İstiklal Avenue is a very famous roadway in Istanbul, Turkey. Nearly three million people visit this avenue every day. It can be found in the historical Beyoglu district of the city. It is quite an elegant pedestrian street that is a little over half a mile long. It has many music stores, art galleries, book stores, exquisite boutiques, theaters, cinemas, cafés, libraries, night clubs, pubs and restaurants. It is also a favorite site for marches, demonstrations, parades and other gatherings.
Highlights of the Avenue
This avenue, is bordered by several unique buildings from the late Ottoman era. Many of these structures have Neo-Gothic, Neo-Classical, Beaux-Arts, Renaissance Revival, Art Nouveau and also First Turkish National architectural styles. There are also some Art Deco buildings that date back to the early part of the Turkish Republic.
Galatasaray Square is situated near the center area of İstiklal Avenue and is the location of a highly respected educational institution that was built during the Ottoman Empire. It was originally called the Galata Palace School, now it is called the Galatasaray High School.
The historical Karaköy or Galata district is located at the southern part of İstiklal Avenue. This area has the second oldest subway station in the world. It is generally called the Tünel or the tunnel and it opened in 1875.
This busy avenue has numerous historical, as well as politically significant buildings. The Çiçek Pasaji area has many small taverns and restaurants. There is also the Balik Pazari (fish market), the Aga Camii Mosque, S. Antonio di Padova church, Santa Maria Draperis church and the Haghia Triada, a Greek Orthodox church. There are also several mosques, synagogues, and educational institutions that were established in the nineteenth century by different European countries such as Austria, Germany, Italy and France.
Throughout the Ottoman period, the İstiklal Avenue was called the Cadde-i Kebir or Grand Avenue. It was a favorite location for many Ottoman intellectuals, and European travelers. When nineteenth century visitors described Constantinople as being just like Paris, they were referring to the Grande Rue de Péra or the Istiklal Caddesi. The avenue’s name changed in October of 1923, to Istiklal, which means independence in English, to commemorate Turkey’s war of independence.
Late Twentieth Century
İstiklal Avenue temporarily fell out of favor during the 1970’s and mid-1980’s, because many residents moved elsewhere since most of the side streets had too many bordellos and bars. From the late 1980’s to the early 1990’s, an enormous refurbishment process occurred to bring back the avenue’s wonderful charm. Several historic buildings were restored, new pedestrian sidewalks were built and the avenue’s historic tram system was reinstalled.
It did not take long before the avenue to once again become the focus of leisure and fine arts in Istanbul which resulted in real estate prices increasing significantly. A large number of new book stores, art galleries, cafés, shops, restaurants, and hotels opened after the renovation. İstiklal Avenue’s venues have hosted all kinds of international art festivals, including the yearly Istanbul Film Festival.