Once called the Grand Rue de Pera but renamed İstiklal (Independence) in the early years of the Republic, Beyoğlu's premier boulevard is a perfect metaphor for 21st-century Turkey, being an exciting mix of modernity and tradition. Contemporary boutiques and cutting-edge cultural centres are housed in its grand 19th-century buildings, and an antique tram traverses its length alongside crowds of pedestrians making their way to the bustling cafes, bistros and bars for which Beyoğlu is known.
At the boulevard's northern end is frantically busy Taksim Meydanı, the symbolic heart of the modern city and the scene of often-violent protests in recent years. Another square, Galatasaray Meydanı, is at the boulevard's midpoint, close to Beyoğlu's much-loved Fish Market and Çiçek Pasajı. At its southern end is Tünel Meydanı and the relatively tranquil district of Galata, home to atmospheric lanes and traces of a fortified settlement built by Genoese merchants in the 13th century.