Thursday, August 25, 2011

22 Things to do in Taksim & surroundings

Dear readers,

After a few days of silence... I am back!!!! I have sooooo much work to do (have to make a living!), so I didn't get a chance to write the last few days...

On Tuesday, I had to visit a customer and there offices are in Taksim... so while there, didn't have too much time, but I still took some photos and decided to prepare an article on 22 things you can do in Taksim & its surroundings. Why 22? That's all I could think of...but be rest assured.. this is still the tip of the iceberg...but I'm just writing a post... not a book! 

Our tour will begin in Taksim Square... this is basically the center of the city and a place often visited by locals and tourists alike.
Taksim Square
This post will come in handy not only to newcomer residents/expats to Istanbul, but also tourists. The list was prepared in no particular order, so here goes!

1) Take the tram from Taksim square to Tünel or from Tünel to Taksim Square. The tram runs down the middle of Istiklal Street (the main street that connects Taksim to Beyoğlu, Galatasaray and Tünel).

Istiklal Street
The one way full fare cost is 3 TL and you need to purchase a ticket (no cash payments accepted) from the kiosk right by the metro station which is right across the street. You can get off at different points along the route, but I suggest you go to the very end and then walk back to original point.

2) From Taksim Square... walk down Siraselviler Street to Cihangir.

Sıraselviler Street
The walk is about 6-7 city blocks long and you know you are in the heart of Cihangir when you arrive at the mini-square. This neighborhood is favored by expats and local Bohemian Turks and is full of cafes scattered around its narrow streets. Hang a left at the square, and you will be on Akarsu Caddesi. Some recommendations include Smryna Cafe (Akarsu Caddesi No. 29), White Mill (Susam Sokak No. 13) , Cuppa (Yeni Yuva Sokak No. 22), Fol in Love (Cihangir Caddesi No. 16/B) and Kahvedan (Akarsu Caddesi No. 50). If you are interested in trying Armenian cuisine, definitely go to Jash (Cihangir Caddesi No. 9, Tel: (0212) 244 30 42)... the food and ambiance is fantastic! And... if you are interested in purchasing all different types of Turkish regional cheeses, olive oil, olives, etc., stop by Antre Gourmet Shop (Akarsu Caddesi No. 52) where you will find a wide selection and knowledgeable sales staff who can assist you.

3) If visiting the city, stay at the newly refurbished 5-star Turkish owned The Marmara Istanbul Hotel (

The Marmara Istanbul Hotel
That is IF you don't mind staying steps fromTaksim Square where it does tend to get very crowded... noisy... etc. If you are lucky enough to get a room facing the Bosphorus sea on a high floor, you will definitely enjoy your stay! I have seen a couple of the rooms and they are nicely furnished and the rooms are not very small compared to counterparts found in most European cities.

4) Take a coffee break at Kitchenette (you can also have a meal) or its neighbor Starbucks at the entrance to The Marmara Istanbul Hotel.

5) Take the metro from Taksim Square to the "Levent" stop and visit either Metrocity (escalators on left side once you get off the metro)or the open-air Kanyon (escalators to the right as you get off the metro) - two major shopping malls in Istanbul. The metro is right across the street from Taksim Square.

Metro entrance at Taksim Square
The full fare cost of riding the metro is 2 TL and tokens can be purchased from the automated machines located by the turnstiles. You don't need to have exact change and bills and coins are accepted (and change given). The metro is very clean and air-conditioned and there are concession stands on the platforms and stairways where you can pick up something to eat, drink or purchase newspapers, magazines, etc.

Taksim Square metro station

Taksim Square Metro station

Taksim Square metro station

Levent metro station
 6) Be courageous! Try two of the locals favorite street foods: "Islak" (Wet) hamburger and döner (meat or chicken) sold at one of the side of side stands by Taksim Square.

Islak (wet) burger at Kızılkayalar

"meat" döner
A "wet" hamburger is just that and prepared with a special tomato sauce with herbs and the "best" one can be purchased from Kızılkayalar and costs only 2 TL.  Or, you can have a döner sandwich prepared with either meat or chicken (photo above is a meat döner). Sure, you might be concerned about the "health" standards.. but Turks and foreigners alike have been purchasing these goodies from these stands for years and as far as I know.. no one has gotten "major" sick (including me!).

7) Stroll down Istiklal Street (instead of taking the tram) and take in the sights and try some other "street" foods along the way ... like corn on the cob and roasted chestnuts.

8) Try a "typical" Turkish milk pudding... either "Tavuk Göğüsü", "Kazandibi" or "Fırın Sütlaç" (rice pudding). Your best bet is to try it at Sutiş or Saray Muhallebicisi - both with branches on Istiklal Street.

Tavuk Göğüsü (left and right), Kazandibi (center) at Sütiş

Fırın Sütlaç at Sütiş
9) Purchase the "best" Turkish Delights from Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir Confectioners to take back home! You can purchase the pre-packaged selections or have them prepare a box with the ones you like - in any size!

10) Purchase "Turkish style" chocolates from Elite

11) Stop by the new Demirören Shopping Mall... especially if you want to buy books and records at Virgin... or all sorts of appliances... electronics and more at Saturn.

12) Visit one of the many art galleries on Istiklal Street to include Arter, Galerist, Galeri Nev, and Garanti Contemporary. Note that a couple of them (Galerist and Galeri Nev) are not on the street level and are on the upper floors at Istiklal Street No. 311 and No. 163 respectively) of the buildings. Don't forget... most are closed on Mondays.

13) Treat yourself to a night of music at Borusan Music House ( where there are different live music performances (but not during the summer - the season opens in September).

14) Stop by one of the specialty bookstores (Denizler, Pandora and Robinson Crusoe).

15) Purchase ice cream from one of the many ice cream shops along Istiklal Street to include Cremeria Milano.

16) Stop by Ara Kafe ( for a light lunch or beverage. The cafe is on the left hand side of the street in a small alley by Galatasaray High School and Yapı and Kredi Culture Center on Tosbağa Sokak (street). Alcohol is not served

17) Take a stroll through the Fish Market (Balıkpazarı) where you will find many fishmongers... small seafood restaurants... fruit and vegetable stands... delis... etc.

18) Have a meal at one of the taverns/restaurants at Çiçek Pasajı (Flower Market). I recommend Sev İç.

19) Once you arrive at Tünel... about a 15-20 city block walk from Taksim Square... once you pass the Metro Station on the left hand side of the street, walk down the street right in front of you - past the Dükkan Burger eatery and visit Galata. You will walk a steep street for about 4-5 blocks and lined with musical instrument stores before arriving at the Galata Tower on a street to the left. Around the square are several restaurants and cafes and on the parallel streets many trendy boutiques, curio shops and more. If you need to pick up some Turkish wine, stop by Sensus Wine & Cheese Boutique (at the Anemon Hotel) where you will find a wide selection of only Turkish wines. If you want to taste some regional Turkish dishes... stop by Kiva - right in Galata Square.

20) Hang a right at Tünel Square and enter the world of Asmalımescit! The narrow side streets are full of side by side cafes, bars and taverns. Currently the street side seating at these eateries have been removed, but due to massive complaints, it is hoped that most outdoor seating will be restored. Some of my picks in the area include Otto, The House Cafe, Sofyalı (Turkish) and Antiochia (excellent food from the city of Antakya). For music and after September when they open for the season - Babylon ( If you want to visit a meyhane (tavern), then head to Yakup, an old-time favorite.

21) Walk through Asmalımescit heading towards Pera which is only a few blocks away... Make sure to visit North Shield Pub for a wide selections of beers, whiskies, etc.; La Brise Brasserie for French Cuisine; 9 Ece Aksoy for Mediterranean cuisine; Mikla - high atop the Marmara Pera Hotel for a fine dining experience... Istanbul Culinary Institute - for excellent Turkish contemporary cuisine; Çok Çok - for Thai cuisine; Nu Teras - for a lovely Haliç Bay view and International & Mediterranean cusines (the terrace will close for the season probably by the first week in October); and the Pera Museum to view their permanent collection as well as temporary exhibits.

View from Nu Teras
22) Stay at the Pera Palace Hotel ( The century old hotel (1892) was totally refurbished and re-opened in September 2010. Or.. if a resident of Istanbul.. have a lovely meal at Agatha Restaurant or a light meal/beverages or cocktails at Orient Terrace.

Orient Terrace
This ends my "short list" of things to do in Taksim and its surroundings.... I hope you enjoyed our mini tour!



  1. Great summary... I am Istanbul local and definitely recommend this list.

  2. thank you for your comment - I'm happy you liked it but hope to make some updates to this list this year too - as you know things change quickly in Istanbul and there might be some new additions!