Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul is a busy street. Everything happens on there and if you are taking a city break, it is wise to spend at least a day exploring this street and all the side alleys leading off it.
On my last two winter visits to Istanbul, both of my hotels have been based close to all the action that happens on Istiklal avenue and I was certainly not bored or suffering from a lack of things to do.
The street is busy from morning until night and it never fails to surprise.
The Attractions of Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul
French street is on a small side street leading off Istiklal Avenue but is worth going that extra distance. Now a local landmark, it is very popular with tourists but while the décor is typical of a street in France, do not expect French food or handsome French waiters! Live music is played during the summer months. Open all year for food or just drinks.
Flower passage is a popular venue at nighttime for food but I did not rate the disgusting culinary dish that I sampled. My interest was instead focused on the age-old architecture adorning the first level of the buildings. It includes profile pictures from old managers of Meyhanes that used to be based in flower passage
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.
The Mevlevi museum is a former lodge of the whirling dervishes of Istanbul. A display of their clothes, instruments and reading material is open to the public. They also hold whirling dervish shows in the side hall that should been seen at least once.
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, it is estimated that at weekends, up to 3 million people will walk past this statue.
Also get ready for demonstrations. In Istanbul, if people have something to say, it will be done on Istiklal Avenue. 99% of the time, the demonstrations are peaceful.
Large banners are displayed and everyone marches up and down Istiklal Avenue. The crowd will then cheer a speaker on and everyone will go home. The most famous demonstration is the Gay pride march of Istiklal Avenue that occurs annually and in 2012 was attended by more than ten thousand people.
Eating and drinking your way down Istiklal Avenue will take months. Choose the well-known western chains of fast food such as Burger King or KFC, or alternatively sit in a traditional lokanta serving cheap Turkish food.
In the winter, keep your eye out for the warm chestnuts sold by street vendors. Nighttime is when the action happens as the bars liven up and play every type of music from traditional Turkish rock to western style group bands.
Finally yet importantly, do not forget to shop because it is so easy to empty your bank account with everything that is on sale including clothes, music, technology, home décor, sports, and perfumes.
Many shops are chain store brands so the traditional art of bargaining over prices is not accepted, but just wander down the side streets and you will find a local shopkeeper who is quite happy to sit down with you, drink an apple tea and discuss the price you want to pay.
That is enough to keep anyone busy for at least two days but an ideal city break in Istanbul should last four days so you can see major sites such as the Blue mosque and Hagia Sophia in the Sultan Ahmet Area.
For a four-day city break, find accommodation at holidaycheck.com who list more than one thousand hotels in Istanbul.
Readers Question: Have you been to Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul? If so, do you give it the thumbs up?