Istiklal Street, known in Turkish as Istiklal Caddesi, is one of the most well-known avenues in Istanbul. Stretching for about three kilometers, it is the main pedestrian thoroughfare in the city and welcomes as many as 3 million visitors on any given day.
Known as Grand Avenue during the Ottoman Period, the avenue was renamed Istiklal (Independence) in 1923 to commemorate the declaration of the Republic of Turkey after the Turkish War of Independence. Running from the Galata Tower to Taksim Square, it is lined with late Ottoman era buildings built in a variety of architectural styles, ranging from Neo-Classical to Art Deco.
Istiklal experienced a downturn in the 1970s and 1980s, but by the late 1980s a massive restoration project was underway to revitalize the historic area. Historic buildings along the street were restored, pavement was laid for full pedestrianization and the tram that once ran up and down the length of the avenue was reinstalled. Today, it is teeming with art galleries, boutiques, shops, cafes and nightclubs, making it a center of activity in Istanbul day and night. Together with Taksim Square, it also plays host to a number of parades, demonstrations and celebrations throughout the year.
Istiklal runs from Tunel Square to Taksim Square, each of which is accessible by public transportation. Take the tram to Karakoy and then either make the steep climb uphill to Tunel Square or take the much faster (and less strenuous) funicular. Alternatively, you can ride the metro to the Taksim Square station or take the tram to Kalabatas and transfer to a funicular there that will take you up to Taksim Square. Hop on the historic tram to get from one end of the street to the other.