If you are visiting Istanbul, you will probably explore the Old Sultanahmet, where popular attractions like the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are. But make sure to visit the Beyoglu neighborhood located on the European side of İstanbul, Turkey. The modern area is known for the bustling Istiklal Street, the tall Galata Tower, and several interesting museums.
Top Things to Do in Beyoglu
Here are some of the best things to do and see in Beyoglu.
Step away from the Sultanahmet and cross the Golden Horn before heading into Beyoglu.
Relax or drink coffee outside the Galata Tower. Take a cruise down the Bosphorus River. Whatever you do, Beyoglu will give you another perspective on Istanbul.
Crossing over the Golden Horn to the Beyoglu side of Istanbul, Galata Tower stands proudly on the top of the hill.
The Tower offers an amazing 360-degree view of Istanbul, from the Old Town, the European side, the Bosphorus, and up to the Oriental side of town. You have a wait quite a while before getting into the elevator, but it’s worth it. Once at the top, you can also rest by the restaurant. Try to grab a table by the window – a great way to enjoy the view while sipping your hot tea!
The area offers lots of opportunities to stop for Turkish coffee or tea, along with local Istanbulites enjoying smoking Nargile or playing Backgammon in the street. The area around Galata Tower is rather hilly, with narrow windy cobblestone streets. One can take a taxi on the way up if you want to rest your feet, and stroll your way down, wandering along.
Istiklal Caddesi & Taksim Square
Carrying on our visit to the modern Beyoglu area, we made our way to Istiklal Caddesi, a commercial pedestrian street 1 mile (1.4 km) long. This is a lively street to walk along, with fashion shops, corner Kebab restaurants, cafes, and bookstores.
Leading up along Istiklal Caddesi is Taksim Square, a popular gathering place for the local Istanbulites. Beyoglu has a totally different vibe than the conservative Old town and complements the duality of Istanbul, a true mix of European and Asian culture.
We spent an evening on the Caddesi and were amazed at the population on the street. About one mile long (one and a half kilometers), the street was packed from side to side! It was like a constant wave of people, non-stop hour after hour. Surprisingly Taksim Square was rather empty, with just a few people here and there.
If you are into museums, Beyoglu certainly has a lot to offer! From the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, Madame Tussauds Istanbul, the Museum of Innocence, the Pera Museum, SALT Galata, Istanbul, Rahmi M. Koc Museum, Galata Mevlevi, or the Türvak Museum of Cinema and Theatre, there are over a dozen museums for all arts and interests.
Boarding one of the numerous boats that cruise the Bosphorus, we passed along Dolmabahce Palace, Rumeli Fortress, and Ortakoy. A Bosphorus cruise is definitely the leisurely way to enjoy the scenery and discover more of the town.
You can take a ferry to cross over to the Oriental side or take a full-day cruise up to the Black Sea. Some of the ferry options let you go on land in some areas, allowing you to visit the sights along the Bosphorus.
Want to read more about Turkey? Check our posts about Hot Air Balloon in Cappadocia, tasting traditional Turkish cuisine, hiking through the Cave Churches of the Rose Valley of Cappadocia, or watching the Whirling Dervishes Ceremony.
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