with their maps, and even a tiny feminist protest in this street that mixes European and Turkish culture. If the street itself weren't attractive enough, the stroller can also step into perpendicular passageways that contain shopping galleries, food markets (with stalls for vegetables, fresh fish, and all sorts of unexpected things), or simply beautiful courtyards.
What Makes Istiklal Caddesi a Great Place?
It is accessible by bus from the nearby Taksim Square and by foot from several neighborhoods. Only occasionally will a car nudge its way through the throng of pedestrians.
At first glance, it seems merely pleasantly attractive, perhaps much like a nice street in a European city. It seems quite safe, there are women as well as men in the cafes. The area is also kept quite clean.
People using this street tend to be younger rather than older. Istanbul has many quiet spots for sitting and chatting, but this street is a bit more bustling. There are always clumps of young people forming here, and as in other parts of the city, street vendors make their way through the crowds. Some people simply pass through on their way to other neighborhoods.
Istiklal Caddesi is certainly a meeting place. In the summer, the percentage of tourists is higher than at other times, but this area contains few of the major attractions that draw people to Istanbul, making it mostly utilized by locals.
History & Background
Istiklal Caddesi's architecture dates mostly from the 19th century, when it was a European ex-patriate center. It was called the Grande Rue de Pera until 1923, when the new Turkish Republic renamed it Istiklal Caddesi (Independence Avenue). Throughout most of the 20th century, the street was famous for the high speeds of cars speeding down it, and pedestrians were unwelcome. Recently, it has been turned into a pedestrian mall, and has become one of Istanbul's most fashionable streets.