İstiklal Caddesi

Lonely Planet review

In the late 19th century, this major street was known as the Grande Rue de Pera, and it carried the life of the modern city up and down its lively promenade. It's still the centre of İstanbullu life, and a stroll along its length is a must. Come between 4pm and 8pm daily – especially on Friday and Saturday – and you'll see İstiklal at its busiest best.

About halfway along İstiklal Caddesi is the Galatasaray Lycée, founded in 1868 by Sultan Abdül Aziz (r 1861–76) as a school where students were taught in French as well as Turkish. Today it's a prestigious public school.

Close by is the Cité de Pera building, home to the famous Çiçek Pasajı (Flower Passage). When the Orient Express rolled into Old İstanbul and promenading down İstiklal Caddesi was all the rage, the Cité de Pera building was the most glamorous address in town. Built in 1876 and decorated in Second Empire style, it housed a shopping arcade as well as apartments. As Pera declined, so too did the building, its stylish shops giving way to florists and then to meyhanes, where enthusiastic revellers caroused the night away. In the late 1970s parts of the building collapsed; once rebuilt, the passage was 'beautified' and its raffish charm was lost. These days locals bypass the touts and mediocre food on offer here, and make their way behind the passage to one of İstanbul's most colourful and popular eating precincts, Nevizade Sokak.

Next to the Çiçek Pasajı you'll find Şahne Sokak and Beyoğlu's Balık Pazar (Fish Market), with stalls selling fruit, vegetables, pickles and other produce. Leading off the Balık Pazar you'll find the neoclassical Avrupa Pasajı (European Passage), a small gallery with marble paving and shops selling tourist wares and some antique goods; as well as the Aslıhan Pasajı, a two-storey arcade bursting at the seams with secondhand books.