Photo by Egon Bömsch/age fotostock
Journey to Modern Istanbul
The lifeblood of modern Istanbul is the two-mile-long pedestrian street Istiklal Caddesi (Independence Avenue), running from Taksim Square to the Tünel train station. It's equal parts touristy and local, commerce and culture, and strolling down the avenue to shop, dine, or just socialize is a favorite pastime of many Istanbullus. (The beloved red-and-white tram is out of service for the foreseeable future while the street gets some much-needed maintenance.) Though many complain about encroaching international chain stores and shopping malls taking the thoroughfare's distinct character away, there are still plenty of gems if you follow the backstreets and duck into the historic passages. Don't forget to look up: Many of the art nouveau and Ottoman-era buildings house rooftop cafés and businesses above street level.
By Meg Nesterov, AFAR Local Expert
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A Nostalgic Journey in a Modern Istanbul
Most travelers to Istanbul will stay within the comforts of Old Istanbul, the main tourist precinct where the Aya Sophia, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar, and Spice Bazaar lie. But lingering here will leave one to ask, “Where are all the local women?” or, “Where are the 13 million people who live here?” Old Istanbul is awash with international tourism dominated by male business owners and workers. If you find yourself asking these questions, then simply walk over the Galata Bridge, or take a tram via the same route (over the Golden Horn) to find Beyoğlu—one of Istanbul’s modern districts. Here you’ll find the neighborhoods of Taksim and Tünel nestled either end of the 3 km pedestrian street called Istiklal Caddesi (Independence Avenue). Istiklal is the European side's most famous street that’s lined with brand-name shops, art galleries, embassies, bars, cafes, historical arcades, and places of worship. Here you can literally rub shoulders with the locals because, as they say, over three million people walk this street every day. Allow plenty of time for shopping, sightseeing, and meandering the sidestreets that hide some of Istanbul’s best shops, bars, and cafes. If the crowds get too much, though, jump aboard the nostalgic tramway (3TL p.p.) that cuts through the crowd with stops in Taksim Square, Galatasaray (halfway down the street), and Tünel.
By Leeann Murphy, AFAR Local Expert