Monday, April 14, 2014

Istanbul, Turkey: The Area of Beyoğlu

Actual date of this event: 2-7 April

When I first started looking into Istanbul, I discovered that there are two desirable areas to stay - 1.) Sultanahmet is the historic area which is close to most of the tourist attractions, generally very safe, quieter in the evening, but has several restaurant options, and 2.) Beyoğlu has only a few tourist attractions, but it is extremely lively at night with an endless amount of options for food, drink, and of course, shisha (aka hookah aka water pipe aka nargile). Luke and I like to do the tourist thing during the day, but at night we like to have a good time. With that being said, we like to be close to home (because I usually turn into a tired monster very quickly), so we chose to stay in Beyoğlu near Taksim Square which is where one of the major public transport stops is.

İstiklâl Caddesi (Istiklal Avenue) is the main pedestrian drag of Beyoğlu. During the day, we saw a few cars driving up and down making drop offs to businesses. As the hours pass by during the day, it slowly beccame pedestrianized and by the night it was jam packed with people! I was really shocked at how many people live in Istanbul - 14.16 million, 3rd largest in the world!!!! The actual street is full of clothing stores, coffee shops, kebab shops, turkish delight store, and street vendors gallore. A tram runs along the street, but moves very slowly due to the crowds of people. We also saw a few people and kids hanging off the back of the tram (see video at the end of this post)! Luke and I walked up and down Istiklal Avenue every single day as we made our way to the side streets where the best bars and restaurants were located.

We ventured off of Istiklal a few times to check out other areas of Beyoğlu, but the best of the times was visiting the Rainbow Steps. Word has it that a man wanted to bring some happiness to the neighborhood and spent four days painting a giant staircase. The community loved it so much that when the city repainted the stairs grey, protests broke out. A group of people gathered and repainted the stairs again, and since then, they have stayed colored.

Once again, Luke didn't know what to expect from these stairs, but he was really impressed with them. I just love things like this! Of course we took way too many pictures, but we had fun walking up the stairs. When we got to the top and looked back, we could barely tell the stairs were painted. We also had a neat view of Galata Tower down the street. Luke and I headed up another set of stairs where we came across a few more rainbow steps, and found a bar to reward ourselves from all of that climbing!

How cool would it be if all public sets of stairs were colored?!? Anyway, we really enjoyed staying in Beyoğlu, and İstiklâl Caddesi is definitely a must-see during a trip to Istanbul.

Other posts from Istanbul: Galata TowerBeyoğluThe MosquesHagia Sophia & Basilica CisternTopkapi PalaceThe Bazaars & Galata BridgeKariye Museum & Theodosian WallBosphorus & Golden HornKadıköy

First: Tram on İstiklâl Caddesi with a man standing on the back
Second: Walking down İstiklâl Caddesi on a Sunday night

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