The Ultimate Guide to Beyoğlu & Taksim: 18 Best Things To Do

If you’re visiting Istanbul, you shouldn’t neglect the Beyoğlu district. Although it is on the European side, you will need to cross the Golden Horn if you’re coming from the old city and Sultanahmet.

This historic district is famous for its hotels, historical landmarks as well as nightlife. It also has been home to many different people and cultures throughout its history, which is evident by the variety of things to do in Beyoğlu. Whether you are looking for boutique shopping or a local Turkish coffee shop, there’s something for everyone!

If you’re curious as to all of the hidden treasures and rich history that this district can offer, we’ve compiled a list of 18 things to do in Beyoğlu, Istanbul so that you can have an amazing time in this gorgeous neighborhood.

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1. Istiklal street

Until the 19th century, these cobbled streets were referred to as the Grand Rue De Pera. The Turkish government renamed this street ‘Independence Street, ‘ which is now translated as Istiklal Avenue or Istiklal Street.

This pedestrian avenue used to be the gathering place of intellectuals of both Ottoman and European origin. It may be no surprise, then, that it continues to host the Istanbul Film Festival, Istanbul Pride, and a variety of other protests, marches, events. Its historic buildings, which date to the Ottoman Empire, now have trendy restaurants, cool cafes, fabulous shops, art galleries, and bookstores.

If you’re interested in historical buildings, you may wish to check out the variety of churches, cathedrals, consulates, and synagogues along the avenue. Alternatively, you may want to visit the famous fish market. You’ll find Galatasaray square in the center with breathtaking gates to the famous high school.

Istiklal Avenue is also famous amongst tourists for the historic tram that still operates. 

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2. Cihangir and Çukurcuma neighborhoods

Cezayir street in Çukurcuma

The Guardian considered these neighborhoods as being one of the five best places to live. Perhaps it’s because these neighborhoods have a similar vibe to Montmartre, Paris. The height of fashion in these spots is the luring Bohemian streets. You’ll find a selection of writers, actors, and artists in these spots.

One of the main attractions is the Museum of Innocence. The widely acclaimed documentary, Kedi, about street cats was mainly filmed in Cihangir.

In Çukurcuma, you’ll find a collection of antique shops as well as 19th-century German architecture. The history of these streets dates back to the famous architect of the Ottoman Empire, Mimar Sinan. 

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3. Galata Tower

Galata tower, one of the landmarks in Beyoğlu.
Galata Tower at night from Büyük Hendek street

Within walking distance of the largest synagogue in Turkey, the Neve Shalom Synagogue, is the famous tower once the tallest building in Constantinople.

Allegedly the Galata Tower is the spot where Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi built his artificial wings and flew. We wouldn’t recommend following his example. Instead, why not eat in the restaurant on the upper floors.

If you do visit the tower, you’ll be welcomed with the magnificent skyline of Istanbul – from the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet cami), the Hagia Sophia, the Basilica Cistern, the Galata Bridge on the Golden Horn to the marvelous Dolmabahçe Palace. You’ll have a panoramic view of all of the city – from the European to the Asian side – that has captivated imaginations for centuries. 

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4. Rahmi M. Koç Museum

The man who paid the highest taxes in Turkey in 2013 and one of the most successful businessmen of Turkey, decided to open his museum in Istanbul. His inspiration was a visit to the Henry Ford Museum.

In 1991, he bought a derelict spot and named it after himself. Now, the museum is focused on industry, transport, and communication. The museum’s location on the historic site was once used to host the anchors during the reign of Sultan Ahmed III (1703-1730).

The museum is mainly based on a selection of items from Rahmi M. Koç’s personal collection.

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5. Pera Museum

If you have an interest in the arts, you should visit. Founded in 2005 by the Kıraç Foundation, the gallery is still in its early years but already has a strong identity. It focuses on Orientalism in 19th-century art. However, it does have other themes for its exhibitions, such as the Anatolian weights and measures, the Kütahya tiles and ceramics, and, of course, famed artist Osman Hamdi Bey’s works.

It has collaborated with many other galleries to exhibit works from internationally acclaimed artists and those from Turkey. Most countries can find their art represented as the central theme focuses on national identity. 

The building is located in one of the many side streets of Istiklal Avenue and is near Taksim square. 

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6. Taksim square and Republic statue

Named after a reservoir, the history of this spot goes back to the era of Sultan Mahmud the Hunchback (the 1730s). The long pedestrian avenue, Istiklal Street, ends here (or starts?). Though it has so many wonderfully designed buildings, this spot is famous for its demonstrations, parades, events. It’s also famous for its nightlife. You’ll find people gathering at night to welcome the new year. The nostalgic trams start here and terminate near Tünel, the second oldest subway system after London. 

The Republic statue was built by Italian Sculptor, Pietro Canonica, with funds from the public. It depicts the founding fathers of Turkey. 

Taksim Square and the Republic statue is the ‘meeting spot’ where locals meet up with their friends before visiting one of the many shops or restaurants in this district. 

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7. Çiçek Pasajı

Restaurant tables lining sides of beautiful domed passage during evening food tour at taksim istiklal street

Translated as ‘flower passage’, this beautiful building is located on the old site of the Naum theatre. The theatre hosted Verdi’s ‘Il Trovatore’ before Paris had the opportunity. It was also a favorite of the Ottoman Sultans. After a fire, this spot was renovated into its current appearance.

In its early days, it was called Hristaki Passage. After the Russian revolution of 1917, impoverished Russian noblewomen used to sell flowers on this historic site. Hence the name.

These days, the arcade hosts fashionable shops, cafes, and bars. Suppose you’re wondering why it’s worth the visit. In that case, this passage is a favorite of famous chefs, writers, and architects for its buildings. 

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8. Galata Mevlevihanesi

Galata Mevlevi Lodge is sometimes described as a museum. It’s more like a historic religious building that you can visit to see the whirling dervishes. You’ll also find Sufi instruments.

The mystical order is named after the poet Mevlana, who is known in English as Rumi. This fraction was founded in the 13th century. They were briefly banned in the early Republic days due to their religious connection, but this Lodge remained.  

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9. Saint Antuan Church

The St. Anthony of Padua Church is the largest Catholic cathedral in Turkey. It is located on Istiklal Street, and it’s a little hard to miss considering how marvelous its architecture is. Outside of prayer times, one may visit and take countless photographs. You can also attend mass which is in Turkish, Polish, English, and Italian. 

Built for the Italian community in Istanbul, the combination of the Venetian neo-Gothic and Tuscan-Lombard styles is still sublime today. That may be why Pope John XXIII preached in this transcendent Church for 10 years before becoming the Pope. Fun fact: a Turkish conman attempted to sell this historic site. 

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10. Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

Another one for the fan of the arts. The focus of Istanbul Modern is on artists from Turkey. The building is located on-site of a former maritime warehouse. While the lower floor contains a cinema, temporary exhibitions, and a library, the upper floors have permanent collections, spaces for educational programs, a gift shop, and a restaurant. The collections include newer artists and older ones, such as Abdulmejid II – the last Caliph of the Ottoman Empire. 

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11. Ayia Triada Kilisesi (Hagia Triada Church)

The Hagia Triada (Holy Trinity) Greek Orthodox Church dates back to 1880. It’s still in use today and is considered the most prominent Greek Orthodox shrine in Istanbul. It was also the first domed Church that was built after Constantinople became Istanbul in 1453.

Inside, there is a selection of glorious paintings by Sakellarios Megaklis. The marblework was designed by Alexandros Krikelis. If you can make your way to the altar, you’ll find yourself lost in divine thought. Perhaps it’s the neo-baroque style architecture combined with the neo-gothic facade, or maybe it’s the beautiful work still being done by the parishioners of this Church. Still, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself pleased to have discovered this hidden gem. 

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12. Museum of Innocence

The Museum of Innocence has the same name as the book written by the first Turkish Nobel Laureate, Orhan Pamuk. Although based upon a fictional story, it did win the 2014 European Museum of the Year Award. The collection is based on life in upper-class Istanbul between the 1970s to 2000s. It’s in the neighborhoods that are well-known for their antique shops. Though the book was published in 2008, the Museum was established in 2012. However, you don’t have to have read the novel to get to grips with the Museum of Innocence. All you need is a curious mind and a desire to understand life in Istanbul. 

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13. Taksim Evening Food Tour

Man in black chef uniform cooking tantuni while two men wait outside window Kadikoy Street Food tour

If you want to discover the backstreets of Taksim and Beyoğlu, there is no better way than on a culinary tour led by a local. Taksim Evening Food Tour starts at 6 pm from Taksim square and visits 7 delicious and local food shops before ending at the end of Istiklal street near the Tünel.

You’ll get to mingle with the locals and sample the finest Turkish street foods, specialties from Southeastern Anatolia, and traditional Turkish desserts at this all-inclusive food tour. If you want to get into the midst of local Istanbul buzz, this is your opportunity to experience Istanbul’s authentic evening life. You can book your tour online here.

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14. Miniaturk

If you don’t have a lot of time and you really just want to hit the ‘cultural hotspots,’ your first attraction in Istanbul should be MiniaTurk. Translated literally, it means ‘Mini Turk.’ It’s named like that because it contains miniature models of the most popular and historic touristic spots of Turkey.

It’s created on a scale of 1:25 and includes about 135 models in a 15,000m2 space. It is one of the largest miniature parks. It contains models from Istanbul, Anatolia, and outside of Turkey, such as the Mostar Bridge. It also has structures from history. There is extra space for expansion. Think of this as one big playground with children’s gardens, restaurants, exhibition halls, trains, ferries, and even a fairytale tree. Though technically in the Beyoğlu district and still in the city center, it’s a little far from Istiklal Avenue, Taksim Square, and all the spots therein. 

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15. Kamondo Merdivenleri

A stone’s throw away from Istanbul Modern, you’ll find a staircase that James Bond superfans may recognize. This neo-baroque/art Nouveau-styled staircase was built by Abraham Saloman Kamondo as his grandchildren struggled to climb the hill to get to school in the 1850s. The Kamondo family has contributed to Turkey after relocating to Istanbul. 

Their origins date back to escaping the Spanish Inquisition in 1492. Although the Ottoman Empire accepted the Jews expulsed from Spain, the Kamondo family first moved to Venice. Subsequent generations relocated to Istanbul after Austria took over Venice in 1798. They established a bank and lived in the Galata district. The family did so well that they were the most important bankers during the Ottoman Empire. It wouldn’t be a surprise, then, that this staircase connects Voyvoyda and Banks Street. Unfortunately, the family perished in the Holocaust in World War II. This staircase is one of many reminders of their brilliant contributions. 

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16. Pera Palace Hotel

Allegedly, Agatha Christie wrote ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ here. Ernest Hemmingway and Graham Greene’s protagonists have also apparently stayed here. This is a bizarre combination of being both a museum and a hotel.

This spot is considered one of the most luxurious ones in the city considering its history. Built in 1892, the original Armenian Ottoman owners, The Esayan Family, used the Pera Palace to host travelers on the Orient Express. In other words, it’s the oldest European Hotel in Turkey. The building is under the protection of Turkish Law. If you do visit, stop by Atatürk Room 101 to see the personal items of Atatürk, the first President of modern Turkey.

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17. SALT Galata

If you thought there weren’t enough art galleries in Turkey, you might want to check out SALT. Writer and Educator in the arts, Vasif Kortun and Garanti Bank combined forces in 2011 to create a library and a gallery. Collections are from the late 19th century to the 1990s. They document Turkey’s transition from the Ottoman Empire to the Modern Republic era. One of six members of L’internationale and a member of ALANA, history buffs can feel at home with the free wifi. 

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18. Nevizade street

If it’s your first time in this city, you may feel a little intimidated by the idea of enjoying the nightlife. However, the Beyoğlu district does have a European vibe. It’s filled with historic pubs, bars, and clubs, so no need to fret if you wish to go for a late-night bar crawl. Just beware musicians who play at your table expect to be paid. If you’re really out of pocket, just politely gesture for them to move on before they start playing. The merriment that’s in this famous street is incomparable to all of Istanbul. 

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Final words

Istanbul is an amazing city with so many different neighborhoods that are fun to explore. We hope this list has helped you find some good places and things to do in Beyoğlu and Taksim, two of the most lively areas of Istanbul!

If you’re looking for more things to do or want a tour guide who knows all about these neighborhoods, contact us today! Our food tours will take you on a journey through Turkish cuisine–what better way to immerse yourself in the culture? Book your tour online here.


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