The Top Things To See And Do In Istiklal Street, Istanbul

Photo of Ayse Huseyin
9 February 2017

A visit to Istiklal Street is an opportunity to experience the unique energy and spirit of Istanbul at its most organic. The street is the busiest in Istanbul, comparable to Fifth Avenue or Oxford Street in its national notoriety. The long stretch boasts shops with every product imaginable, cafes and restaurants, live music, bars, cinemas and much more. This is our list of the best attractions that will make you visit complete.

Istiklal Street, Istanbul | © Guillén Pérez/Flickr

Çiçek Pasji/ The Flower Passage

Architectural Landmark
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The Flower Passage is a famous historical arcade containing many cafes, restaurants and wineries. The arcade originally contained a theatre, which was destroyed in a fire. After the Russian revolution of 1917, many formerly wealthy Russian women sold flowers here, giving the area its name. This is an exquisite feat of architecture that you can enjoy either by strolling through on a leisurely journey through Istiklal Street, or by sitting and enjoying a meal or a beverage under its domed roof.

MekanGalata Mevlevi Whirling Dervish House and Museum

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Galata Mevlevi Whirling Dervish House and Museum
Galata Mevlevi Whirling Dervish House and Museum | © Expression libre/WikiCommons
This museum was built in tribute to the ceremony conducted by Turkey’s infamous order of whirling dervishes. The ceremony denotes an ancient practice of spinning in a deep prayer trance, arms raised in praise of God. It is a ceremony that only those admitted into the order can perform and is one of the most fascinating spectacles that travelers can witness in Turkey. This museum archives many artifacts and documents from the long history of this ceremony, including its outlawing in the 1920s and even its origins.

The Majestic Cinema

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The Majestic Cinema is a modern cinema with a vintage twist – it has the refreshing feeling of an independent cinema rather that the identical and polished chain cinemas that we’re more accustomed to. The venue is smaller than a traditional cinema and shows Turkish as well as English-speaking films. Experience a comforting taste of home with an a blockbuster in English or try something new and watch a Turkish movie.

The Atlas Arcade

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The arcade has been is Istanbul since the 1870s and was one of many locations in the city that was renovated due to fire damage. It remains an integral landmark to the city and its locals, hosting a cinema and shops. A stroll through this arcade is a fascinating look into how regular citizens of Istanbul live and socialize. This is a great stop for any traveler who wants a break from the popular tourist locations and a real glimpse into the Istanbul behind the guidebooks and travel brochures.

Pandora Bookstore

Bookstore, Museum, Shop, Store
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This bookstore is one of the rare places to stock English books. You can find all of the international bestsellers both in Turkish and English along with maps, travel books, stationery and anything else you could need from a bookstore. This store is known for its extensive collection of books on Ottoman and Turkish history, so those who are keen to gain a detailed insight into Istanbul’s past should definitely visit. The shop will make a perfect and peaceful retreat – there’s nowhere better for a tranquil break than among the walls of books.

Vintage Red Tram

These beautiful ruby-red trams are as much of a fixture on Istiklal Street as the cobbles on the road. No trip would be complete without boarding one of these vehicles that are renowned for carrying shoppers and tourists up and down the bustling avenue as they’ve done for decades. This is one of the many examples in Istanbul of the past working seamlessly into the city’s unique modern culture. Istanbul is a city that offers its inhabitants so many ways of exploring it; every day presents a brand-new adventure.

Vintage Red Tram | © Ex13/WikiCommons

Saray Muhallebicisi

Restaurant, Turkish, $$$
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Muhallebi | © Nurettin Mert AYDIN/Flickr
If you want to sample the very best traditional Turkish desserts then look no further than this famous landmark. The patisserie offers many well known and lesser known Turkish sweet treats. From baklava (a rich pastry layered with chopped nuts and covered in sweet syrup), to lokma (fried, crispy balls of dough in a sweet syrup, both at once crisp and deliciously gooey). You’ll leave Saray Muhallebicisi not only with an even sweeter tooth, but besotted with Turkish cuisine.

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