Discover Istanbul Through the City’s Most Popular Streets

Istanbul is an explosion of colours, people and urban chaos highlighting its cosmopolitan mix of history and culture, the confluence of the East and the West. This is most evident in its lively streets highlighting architectural and socio-cultural mix. It’s a global and local mismatch that offers visitors a uniqueness unlike any other city in the world. Add that to excellent local cuisine, mouth-watering desserts and unmatched views over the Bosphorus, you’ll have one of the best memories to take home.

Visitors unfamiliar with Turkey or its language or culture will find that walking is the best way to discover and understand this changing city. With globalization, urban development, political changes and economic pressures, Istanbul can be confusing, wonderful and everything in between for those first-timers of the city.

Explore and roam the most famous streets of this chaotic city and get a glimpse of the city’s culture, its people who make this city what it is and you’ll be sure to appreciate what the city is for all its inhabitants, old and new. Both on the European and Asian sides, you’ll find the unique flavours of Istanbul. Be sure to include some of the following streets we’ve listed on your to-do list on your next visit or even a  layover! Check out our guide on what to see and do on your next layover in Istanbul.

Europe

İstiklal Caddesi

Photo by Kenny Luo on Unsplash

The Rue de Pera or Avenue of Pera in Beyoğlu is now the most popular streets in the city and is called by the name İstiklal Caddesi. The 1.5 metres long but lively street’s name means Independence Avenue and it’s one of the busiest pedestrianized streets of the city. It’s quite possibly the only street that most tourists associate with Istanbul’s hustle and bustle.

This avenue stretches from Tünel to Taksim Square and has several historical shopping galleries with art nouveau buildings. Check out places such as the historical Çiçek Passage, Halep Passage and Atlas Passage, for instance. Moreover, these small galleries are where you’ll be sure to find local handmade knick-knacks, accessories and souvenirs to take back home.

You can find local and international shops, brand names intermingling with local restaurants and sweet shops such as Hafiz Mustafa and unique bookstores such as Denizler Bookstore, for example. The street is always busy and crowded, and at nights, you can experience the buzz of the city. On weekends, locals, both young and old, come out to party in the bars and taverns in the side streets such as at Nevizade. Make some definite plans and take a stroll or two exploring the avenue as well as the side streets, try fresh fish at the Beyoğlu fish market and try some new sweets or food, and don’t forget to look up!

Cezayir Sokağı, Beyoğlu

Image sourced from Wikimedia Commons

Also known as French street, this colourful street has small cafes and French restaurants with small outdoor patios in colourful colours. The menu is a mix of international and local cuisine. It’s best to go there during the day when it’s calmer and enjoy the music and the atmosphere. On the other hand, if you love a more lively atmosphere, try being here in the evenings. You’re sure to get some good food, drinks and some colourful memories.

Serdar-ı Ekrem Street, Galata

A cobblestoned street with cute cafes and cool boutiques, this charming street starts near the Galata Tower. Georges Hotel Galata with its rooftop restaurant 360 is on this street and is a must if you love fine-dining! You can read more about it in our article on Istanbul’s best rooftop restaurants.

Image sourced from Google Street View

In recent years, the street also has co-working spaces alongside local carpet and antique shops. Boutique hotels in historic buildings with beautiful façades on both sides of this narrow street make it an ideal place for that perfect Instagram picture!

Çırağan Caddesi

Image sourced from Wikimedia Commons

In the Beşiktaş district adjacent to the street named after the palace on the Bosphorus, Çırağan Caddesi is worth a stroll in your walking shoes.

Here you’ll find a few luxurious hotels such as the Four Seasons at the Bosphorus and the Çırağan Palace, one of the most beautiful Ottoman Palaces in Istanbul. It was later renovated to become a 5-star hotel, the Çırağan Palace Kempinski!

Walking along this historical road lined with plane trees, historical buildings and complexes on the Bosphorus side and tall stone walls of the Yıldız Palace on the other side. Some buildings are used by famous high schools and universities such as Galatasaray University. It also crosses the bridge connecting the Çırağan Palace to Yıldız Park. The renovated Feriye Palace complex with many intricately decorated waterfront buildings now houses a restaurant with unparalleled views of the Bosphorus.

While it’s not as glamorous as some of the other streets of the city, it’s a great place to immerse oneself in the city’s history through its streets. The street finished at Ortaköy’s Iskele street and park. In Ortaköy, you’ll find the Big Mecidiye Mosque and a burnt down but now renovated waterfront mansion, now used for events and weddings.

Abdi İpekçi Caddesi

Image by Omar Zakaria, sourced from Google Maps

The street is named after a murdered journalist and human rights activist who lived here. It now houses his commemorative peace statue, erected in 2000 by the municipality. A traffic-clogged street today but known for its international designer boutiques such as Rolex, Hermès, Alexander McQueen, Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci, Prada and Chanel, among others — Istanbul’s most expensive street equivalent to London’s Bond Street! The street also has some of the city’s most expensive 5-star hotels and their rooftop restaurant-bars such as Spago at the St. Regis Hotel.

Furthermore, the street also offers local designer boutiques such as Vakko and Mackha, for instance. Take a break at a local restaurant such as Kantin, Midpoint, Cookshop and world-famous Turkish chef Nusr-et’s Burger shop. The whole neighbourhood is worth a stroll and great for people-watching in the most luxurious street in the city!

Teşvikiye & Rumeli Caddesi

Not far from Abdi Ipekci, you’ll find the Teşvikiye mosque and the shopping street with the same name. It’s also one of the best places to stay in the city, for both longer stays and as visitors. Leading away from Maçka street and one of the most beautiful parks in the city, Maçka Park, this street transforms into a buzzing shopping mecca.

Image sourced from House Cafe Corner’s Google

Interspersed with patisseries in historical buildings such as The House Cafe, domestic home good stores such as Mudo and Paşabahçe, jewellery shops and international brands such as Banana Republic, Sephora, Oysho, Mac Cosmetics and the Gap to name a few, the street offers something for all shopping enthusiasts.  The area is also known for its local boutique shops offering bespoke bridal wear and evening wear. Furthermore, there’s also a decent shopping mall here called the City’s Nişantaşı with more options inside.

Not far is the Osmanbey metro station at the end of Rumeli Caddesi or at the other end of Teşvikiye, you can find the Nişantaşı branch of Aşşk Kahve, an amazing cafe with an alternative branch overlooking the Bosphorus. Take a look at the article listing the top cafes in Istanbul to learn more!

Çukur Cuma Caddesi

Image sourced from Google Street View

A nostalgic street with overgrown shrubs and ivy, Çukur Cuma Street is a wonderland of antique shopping in Istanbul. At one of the street, there’s an Ottoman-era public fountain the Ömer Ağa Çesmesi. At the other end, the street ends further away from the Firuzağa Hamam. The entire street is a treasure trove of antique shops and concept shops with their own cafes such as the Müzayede Evi. Moreover, there are art galleries, leather goods and gift shops on the first floor of the colourful buildings, such as the 3rd Culture gift shop and the North Fox. One small boutique hotel, the Hammamhane, stands out for its stylish touches. At times, in our opinion, you’ll forget you’re in Istanbul but somewhere in Rome!

The Çukurcuma Hamman is a modern option to the public bath and should be added to your to-do list if you’ve never got a hammam experience. In this area, the main highlight is Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence housed in a brick red building, and the Faik Pasha Suites and cafe. The museum has antiques and knick-knacks especially designed and sourced for the story in his novel with the same name. On the other hand, the Faik Pasha cafe is one of the most authentic and decorated with antiques is worth a stop or two. It is attached to a rental apartment complex.

Yeniçeriler Caddesi & Divan Yolu

Image by Raj Steven from Pexels

This long and straight street starts from Sultanahmet Square and continues all the way to Beyazıt Square and the Grand Bazaar. The words ‘Divan Yolu’ represents the main thoroughfare of the Ottoman era. It was the most important Ottoman street reserved for state processions. On the other hand, the Yeniçeriler street is the road of the Jannaseries, an elite Ottoman corps who used to parade here when the Divan, the privy council, assembled. The street changes names at Çemberlitaş.

Today, the road leads from the Yerebatan cistern, the Hagia Sofia and the Sultanahmet Square. It takes you on the road with old complexes, hammams and public fountains. Check out the Column of Constantine, the tomb of Sultan Mahmud II and the roadside is full of small cafes, souvenir shops and those selling Döner kebab as street food, wrapped in a flatbread or a sandwich bread.

Asia

Bağdat Caddesi

Image source from Flickr

Bağdat Caddesi is one of the most well-known shopping areas on the Asian side of Istanbul. Tree-lined in some parts, you can shop till your drop at international and local brands. Additionally, you can find great bars, restaurants and coffee joints here. For instance, Istanbul’s famous islak hamburger at Kızılkayalar Hamburger or spicy chicken wings with a cold beer at Bibuçuk. Moreover, you can find some good Italian options at Bafetto or spend an evening at the Old English Pub, at DRAFT Gastro Pub. Other local favourites are Divan Pub, Kirpi Erenkoy or try some juicy burgers at #saltbae – Nusr-et’s burger joint.

General Asım Gündüz Caddesi aka Bahariye
Image sourced from Flickr

Nostalgic tramway on Bahariye street, image sourced from Flickr

A lively street with lots to see and do, the street starts at the famous Bull statue, the mascot of Kadıköy. The whole area has many shopping options, jewellery shops as well as cafes. There is also one of the best coffee shops in the city, Coffeetopia. It is housed in a triple-storey building and chicly decorated.

Image sourced from Wikimedia Commons

Furthermore, there are some great local boutiques selling homemade soaps, trinkets and souvenirs. The Sureyya Opera House is a highlight of the area, so check it out as it is home to Istanbul’s Opera and Ballet Company. The whole street is serviced by a nostalgic tramway that goes all the way into Moda, one of the best places to stay on the Asian side.

Moda Caddesi

Dem in Moda, Image sourced from Dem’s Facebook page

This street from the centre of Kadıköy district goes all the way to Moda Park and to the Moda Pier. Imagine tree-lined pavements with some historic houses, cute bakeries and corner greengrocers. Moda’s quaintness of this artsy neighbourhood is quite popular with Erasmus students and foreigners.

You can find hole-in-the-wall cafes such as Dem Moda and concept shops such as Saucisse Moda (they only sell different sausages/hot dog buns). Then, there are sweet shops such as the Chocolate Shop. Another popular bakeshop called Nan is just one of the many concept shops in this neighbourhood. They all coexist in their chaotic way on the same street. This is all surprisingly run alongside established restaurants and popular bars. There’s also one of Istanbul’s most famous ice cream shops on this street: Ali Usta Dondurmaci.