Istanbul is one of the liveliest cities in the world that is on almost everyone’s bucket list. From grandeur palaces to historic attractions to colorful streets, Istanbul has it all. No visit to Istanbul is complete without strolling through its iconic Istiklal Street or Istiklal Avenue which is visited by around 3 million people every day. Istiklal Street is Turkey’s most famous street featuring hundreds of eating places, historic landmarks, bars, churches, and museums. The most recognized part of Istiklal Street is its red tram that is running every day. The street starts from Taksim Square which features the Monument of the Republic.
Things to Do on Istiklal Street
Though there are hundreds of things to do in Istiklal Street, here are the top 10 things that you must do when you visit Istanbul:
1. Ride the Red Tram
Any visit to Istiklal Avenue is not completed until you ride on its famous historic tram. This traditional red tram connects Taksim Square with Tunnel Square. If walking through the street is not your thing, get into this tram which carries over 5000 passengers every day. You can also ride one way and get back to Taksim on your feet. This will let you explore the shops and other famous attractions along the way.
2. Visit St. Anthony of Padua Church
There are a few churches in Istiklal Street but the most famous one is St. Anthony of Padua Church. The impressive neo-gothic architecture of the church is worth seeing if you are in Istiklal. At the entrance of the church, there is a statue of Pope John XXII who preached for around 10 years in this church.
3. Shopping on Istiklal Street
Whether you want to buy local souvenirs or get something from high-end brands, Istiklal Street has it all. There are thousands of shops featuring almost all kinds of products including clothing, accessory, cosmetics, and technology products. Make sure to buy some locally made products from one of the shops on Istiklal.
4. Taste Turkish Delights
Istiklal Street has undoubtedly the best Turkish delight in town. You’ll find many shops selling Turkish delights. Make sure to buy a selection of different kinds of tasty delights and also take some back home for your friends and family. In fact, some people might actually enjoy something edible instead of a “touristy” souvenir.
5. Witness Beautiful Street Art
Spend some time exploring the street art of Istiklal. You’ll find many streets here full of art and graffiti. Though you can spot them everywhere, the most famous street art can be found at Nur-i-Ziya Street where buildings are covered with unique graffiti patterns.
6. Watch Sema Ceremony at Whirling Dervish Museum
You haven’t really explored Turkey if you haven’t watched Mevlevi Sema ceremony by whirling dervishes. The Mevlevi Museum in Istiklal Avenue not only features the clothes, books, and instruments belonging to dervishes, they also showcase the Sema ceremony on specific days. Make sure to check the timings before you decide to visit.
7. Enjoy Street Food
Though you’ll find street food on almost every corner in Istanbul, Istiklal Street is the best place to enjoy everything under one roof. From corns to roasted chestnut to simit, Istiklal Street has it all. Make sure to try the famous ‘midye dolma’ which is a mussel on the half shell mixed with rice.
8. Get Your Hands on Iskender Kebap
Get your hands, well, actually your mouth on this incredible Turkish meal! Iskender Kebap is one of the most famous meat dishes of Turkey. It was named after its inventor ‘Iskender Efendi’ from Bursa. Iskender Kebap consists of think pieces of meat topped with spicy tomato sauce and served with yogurt. When you are in Istiklal Street, make sure to eat Iskender Kebap from Beyoğlu Halk Döner.
9. Watch Street Performances
It’s rare that you visit Istiklal Street and do not find any street performers. Enjoy the lovely melodies by the talented musicians. There is no specific place for these performers. Consequently, you can find them randomly at any corner of Istiklal. Moreover, if you’re musically inclined, the street performers might even let you sit in with them.
10. Party at Night
Istiklal Street is famous for its exotic nightlife. At night time, you can hear almost every type of music coming out of bars and clubs. With this in mind, there are plenty of bars and clubs to choose from. Some of the bars are specifically designed for students. Find a spot that suits your taste and enjoy your night!
Istiklal Street Closing Remarks
These were just a few things to enjoy on interesting Istiklal Street. During my 6 weeks of stay in Istanbul, I went to this street every single day, and believe me; I was not able to explore all of it. There are still many places which I missed but, I’ll definitely go back again to explore them.
Read our complete guide to another unique attraction of Istanbul, ‘Topkapi Palace.’