Things to do

Istanbul’s Taksim Square: Where Life Never Stops

The famous Taksim Square in Istanbul

Beyoğlu’s Taksim neighborhood in Istanbul has quite a reputation among foreign nationals. Lined with some famous and expensive brand houses, the streets of Taksim have a feel that is hard to compare with anything else in Turkey. 

Taksim is famous for many hotspots, such as Taksim Square, Gezi Park, and museums, especially its nightlife. The neighborhood never sleeps!

Not only pubs and bars that are usually open through the night but also sweetshops and food places are open 24/7. Your eyes will never get full of looking at the beauty around you, as Taksim is home to some authentic sweet joints, ancient architecture, and much more.

If you are in Istanbul, Taksim should be on your bucket list. You won’t regret visiting here as Taksim alone is like a mini Turkey in itself. You get a glimpse of everything, from culture to food. The place is a perfect historical and modern blend.

To make your trip to Taksim worth the while, here is a list of things you can do while exploring the neighborhood.

#1. Galata Tower, where a magical spell creates for the one you want to marry!

The famous Galata tower in Istanbul

A prominent symbol of Istanbul and overlooking Beyoğlu and Karaköy districts, the Galata Tower in Taksim is special. Peaking into its history, it will take you through many periods, including the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman eras. The tower served as a prison during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Süleiman the Magnificent. The legend goes that Galata has an active magical spell on it.

But before we get to the myth, the Galata Tower is truly a place to see. At night, the tower illuminates with beautiful lights, while you can witness its magnificence during the day. The tall Galata Tower is a marvelous piece of architecture that withstood many earthquakes and natural withering over time.

The Great Myth Attached to the Galata Tower

The legend goes that whoever visits the Galata Tower with their lover will surely get married to that person in their current life. Though there is no solid proof to authenticate that story, the myth has always existed and is believed by many.

It won’t be surprising to see couples holding hands at the tower and making a wish to get married. Some even go to the extent of making a marriage proposal at Galata to make the moment special.

The story goes that the Galata Tower and the Maiden Tower were deeply in love. But neither of them knew if their love was mutual as Bosphorus Strait stood in their way of meeting. But the Galata Tower used to pen down letters for the Maiden Tower. 

One day Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi, an Ottoman scientist and inventor, decided to fly from the Galata Tower. When he visits the tower, it whispers to Celebi about his love and requests Celebi to deliver his letters to the Maiden Tower. Thus, Celebi helps unite the two as Maiden realizes that Galata also is in love with her.

#2. The notorious Istiklal Street:

Istiklal Street

Stretching 1.4 kilometers from Galata Tower to the Galata Palace, Istiklal Street is the most famous street in Istanbul. Many brands, pubs, cafes, and museums line Istiklal, whose history dates back to the 18th century.

You’ll need a day to fully explore the street as there are some breathtaking places you wouldn’t want to miss. Something or the other will catch your attention here as there are some vintage bookstores, a flower path, Pera Museum, the AKM Culture center, and much more. The vibe of this place is purely cosmopolitan. You get to see the history and the architecture on the one hand and the modern European life on the other

These are the places that you should see and things you should do while you explore the famous Istiklal Street:

  • Pera Museum: 

Founded by Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation, Pera Museum is home to paintings and artworks of renowned painters across the globe. Living up to the reputation that it has created since its establishment, a visit to Pera Museum will be worth it. The topics of exhibitions here are usually academic and sometimes contemporary. You will get a chance to peek through objects explaining some ideology or perspective that will leave many questions answered. It’s not an exhibition if it doesn’t challenge our thought process, right? 

  • Çiçek Pasji or the Flower Passage:

Earning its name from women who used to sell flowers in this passage after a theater here got burned down, Çiçek Pasji still keeps that feel intact. Lined with flowers and benches to eat and dine, you can stroll through the way and look at the beauty surrounding it. 

  • A ride on the ancient era red trams:

It is simply not right that you come to Istiklal Street and not ride the vintage red trams. Running through the streets, you should hop on a tram to peep at the places on Istiklal Street. Hearing the bells instead of horns as the train passes through Istiklal, these trams create a rustic charm that will take you back into historical times.

You will see many shutterbugs taking photos of the tram, especially during a light snow, as the street looks even more beautiful.

  • Madame Tussauds:

Many get surprised to see Madame Tussauds museum while wandering on Istiklal Street. The museum – which we all know is famous for its wax statues – is home to some 60-plus real-life-looking statues of famous personalities. You can find sports personalities such as Cristiano Ronaldo or actors such as Brad Pit, Angelina Jolie, and many more.

  • A great place for shopaholics!

Istiklal Street is a great venue for those who like to shop. Home to some of the most famous brands in the world, Istiklal is a place where you can find anything easily. There are also some vintage shops selling handicraft products. And you can also find clothing stores that are more reasonable in range. Shopaholics might need someone to control their urges, or there will be a hole in their pocket in no time flat.

Speaking of money, you might want to take care of your luggage and purses as you explore the street. There is a reason why the street is called notorious. Pickpockets and thieves are always around and don’t always trust someone who wants to help you. Many portray themselves as tourist guides but are not. So ask for their identity cards before you trust one. The best way is to go to an agency if you require a tourist guide. You can easily find a tourist company in Istanbul, so traveling is never a problem here. It is a tourist hotspot, after all.

#3. Galata Mevlevi Whirling Dervish House and Museum

The place is known for “whirling dervishes” performances. These ceremonies are usually performed on Sundays in the evening at 6, and the dance lasts about an hour. Related to Sufism, dance is of religious importance. It creates a positive energy that will calm you down. With arms raised in praise of god, men devoted to religion spin continuously.

Apart from the “whirling dervishes” hall, it has a museum. This museum is home to ancient documents and artifacts shedding light on Turkey’s history.

#4. Retro Atlas Arcade!

Established in the 1970s, the Atlas Aracade is a bar and a restaurant where you can enjoy music and games from the 80s and 90s. You’ll see people socializing here while drinking beer or playing games. The interiors are funky-looking spaces, reminiscent of the old times. It is a great place for those who are curious about Istanbulities.

Be a kid again and enjoy the games at Atlast Arcade with your near and dears. It’s a great place for socializing, getting to know people, or simply enjoying the feel of Istanbul.

#5. Koska! Sweet, nuts, grape molasses, Tahini, and more!

For sweet tooths out there, Koska is a must-try shop. You can try Turkish delights, also called “lokum,” and Ottoman-inspired “helva” varieties. Different types of molasses, traditionally called “pekmez” is also Koska’s specialty.

They also sell baklavas, especially the dry ones, and pişmaniye, or, in other words, cotton candy, that you can take along with you to your country.

In a nutshell!

The famous Taksim Square houses many restaurants, hotels, and monuments dating back to ancient times. Different statues that you’ll see during your trip have a history behind them. 

Gezi Park, an area famous for protests, is the only green area in the whole neighborhood. It is surely worth the visit!

The nightlife of Taksim is colorful. The neighborhood never sleeps. Taksim is a place that shows both the historical and modern sides of Istanbul. It is worth spending a full day here to explore the neighborhood fully.

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