Modern Istanbul’s main artery Istiklal Caddesi is the venue forshopping, football fans, demonstrations and thousands of people day and night. This 3km-long pedestrianized street (Independence Avenue) starts at Taksim Meydaniand goes to Tünel, passing (walk or take the Nostaljic Tram) shops, restaurants, churches, cinemas, mosques and fine architecture. A fire in 1870 meant the streets were rebuilt in Art Nouveau style, bringing a new European style to Pera. Look up at the buildings even if they now house uninspiring stores; the stonework and carvings date back to the more glamorous days when the street was known as Grande Rue de Pera. START: Bus or metro or tram/funicular to Taksim.
1- Cumhuriyet Aniti (Republic Memorial).
This striking arch-shaped monument was made by Italian sculptor Pietro Canonica in 1928 to commemorate the founding of the Turkish republic, and commissioned by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. At last, the post-Ottoman era meant figurative expressions could now be used (previously forbidden in Islam) so on one side we see Atatürk the leader, with Ismet Inönü (the Republic’s first president) and Fevzi Çakmak (soldier and ex-prime minister) marking the foundation of the young Turkish Republic. Walk around the other side of the memorial to see Atatürk with soldiers, representing the War of Independence. It’s an unusual format—not surprising considering it was originally designed as a
square-shaped fountain. This is a hub for political demonstrations, best avoided, especially on May Day, which can get heated (injuries and arrests in 2008). @10 min. Taksim
The café-bar at the base of Taxim Hill hotel, with its floor-to-ceiling windows open in summer, provides a perfect people-watching spot of crowded Taksim Meydani over a coffee or eggs for breakfast. 5 Siraselviler Caddesi, Taksim Meydani. y0212 334 8500. $$.mosaics of the Virgin Mary and Christ on the left. @15 min.
Entrance off Meselik Sokak, off Istiklal Caddesi. Services Sun 9–11am. Bus, tram/funicular to Taksim.
3- Aya Triada Church.
After five minutes’ walk, you’ll catch your first glimpse of this majestic white church on the left, just off Istiklal Caddesi. Istanbul’s largest Greek Orthodox Church, built in 1880 by Greek architect Kampanaki, is officially only open for Sunday services, although you might be lucky enough to have a quick peep inside if the caretaker is around. If so, you’ll love the sunlight streaming through the
four large circular stained-glass windows, casting deep red and green light throughout. It has less dark wood and gold than many Greek churches; look up to see the frescos above the gallery, and its painted dome. The entrance hall also has a painted ceiling, and NGAR M
4- Emek Pasaj.
One of many ‘pasaj’ running off Istiklal with cheap clothes piled high in the covered alleyway; enter not so much for its tacky accessories but for the original stone ceiling with ornate carvings. It’s obvious that little has been done to preserve or renovate, making it all the more charming. Further inside is the Emek Sinema, in existence since 1920 when it was known as Melek Sinemasi. @10 min.
Most stores open daily 10am–8pm. 56 E Istiklal Cad.
5- Yeşilcam Café.
Also a perfect spot for a winter’s evening, complete with board-games (Istanbul Monopoly anyone?), rock music and comfort food of burgers and sandwiches. If it’s sunny, get a table by the open windows overlooking the busy street. Emek Pasaj, 56E/1 Istiklal Caddesi. 0212 293 7279. $.
6- Alkazar Sinemasi.
You might find yourself visiting this cinema one evening, with Hollywood titles as well as Turkish movies, but check it out now for its façade’s wonderful stonework, in keeping with the ornate style of the street’s historic buildings. This was actually one of Beyoglu’s most important 19th century buildings, and had its days as a theatre, set up by Turkish actor Ayfer Feray 1928–1994), heart-throb of the 1950–70s. @10 min. 111 Istiklal Caddesi.
7- Cite de Pera.
This build- ing – or rather its façade – is a great reminder of the Grande Rue de Pera’s glory years. I’m not so keen on the colored glass in the renovated window, but love the ornate stone carvings above the entrance. In the 1940s, florists traded from the first-floor stores, and it was known as “Çiçek Pasaji” (Flower Passage), a name still used today. When the building collapsed in 1978 and renovated further, it was then filled with noisy meyhanes(fish restaurants). But not many people know that previously it was the Naum Theater hosting Italian operas, burned down in the great Pera fire of 1870.
Greek-Turkish banker Hristaki Zografos Efendi bought the land, and the restored building was
named Cite de Pera. These days it’s a shadow of its former self with a few bars and restaurants (better
restaurants nearby) but still worth a look inside. @10 min. 172 Istiklal Caddesi.
Aya Triada, Istanbul’s largest Greek Orthodox church. Historic Cite de Pera, now Çiçek Pasaji.
8- Üç Horan Ermeni Kilisesi (Armenian Church of Three Altars).
A real hidden gem behind Balik Pasaj, this church behind heavy wooden doors (usually open to the public) celebrated its 200th anniversary in May 2008. With a plain exterior and graceful interior,
the story goes that an unknown sick man prayed to be cured, promising to build a church with three altars if his prayers were answered. Take a peek inside to see the famed altars. @15 min. 24 Sahane Sokak, Balik Pasaj. Services Sun 12noon. Open daily 8am–5pm.
9- Avropa Pasaj.
I try not to be distracted by the passageway’s grubby glass ceiling, instead looking up above the shop entrances to the small black statues of angels lining what was the original exterior. This tiny arcade is the place to browse for antiques—or more precisely ephemera. The upper floor’s renovations are set to be complete in early 2009, which will give you a chance to walk upstairs for a better view of the pasaj. @15 min. Off Sahne Sok. Most stores open daily 10am–7pm.
10- Galatasaray Lisesi.
A massive landmark, its gate and pillars being my favorite Beyoglu meeting-point, this school was
established in the 15th century, when Sultan Beyazit II (1447–1513) responded to an old man’s wish to
build a school for educating ‘promising young men’ (see bullet !). Fast forward to the late 19th century
when Sultan Abdulaziz acquired the help of Napoleon III in transforming the school to the contemporary French lycée system, a huge influence on modernizing Ottoman Turkey. Since 1992, it has been part of Galatasaray University, coeducational, and entrance exams required, even at primary level. Visitors are allowed to enter the grounds (9am–5pm) or just peer through the ornate gilded gates.
@15 min. Istiklal Caddesi.
11- Gülbaba’s Tomb.
Take a 10-minute detour down Yeniçarşi Caddesi to see the little-known tomb of the man who inspired the Lisesi (see above); a humble reminder of a promise kept by Sultan Beyazit. The neighborhood is old
and a little scruffy, but the grave — the only one there—is well kept, often tended by the local children,
and with an adjacent little park. You’ll be one of the few visitors to make it here! @10 min. Gül Baba
12- Misir Apartmani.
The white six-storey apartment block built in 1920 by Hovzep Aznavur, a prominent Armenian architect who also built St Stephen of the Bulgar’s (see p 29), is one of my favorite Istiklal buildings, representing the old Pera with a huge facelift. Take the lift to the top floor and walk down, popping into the small private art galleries inside (see Modern Istanbul p 28 for more details) or lunch in the stylish 360 Istanbulon the top floor (see Best Nightlife p 117). This was the winter residence of Abbas
Halim Pasha, son of an Egyptian prince (Misir means Egypt). Later converted into apartments and
office space, it was recently converted once again into modern apartments and given a new lease
of life. @30–60 min. 163 Istiklal Caddesi.
13- St Antoin di Padua.
This one is easy to miss—through a triple-arched gateway and down a set of steps. The huge neo-Gothic
Catholic church, built in 1913, replaces the original one here from 1725, its interior dominated by a
statue of Christ on the cross suspended from the ceiling, sculpted by Italian Luigi Bresciani. The exterior with leafy courtyard is delightful, with circular stained-glass windows, and flower-pots up on the entrance archway’s ledges, originally part of apartments built as a source of income for the church. The statue of Pope John XXIII, who served the Istanbul Catholic community 1935–1944, was unveiled by Pope Benedict XVI on his historic trip to Istanbul in 2006. @15 min. Istiklal Caddesi. Open daily 8am–7.30pm.
14- Santa Maria Draperis.
Like St Antoin di Padua (see above) this has an entrance hidden from view, from the days when it was forbidden for churches to have visible spires. This Franciscan church dating back to 1789 has a gorgeous bell tower, visible from the courtyard. @15 min. 215 Istiklal Cad; daily 10am–12pm and 2–6pm. Sun and Tues 2–6pm.
15- Galata Mevlevihanesi Müzesi.
Due to reopen late 2008 after major restoration, the museum housed in the 1491 tekke (lodge) built for the Mevlevi (Whirling Dervishes) contains traditional musical instruments, illuminated Qurans
and costumes. Don’t miss the complex’s serene graveyard where many of the lodge’s Sufis are buried, the tomb of Galipdede, the revered 17th-century Sufi poet, and the ornate fountain of Hasan Aga (1649). This was (and plans to continue after reopening) the venue of the Dervishes performing their famous semaceremony, a trancelike ‘whirling’ meditation which brings them close to God. Scheduled to be every Sun 5pm; phone to check. @30 min. 15 Galip Dede Caddesi, Tünel. y0212 245 4141. Open
Ornate entrance to newly-restored Galata Mevlevihanesi.
16- Markiz Patisserie.
Now called Robert’s Coffee (and originally Lebon Pastanesi from 1850) this was once the epitome of
bohemian Pera, cake venue of choice for the city’s elite—including young author Orhan Pamuk. The huge art nouveau tile panels by French artist J.A. Arnoux once depicted the four seasons, although only Spring and Autumn remain. 172A Istiklal Cad. 0212 252 2701. $.