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Top things to do in Istiklal Street

tags: İstiklal Street

Top things to do in Istiklal Street

Editor: Rasim Terzi (Tue, Sep 5, 2023 3:43 PM)

Let's explore the most crowded street of Istanbul

Top things to do in Istiklal Street

Istiklal Street, stretching approximately one and a half kilometers between Tünel Square and Taksim Square, stands as Istanbul's most renowned thoroughfare. Once open to vehicular traffic, the street underwent a transformation in the 1990s as part of a pedestrianization project. It is now traversed by historic nostalgic trams, providing a unique mode of transportation along this iconic route. Thousands of people frequent Istiklal Street, often starting their journey in Taksim Square, where they rendezvous before embarking on the nostalgic tram as a guide to explore the vibrant street.

In the past, Istiklal Street was associated with a more formal attire, owing to its historical theaters and cinema halls. Men, often donning ties and suits, and elegantly dressed women frequented these establishments. However, the street's character has evolved over time, and today it welcomes visitors in a more casual dress code.

The Nostalgic Tram 

The Nostalgic Tram, operational since 1914, is an iconic transportation line that has become a symbol of Istiklal Street. Tourists and locals alike often capture photographs of this historic tram as it travels along the bustling avenue

Hagia Triada Church .

Hagia Triada Church, meaning Holy Trinity in Greek, adds to the cultural richness of Istiklal Street. Constructed in 1880 with the permission of Sultan Abdulaziz, its Gothic-style bell towers make it a prominent landmark easily visible to anyone entering Istiklal Street.

Rebul Pharmacy 

Founded in 1895 by Jean Cesar Reboul, Rebul Pharmacy stands as a testament to the last period of the Ottoman Empire. Located on Istiklal Street, the pharmacy has persisted in its original location, offering a unique historical experience. Rebul Pharmacy gained fame for its colognes with various essences, a tradition dating back to 1934. The Lavender cologne, in particular, has remained a sought-after product among Istanbul's residents for many years.


French Consulate

As you enter Istiklal Street, the imposing building on the right is the French Consulate, constructed in 1898. Beyond its consular functions, the consulate hosts French courses and screenings of French films. Before the consulate's establishment, this location was occupied by a plague hospital. Just behind the French Consulate stands the Armenian Catholic Surp Hovhan Vosgeperan church, also known as the Church of John the Golden Mouth.

İnci Patisserie

Formerly situated on Istiklal Street, İnci Patisserie was a beloved destination for Istanbulites. Renowned for its delectable profiterole dessert, İnci Patisserie relocated to Mis Street due to escalating rent costs on Istiklal Street. A must-visit for chocolate enthusiasts, the patisserie is a delightful addition to your travel itinerary.

Rumeli Passage

Among the numerous passages on Istiklal Street, the first encountered is the Rumeli Passage. Constructed in 1894 by Ragıp Pasha, a minister under Sultan Abdulhamid II, the passage is part of a trio named after continents: Africa, Anatolia (Asia), and Europe (Rumelia). Underneath the Rumeli Passage lies a tunnel structure reminiscent of Roman-era cisterns.

Agha Cami

Dating back to 1596, Agha Cami is one of Istanbul's oldest mosques. Built by Hüseyin Ağa, a noble of Galata Palace, the mosque sits next to the tomb of Davud Agha, another noble from Galata Palace. Although the mosque suffered fire damage in 1934, it underwent reconstruction, preserving its historical significance.



Emek Passage - Circle D'Orient (Serkldoryan)

Emek Passage stands as another significant landmark on Istiklal Street with a fascinating history. The original structures in this area were ravaged by a massive fire on June 5, 1870. In the aftermath, Sultan Abdulaziz's vizier, Abraham Pasha, took the initiative to acquire the damaged land and embark on the construction of a new passage. Architectural endeavors commenced in 1875 under the guidance of architect Alexander Vallury, culminating in the completion of the passage in 1883.

Originally known as Circle D'Orient, this building served as an entertainment club attracting prominent statesmen, businessmen, bankers, Levantines, and affluent individuals from Istanbul. Following the First World War, it became a venue for British commanders' recreational activities. Financial difficulties faced by Abraham Pasha led to the Ottoman Bank taking possession of the buildings.

In 1958, the building was acquired by Emekli Sandığı, and its halls found a new purpose as comedy stages for Rüya Cinema, Emek Cinema, and City Theaters. As a result, the street adjacent to this building earned the special moniker "Yeşilçam," signifying the unique association with Turkish Cinema. The Emek Passage remains not only a testament to historical architecture but also a symbol of Istanbul's cinematic heritage.


HAcı Abdullah Restourant 

**Halep (Aleppo) Passage**

Constructed in 1885 by M. Hacar from Aleppo, the Halep Passage is a historical gem on Istiklal Street. Initially home to the renowned Variety Circus Theater (Cirque de Pera), the passage underwent restoration in 1904 by architect Campanaki. Today, it houses Beyoğlu Cinema since 1989, while a section serves as the Greek Consulate General building, donated by a Greek family with the surname Şişmanoğlu.

**Atlas Passage**

Inside the Atlas Passage resides the Turkish Cinema Museum. Originally the mansion of the affluent Armenian Köceoglu Family in the 19th century, the building hosted Sultan Abdülaziz, a close friend of Agop Koceyan. The passage, once a stable, later transformed into a horse acrobat arena. Donated by the Koceyan family to the Vosgepeyan church after the First World War, the mansion had diverse roles, including a British Military Court, Post Office Directorate, and an entertainment venue named "Moulin Rouge."

**Flower Passage**

The Flower Passage, formerly known as Hristaki Pasajı, evolved from the ashes of the Naum Theater, destroyed in the 1870 Beyoğlu fire. Purchased by Hristaki Zografos Efendi, it was reconstructed as Cité de Péra, becoming Çiçek Pasajı during the Armistice years. From 1940, taverns emerged, and today, the Flower Passage continues its tavern culture.

**Galatasaray High School**

Built in the 19th century as Mekteb-i Sultaniye, Galatasaray High School has a historical origin in the 15th-century palace dedicated to non-Muslim converts. Awards won by the Galatasaray Sports Club are displayed in the opposite building. A statue commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey stands on the left side of the school.

**Mısır Apartmanı (Egypt Apartment)**

The location of the former Trocadero theater, Mısır Apartmanı, was later transformed into a winter mansion for Egyptian Ottoman Statesman Abbas Halim Pasha. Built between 1905 and 1910 in Art Nouveau style, this apartment housed the Turkish national anthem poet Mehmet Akif Ersoy and served as the office of Atatürk's dentist, Sami Günzberg.

**Saint Antuan Church**

Constructed in 1910, Saint Antuan Church is the iconic Catholic church of Istanbul. Located on Istiklal Street, it hosts services in different languages accompanied by an orchestra. The Neo-Gothic architecture echoes the burned Notre Dame Church in Paris. The entrance mosaic features the Virgin Mary, Saint Anthony, and St. Francis. A statue of former Pope Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (John XXIII) graces the church's garden, where he once preached before being elected to the papacy.

Syrian Passage

"Syrian Passage" a masterpiece designed by the renowned  architect Dimitri Basiliadis for the Abut family, stands as a testament to exquisite aesthetics. This location, once home to the residences of Eczacı Eduoardo and Balthasar, has transformed into Syrian Passage. Initially hosting the Santral Cinema, it later underwent name changes to Şafak, Cumhuriyet, and Zafer.

The "Journal de Stamboul" newspaper, which continued its publication until 1974, graced the Syrian Passage with its journalistic presence. Beyond its literary significance, the passage also served as a hub for skilled artisans, featuring jewelry shops, cobblers, and tailors operated by non-Muslims.

Syrian Passage, with its rich and diverse history, has made a substantial contribution to the cultural fabric of Istanbul.

Holland  Embassy Palace

"Hollanda Sefaret Sarayı," also known as the Embassy Palace of the Netherlands, was constructed by the architect Giovanni Barborini in the year 1859. The history of this diplomatic building is intertwined with significant events in the diplomatic relations between Turkey and the Netherlands.

In March 1612, Cornelius Haga, the Dutch Ambassador, arrived in Istanbul with the purpose of meeting Sultan Ahmed. Following the discussions, trade rights granted to the Venetians, the French, and the English were also extended to the Dutch. Additionally, permission was given for the construction of the Dutch Embassy building in Istanbul. Consequently, the Hollanda Sefaret Sarayı was erected in this area as a symbol of diplomatic ties and cooperation between the two nations.Thanks to this friendship between the Ottomans and the Netherlands, the tulip, the most special flower of the Ottomans, was transferred to the Netherlands.

Russian Embassy Palace

The "Rus Sefaret Sarayı," or Russian Embassy Palace, was constructed by the architect Gaspare Fossati between 1838 and 1845. Despite occasional periods of amicable relations, the diplomatic history between the Ottoman Empire and Russia has generally been challenging. Due to numerous wars, Russian envoys often had to fulfill their embassy duties in temporary locations.

After the Ottoman-Russian War of 1774 and the signing of the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca, Russia gained the right to construct a permanent embassy palace. Consequently, a Russian embassy palace was built in Istanbul. Following the destruction of the embassy palace in the major fires that struck Beyoğlu, Narmanlı Han served as the temporary residence for the Russian embassy until the reconstruction of the palace.

Upon completion of the new Russian embassy palace, the embassy relocated to its original location. The proximity of the Dutch and Russian consulate buildings, along with the similarity of their flags, has often led locals to confuse the two.

Santa Maria Draperis Church 

Santa Maria Draperis Catholic Church stands as a unique space in the rich history of Istanbul, finding its place as a church ground amidst the city's intricate past. Despite the loss of many historical churches to fires and the ravages of time, the construction of Santa Maria Draperis Catholic Church in 1904, with the special permission of Sultan Abdulhamid II, shines as the second significant church of the Franciscan order in Istanbul. Designed by the Italian architect Guglielmo Semprini, this structure not only neighbors Istiklal Avenue but also represents a design that defies the passage of time.

Despite its adjacency to Istiklal Avenue, the natural slope of the terrain creates a distinctive elevation, turning the approach to the church into a unique and striking experience. This detail, akin to discovering a hidden treasure, adds an element of mystery to finding the church. While the search may be a bit challenging, stepping inside promises an encounter with a secret worth unveiling. In the apse of the church, the painting of Virgin Mary, which miraculously survived a fire in 1678, symbolizes the timeless beauty and resilience of this sacred place.

Botter Building  

Botter Building, constructed in 1900 by the renowned fashion designer Jean Botter, stands as an impressive structure with the Art Nouveau style architecture designed by Raimondo D'Aronco. An interesting anecdote from the building's history involves Jean Botter creating two special outfits for Sultan Abdulhamid to wear at the Yıldız Palace. When Sultan Abdulhamid expressed his desire to establish a fashion house, with the Sultan's support, the present-day Botter Building was constructed.

The first floor of the Botter Building serves as Jean Botter's workspace, while the second floor is utilized as a sewing workshop. The third and fourth floors are designated as living spaces. In recent years, following a restoration by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, the building has been transformed into a cultural center. Beyond its architectural elegance, the Botter Building draws attention for its historical significance and cultural contributions.

Narmanlı Han 

Narmanlı Han is a significant historical building contributing to the rich tapestry of Istanbul. Constructed in 1831, this han has witnessed various pivotal events and notable figures over the years. Here are some key details from the history of Narmanlı Han:

- **Historical Origin:** Narmanlı Han was built in 1831, standing as a testament to Istanbul's historical fabric.

- **Period as the Russian Embassy Palace:** At one point, it served as the Russian Embassy Palace, hosting various diplomatic activities during that period.

- **Jamanak Newspaper:** Established in 1908 by the Armenian Koçunyan brothers, the Jamanak Armenian local newspaper was published within Narmanlı Han for many years. Today, it remains one of the three Armenian newspapers still in circulation.

- **Host to Artists:** Narmanlı Han provided a space for renowned artists such as Abidin Dino and Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu, becoming a birthplace for art. Notably, the famous writer Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar lived in Narmanlı Han for seven years.

- **Restaurants and Cafés:** Through renovation efforts, Narmanlı Han has transformed into a venue with restaurants and cafes, preserving its historical atmosphere in contemporary times.

- **Illusion Museum:** Narmanlı Han also houses the intriguing Illusion Museum.

Narmanlı Han, throughout its history, has played diverse roles and hosted various influential figures, contributing to the cultural richness of Istanbul. Today, with its restaurants, cafes, and unique museum, it continues to preserve its historical charm while adapting to modern functions.

The Swedish Embassy Palace 

The Swedish Embassy Building in Istanbul was constructed in 1870 by the architect Domenico Pulgher. Sweden, aiming to enhance its relations with the Ottoman Empire, decided to establish an embassy in Istanbul. To achieve this goal, a Swedish missionary named Gustav Celsing purchased the land where the current embassy palace stands from a British merchant. The Swedish Embassy Palace was then constructed on this land.

However, like many buildings in Beyoğlu, it suffered from the notorious fires, rendering it unusable. The embassy building was extensively damaged. In response, a larger embassy palace was constructed in the surrounding areas by acquiring additional land in 1870. The new embassy palace was inaugurated with a grand ball, marking its reopening.

On the door of the embassy palace, you can find the Coat of Arms of King Karl XIX, a symbol of the Swedish monarchy. This embassy building stands as a testament to the historical ties between Sweden and the Ottoman Empire.

Crimean Anglican Church

Crimean Anglican Church stands as a remarkable testament to the collaboration between the British Empire and the Ottoman Empire during the tumultuous times of the Crimean War. Constructed in 1868 with a striking neo-Gothic design that sets it apart from traditional Turkish architecture, this church echoes with the echoes of history and sacrifice.

Its grand interior, adorned with majestic pipe organs, hosts Sunday services that resonate with a unique spiritual ambiance. More than a place of worship, this neo-Gothic marvel pays homage to the British soldiers who came to the aid of the Ottoman forces during the Crimean War. It is a living memorial, embodying the shared history of nations.

The foundation stone, laid in a ceremonious event attended by dignitaries in 1858, marked the beginning of a decade-long construction journey. In 1868, the doors of the church swung open, revealing its majestic beauty to the world. The carefully selected black stones from Büyük Ada and yellow stones from Malta, meticulously crafted, contribute to its captivating allure.

As a place of worship for the African community in Istanbul, the statues of Jesus within the church are distinctive, being sculpted in a resolute black hue. Beyond its architectural prowess, the Kırım Anglikan Kilisesi is a symbol of unity, remembrance, and the enduring connection between nations that transcends time.






Tue, Sep 5, 2023 3:43 PM

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