20+ Top Things To Do On Istiklal Street: The Heart of Istanbul!

Photo of author
Written By Louisa Smith

Co-Founder of The Turkey Traveler. Globetrotter, Adventurer, and Frequent Traveler to Turkey!

This website uses affiliate links. For more information, click here.

Istiklal Street is the most famous street in Istanbul and is widely considered as the beating heart of the city. It connects the lively Taksim Square district to the iconic Galata Tower, and extends for 1.4km. From world-class museums to global branded stores, there are plenty of things to do on Istiklal Street to make it worth visiting.

Istiklal Street is a bustling avenue lined with historic buildings, religious sites, and busy high-street stores. Wander down its side streets, and you’ll find boutiques, vintage stores and trendy cafes.

things to do on istiklal street

No matter what time of year you visit, the energy on this street is unmatched, and you’ll find it thriving and bustling throughout the day and night.

If you’re not sure what to do on Istikal Street, then you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ve shared our top attractions on Istiklal Street so you can make the most out of your visit to this lively part of Istanbul…

Things To Do On Istiklal Street

Experience the BEST of Istiklal Street!

Istiklal Street At Night

Uncover the secret passages, learn about the history, and feel the vibrant pulse of Istiklal Street on this walking tour.

Journey from Taksim Square down to the Galata Tower and get off the beaten path with a local guide.

1. Visit the Taksim Mosque

Taksim Mosque
  • Hours: 24 hours
  • Address: Gümüşsuyu, Taksim Cd. 2 B, 34437 Beyoğlu

Located on the northern end of Istiklal Street is Taksim Square, which is where you’ll find the imposing and beautiful Taksim Mosque.

It was built in 2017 and is a beautiful blend of modern art-deco and traditional Ottoman architecture. The mosque was built to house around 3,000 worshippers and is always a hub of activity throughout the day.

Its stunning design and intricate details on the inside make it one of the most beautiful mosques in the city. There is also a wonderful book store underneath the mosque, Taksim Kitabevi, which has a good selection of Turkish and English books.

2. Ride the Iconic Red Tram


The red tram on Istiklal Street is possibly the most iconic attraction on the street. Originally, trams were used as public transportation in Istanbul throughout the 19th century, but the tram was taking out of service in 1961 and replaced by a bus.

In 1990, the red tram was bought back to Istiklal Street using the original, vintage carts that have now become an iconic symbol of the city.

Riding the red tram is not only a great way to transport from one side of the street to the other, but it’s a way to soak in the vibrant energy of Istiklal Street and witness the bustling city life.

In the summer, the tram gets so busy and popular, that you even see people hanging off the sides and back of the tram! While we don’t recommend riding the tram like the men in the photo above, it’s worth doing for the sheer joy of gliding through the lively street while taking in the sights, sounds, and aromas of Istiklal Street.

3. Akbank Sanat Kütüphane

  • Hours: 11.00am – 7.00pm Tuesday – Saturday, Closed Monday and Tuesday
  • Address: Şehit Muhtar, 34435 Beyoğlu

If you’re a fan of modern art, Akbank Sanat is a wonderful place to visit. This art gallery, library and artist space has been showcasing the best arts and culture from Turkey since its establishment in 1993.

It has ever-changing exhibitions from contemporary artists in Turkey. You can see what’s happening during your visit by checking the official website here.

It also hosts the Istanbul Jazz Festival and Istanbul Short Film Festival.

4. Madame Tussauds Istanbul

  • Hours: 11.00am – 7.00pm daily
  • Address: Hüseyinağa, Grand Pera AVM, İstiklal Cd. no: 56/58, 34440 Beyoğlu

You’ve probably heard of Madame Tussauds, the wax work museum that has locations all across the world! In Istanbul, the Madame Tussauds Museum lies in the heart of Istiklal Street, and is full of life-size, wax-work celebrities.

I love how it included wax works of Turkish famous people such as Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Mehmed the Conqueror and Suleiman the Magnificent, which as a foreigner visiting the city, I had only read about in books.

But it’s not only Turkish celebrities inside Madame Tussauds Istanbul, but globally recognized faces.

You can snap photos with Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein, Tom Cruise, Usain Bolt, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Beyonce and so many more.

The museum is also always expanding. In 2024, the museum plans to introduce a wax work of Dua Lipa, Harry Styles and Elon Musk!

Madame Tussauds is included on the Istanbul Tourist Pass, which allows you entry to several of Istanbul’s top attractions!

5. Admire the City’s Most Beautiful Churches

Hagia Triada Greek Orthodox Church
Hagia Triada Greek Orthodox Church

If you’re wondering where all the beautiful churches in Istanbul are located, you’ll find many of them off Istiklal Street! In fact, four of our favorite churches are on Istiklal Street or down its side streets, which you can read more about here.

If you only have time to see a few, I recommend you visit Hagia Triada Greek Orthodox Church, St. Anthony of Padua Church and Roman Catholic Church of Santa Maria Draperis. These are definitely the most beautiful and historic.

At the northern end of Istiklal Street is Hagia Triada, the largest Greek Orthodox church in the city. It was built in 1880, and was the first domed Christian edifice allowed to be built in Istanbul after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Outside of St. Anthony of Padua Church Istanbul
St. Anthony of Padua Church
Inside of St. Anthony of Padua Church Istanbul
St. Anthony of Padua Church

The St. Anthony of Padua Church is the largest functioning church in the city and was built in a Neo-Gothic style. It was built by Italian priests in 1912, and showcases its Roman Catholic heritage. The church was also where Pope John XXIII, performed a mass during his tenure as the Vatican’s ambassador to Turkey.

Roman Catholic Church of Santa Maria Draperis
The Roman Catholic Church of Santa Maria Draperis

The Roman Catholic Church of Santa Maria Draperis is one of the oldest Catholic churches in the city. It was established in 1584, but the current building was constructed in the 1880s in a Gothic Revival style.

6. Walk down Çiçek Pasji (The Flower Passage)

Çiçek Pasji
  • Hours: 24 hours
  • Address: Hüseyinağa Mah. İstiklal Cad. Saitpaşa Geçidi No:176, 34435 Beyoğlu

As you wander down the street, you’ll notice these tiny passages tucked away under ornate facades. These passages, also known as arcades or shopping streets, are common around Istanbul.

Historically, these covered arcades were used as shopping streets in Istanbul, and not much has changed since.

The doorways are usually so narrow, you might miss them if you don’t look up. Fortunately, the impressive Greco-Roman facade of Cecek Pasaji is hard to miss.

Çiçek Pasajı is one of the most historic passages in Istanbul. It was once a part of the Naum Theatre, but was damaged by a fire in 1870, and was then sold to a banker who turned the building and passage into a shopping arcade and wine house, and called it Cité de Péra, which you can still see written on the outer facade.

The passage boomed in 1917 during the Russian Revolution, when Russian women opened up flower shops here, and it remained a popular street for florists until the 1940s. This is when the street was renamed Cicek Pasaji, which in English translates to Flower Passage.

Today the galleria contains souvenir shops, restaurants, cafes and bars.

7. Pera Museum

outside of the Pera Museum
  • Hours: 10.00am – 7.00pm Tuesday – Thursday, 10.00am – 10.00pm Friday, 10.00am – 7.00pm Saturday, 12.00pm – 6.00pm Sunday, Closed Monday
  • Address: Asmalı Mescit, Meşrutiyet Cd. No:65, 34430 Beyoğlu

If you wander down a side street for a couple of minutes, you’ll come to one of the most famous art museums in Istanbul, the Pera Museum.

The Pera Museum is located in the former Bristol Hotel, which was constructed in 1893. The museum focuses on Orientalism in 19th-century art, and contains artworks by Turkish and European artists, including the famous painting The Tortoise Trainer by Osman Hamdi Bey. You can also see works by Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, and Akira Kurosawam.

This museum also has a Weights and Measures collection, which contains over 10,000 objects about weights and measurement, including measuring instruments and scales used in a variety of industries, from pharmaceutical to shipping.

If you’re into Ottoman tile work and ceramics, the museum contains over 800 pieces of tiles dating back to the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. 

  • Opening Hours: 10 AM to 7 PM Tuesday to Saturday, 12 PM to 6 PM on Sunday

8. Flyzone Turkey Trampoline Park

  • Hours: 10.00am – 10.00pm daily
  • Address: İstiklal Caddesi Demirören İstiklal AVM No:50-54 Kat: -2, 34435 Beyoğlu

If you’re looking for fun things to do on Istiklal Street with the kids, then a trip to the Flyzone Turkey Trampoline Park is in order!

This trampoline park is where you can really hone in on your parkour skills, and features everything from free jumping trampolines to places to play dodgeball and slam dunk basketball.

It’s a perfect spot for letting loose and enjoying some high-flying action.

9. Museum Of Illusions Istanbul

  • Hours: 11.0am – 7.00pm daily
  • Address: Asmali Mescit, İstiklal Cd. No:180 D:4B, 34430 Beyoğlu

Another globally recognized museum is the Museum of Illusions, which features many optical illusion rooms where you can take selfies and let your imagination run wild.

This quirky museum showcases a fascinating collection of optical illusions and is designed for people of all ages. Whether you’re looking to explore the wonders of visual trickery or figure out cognitive puzzles, the Museum of Illusions is full of family fun.

10. Istanbul Cinema Museum

  • Hours: 11.00am – 7.00pm Tuesday – Sunday, Closed Monday
  • Address: Kuloğlu, İstiklal Cd. No 131/A, 34433 Beyoğlu

Located above Atlas Pasaji, the Istanbul Cinema Museum is a great place to go to learn all about Turkish Movies and cinema history. In fact, it has been regarded as one of the top 3 cinema museums in the world!

The building itself is about 200 years old, and the cinema is located on the second floor of Atlas Pasaji, so make sure you keep your eyes on the lookout for it as you could easily walk past it if you’re not careful.

The museum contains 130 pieces of cinematic memorabilia spread out over two floors. The museum is split in two, one section is focused on digital cinema and the other reflecting the history of cinema.

11. Galata Mevlevihanesi Müzesi (Whirling Dervish House and Museum)

  • Hours: 9.00am – 5.30pm (Closed Mondays)
  • Address: Şahkulu, Galip Dede Cd. No:15, 34420 Beyoğlu

The Galata Mevlevi Museum, also referred to as The Whirling Dervish House and Museum, is one of the most famous museums in Istanbul. It was established in 1491 and is dedicated to the spiritual art of Whirling Dervishes.

Inside, it features exhibits of important Ottoman works dedicated to the craft, as well as hosts Whirling Dervish performances in the evenings.

Some notable exhibits are the Marbling Exhibition by Mustafa Düzgünman, the Calligraphy Exhibition, the Sheets Exhibition, and the Ottoman Army Band and Musical Instruments Exhibition.

📖 Note: The Whirling Dervish House and Museum is currently closed for renovations and a reopen date has not yet been announced. We will update this guide as soon as we hear of an opening date.

12. Shop For Instruments on Galip Dede Cd

When you come to the Southern end of Istiklal Street, you’ll immediately wander on to Galip Dede Street, which is notable for its musical instrument stores that line either side of the street.

The music shops have been in abundance here since the 1980s, and because of the amount of them, the street is sometimes referred to as “Turkey’s largest music store.”

This street is a hub of activity and is always full of people. It connects Istiklal Street to the iconic Galata Tower, and has been a bustling shopping street since the mid-1800s. Historically, the street featured bookstores, cafes, patisseries, and antique stores, and today very little has changed.

The oldest shop on the street is the second-hand bookstore, Librairie de Pera, which sells rare and valuable books.

13. Walk the Beyoglu Poetry Route

Although Galip Dede Street is well known for its music stores, it’s also a historically important street. It was named after the Turkish divan poet, Seyh Galip, who is buried in the Galata Mevlevi Lodge.

In honor of Istanbul’s poetry history, you will find The Poetry Route travels along Galip Dede street, which is part of the Beyoglu Culture Route.

If you cast your eyes up, you will see the words from the poem “I Cannot Tell” by Orhan Veli Kanik, which is said to be one of the most read poems in Turkey.

14. The Quincentennial Foundation Museum of Turkish Jews

  • Hours: 10.00am – 5.00pm Sunday – Thursday, 10.00am – 1.00pm Friday, Closed Saturday
  • Address: Bereketzade, Büyük Hendek Cd. No:39, 34421 Beyoğlu

Just a short walk from the Galata Tower is The Quincentennial Foundation Museum of Turkish Jews, a museum dedicated to the rich heritage and contributions of the Jewish community in Turkey.

It’s housed in a historic synagogue, and showcases a diverse collection of artifacts, documents, and multimedia exhibits that narrate the story of Turkish Jewish life and culture.

It’s a compelling journey through centuries of history, highlighting the enduring traditions, achievements, and challenges of the Jewish community in Turkey.

15. The Atlas Pasaji

  • Hours: 9.00am – 9.00pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, 10.00am – 8.30pm Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday
  • Address: Kuloğlu, İstiklal Cd. No:131, 34433 Beyoğlu

Another beautiful passage you should check out is The Atlas Pasaji, which you may remember from earlier when I talked about The Cinema Museum.

Don’t just skip through the passage to the museum though, step inside to see the The Atlas Pasaji which features homeware stores and cheap clothing shops. While Istiklal Street is lined with globally recognized brands, The Atlas Pasaji is a very local shopping area, and offers a glimpse into how locals shop.

The arcade itself has a beautiful entrance. It was built in the 1870s but was damaged in a fire and then lovingly restored.

16. Dinner with a View at Eleos Restaurant

Photo Credit: Elios Restaurant
Photo Credit: Elios Restaurant
  • Hours: 2.30pm – 12.00am daily
  • Address: Şahkulu, İstiklal Cd. No:231, 34421 Beyoğlu

If you’re feeling peckish, then why not try one of Istanbul’s top rooftop restaurants? Eleos Restaurant is one of the most top-rated restaurants on Istiklal Street and is noted not just for the food, which has earned it two Michelin Stars, but for the view of the Bosphorus.

The meze platters and seafood dishes are equistite. The food is a combination of Turkish and Mediterranean flavors, and will have you salivating with every bite.

Make sure you book a table, as this is one of the most popular restaurants on Istiklal Street.

17. Snap Instagram Photos at Minoa Pera Bookstore

Minoa Pera Bookstore inside
Minoa Pera Bookstore book staircase
  • Hours: 8.00am – 12.00am daily
  • Address: Evliya Çelebi, Meşrutiyet Cd. No:99, 34430 Beyoğlu

Minoa Pera Bookstore is not your ordinary bookstore. It’s a bright, multi-storey book shop with an industrial, modern design.

The draw to this bookshop is the staircase in the entrance, which has been built out of books. You’ll need to wait in line to have your Insta snaps taken on this beautiful backdrop, but it will be worth it!

Aside from snapping Insta-worthy shots, the bookshop has a huge collection of English and International books. There is also a cafe inside, where you can sit and read your new book purchases with a delicious cup of coffee.

18. Try Salt Bae Burgers

  • Hours: 12.00pm – 12.00am daily
  • Address: Şahkulu, Şahkapısı Sk. No:4, 34421 Beyoğlu

You’ve probably heard of Salt Bae – he’s probably the most famous Turkish celebrity in modern day society. Nusret Gökçe, who is more famously referred to as Salt Bae, is a Turkish butcher and chef who is famous for his technique of seasoning meat, pouring salt down his arm and falling off his elbow.

In Istanbul, it’s a real treat to dine at one of his luxury steak houses, and while you might not see the man in action, you will get to see why he is famous aside from his signature move.

Salt Bae Burgers is another popular restaurant that you’re going to want to book a table for. It’s quite prestigious, it even has a member of security manning the door!

19. See the Galata Tower

  • Hours: 8.30am – 10.00pm
  • Address: Bereketzade Mahallesi Büyük Hendek Caddesi, Numara: 2, 34421 Beyoğlu

The Galata Tower is one of the most famous landmarks in Istanbul and is what makes the city so famous. The 62.59 meter tower was built by the Genoese colony in Constantinople in 1348, serving as a watchtower.

Its high vantage point allows those at the top to see the entire Bosphorus, which was often under attack during the Byzantine era, making it one of the most important constructions in the city.

When the Ottoman Empire took over, the tower was used as a dungeon and eventually a fire tower. The city has had several fires over the years, which has frequently damaged the tower, though renovations have always been to preserve what can be preserved.

The tower is now a museum and an observation deck.

📖 Note: The Galata Tower is currently undergoing renovations, but when we visited at the end of March 2024, it looked like it was very near completion! We will update this page once we have heard of its reopening.

20. Walk Around Taksim Square

Taksim Square

Taksim Square is a vibrant square that’s often used for events, public gatherings, celebrations, and demonstrations.

It’s not much of a looker, to be honest, it’s a vast empty concrete square with a monument in the middle, but there are quite often things going on here and it’s a great place for people watching.

Grab yourself a simmit from one of the food carts and sit on a bench in the square and watch the city come to life.

21. Get A Doner Kebab from Taksim Square (Kızılkayalar Taksim)

  • Hours: 8.00am – 5.00am daily (except Saturday, 8.00am – 6.30am)
  • Address: Katip Mustafa Çelebi, Sıraselviler Cd. No:2/C, 34433 Beyoğlu

It’s hard not to notice the kebab shops on Taksim Square – just look at the size of the döner kebab (pictured above)!

Aside from being one of the most popular places to get a doner roll, it’s also one of the most affordable places. In March 2024, I paid about $4 USD for a doner roll and it made for an excellent lunch time meal.

There are several restaurants back to back along this strip, but I ate at Kızılkayalar Taksim and thought it was pretty delicious!

22. Have A Turkish Bath from Ağa Hamamı

  • Hours: 10.00am – 10.00pm daily
  • Address: Kuloğlu, Turnacıbaşı Cd. No:48, 34433 Beyoğlu

You cannot go to Turkey without trying a Turkish Bath – it’s an experience, I’ll tell you that! If you’re not familiar with the concept of a Turkish Bath, it’s essentially a form of deep cleaning and massage that has been a tradition in Turkey for centuries.

It’s believed the Ottoman’s adopted it from the Romans, though the style is very different from Roman Baths.

One of the oldest Turkish Bath houses in Istanbul is Ağa Hamamı, which dates back to 1454. It’s a prestigious bath that was once used by the Padishahs and their sons right up until the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

The hamam was traditionally separated into two parts; one for men and the other for women, but today it is a unisex hamam where couples can enjoy the experience together.

It sits over three floors, with the ground floor being the entrance, and the upper floors for the baths.

📚Read more: A guide to Turkish Baths for women

Map of Attractions on Istiklal Street

To help you plan your visit, here is a map that shows all the attractions along Istiklal Street mentioned in this guide. You can download this map onto your Google Maps by clicking the square on the top right corner.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it, those are the top things to do on Iskiklal Street, and as you can see, there’s so much to see and do here, you could easily spend a few days exploring this street and all it has to offer.

I hope this guide helped you plan your trip and gave you some ideas for what to see on Istanbul’s most famous street!

Do you have any questions about visiting Istiklal Street? Let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer!

Leave a Comment