When one utters the name ‘Beyoğlu’ an area that comprises several different neighborhoods with wildly varying people and intentions are conveyed. As such, the best way to explore this district is to separate it out, respectively, among some pretty invisible lines, designating one feeling from another. At the moment getting to and around the district by public transport is difficult due to construction on Taksim Square which is set to continue until June 2013. Readers are advised to take the metro and add extra travel time to their journeys if traveling by road. Late-night partiers should also be forewarned that taxi drivers are currently refusing to take most passengers within the Şişli-Beyoğlu area home and would be better off coming home earlier, piling in a cab with friends living in further districts, or avoiding the district altogether.
Istanbul’s Taksim square is one of the busiest areas in the city where the central metro and bus stops bring thousands of people in and out on a regular basis. From that center, Istiklal Caddesi stretches its way outward with hoards of people moving at a steady pace and walking in and out of stores and restaurants. Istiklal Caddesi has a wide array of shopping opportunities, with everything available from men and women’s clothing, bookstores, fast food restaurants, and even a few night clubs whose thumping beat take over the street after a certain hour. During the day, İstiklal is also full of performers, that go from the random didgeridoo musician, to a full jazz band, to Turkish folk music, and even puppeteers and magicians.
Tünel and Asmalımescit
From the main artery of Istiklal Caddesi, a few side streets branch away and lead to places most contrary to the commercial and closer to the local. Tünel and Asmalımescit are made up winding streets where every turn and twist reveals a new bar or restaurant worth exploring, and there is also a large selection of stores selling musical instruments on the slope from Tünel toward Galata. Here you will also see a lot of graffiti and street art covering the walls, and even though the tables that used to be set up outside are now banned and gone, the nighttime brings all kinds of crowds like a magnet for drinks and conversation. There is always a steady flow of people through these streets no matter how late and you will always bump into someone you know on the way from one bar to the other.
Termed as the neighborhood of the bohemians, expats, and hipsters, the description is very apt. You will see a lot of tattoos, worn out leather jackets, and Vespas in this area where a lot of great bars, restaurants, boutiques, and cafes await to be discovered. Cihangir is always lively both day and night, especially on Sundays when a lot of the cafes offer brunch and the hungry crowds emerge. A lot of foreigners also live in this area, and because of that you will hear a lot of different languages being spoken in this neighborhood.
This is where Istanbul’s antique stores have opened shop and continue to bring in foreign and local enthusiasts hunting for a unique bargain. Among the many shops, items range from the largest piece of antique furniture to the smallest piece of antique jewelry that all require a bit of time and effort to be found. Çukurcuma also has a lot of stores with vintage fashions where clothing, shoes, and accessories can be found. Make sure to look up when you are wandering around to admire the beautiful architecture of the neoclassical building in their neighborhood while you search for unique pieces that all carry a history of their own.
A bit more upscale than the rest of Beyoğlu, the Tepebaşı neighborhood is not only home to hotels, including the historic Pera Palace, but also a lively restaurant and bar scene. During the day you can find art at the Pera Museum, while the later hours bring in the crowds who can be seen eating and conversing at restaurants that later turn into bars where the music escapes into the street. You can always tell which venue is the most popular in this neighborhood depending on the size of the crowd that has assembled in the street outside of its entrance taking a cigarette break.
*Updated on November 26, 2012.
Best of Istanbul Specialty Shopping; by Feride Yalav
Beyoğlu Nightlife by District Updated; by Talya Arditi and Feride Yalav
Best of Beyoğlu Dining; by Feride Yalav
The Best of Istanbul Antique Shopping Part II: Çukurcuma; by Feride Yalav