Turkey // Istanbul and around //

Along Istiklal Caddesi

The exit from the upper Tünel station in Beyoğlu is fronted by a small square from which İstiklal Caddesi (known as the “Grand Rue de Pera” prior to Independence) heads 1.5km north towards Taksim Square.

Not far up İstiklal Caddesi on the right, the Botter House, a fine Art Nouveau apartment building with a carved stone facade and wrought-iron balcony designed by the Italian architect Raimondo D’Aronco, was under renovation (it will be a hotel) at the time of writing. Further up on the right is the Palais de Hollande. Built in 1858 on the site of the home of Cornelis Haga, the first Dutch diplomat in Constantinople during the fifteenth century, it now houses the Consulate to the Netherlands.

The oldest church in the area is St Mary Draperis at no. 429, which dates from 1789, although the Franciscans built their first church on the site in the early fifteenth century. Better known is the Franciscan church of St Antoine at no. 325, a fine example of red-brick neo-Gothic architecture. Originally founded in 1725, it was demolished to make way for a tramway at the start of the twentieth century, and rebuilt in 1913.

Just off İstiklal Caddesi, on Nuru Ziya Sokak, is the imposing French Palace, with its large central courtyard and formal gardens, the residence of ambassadors and consuls from 1831 until the present day. Below the Palace, on Tom Tom Kaptan Sokak, the Italian Consulate was originally the Palazzo di Venezia, built in the seventeenth century, and host to Casanova in 1744. Turning left off İstiklal Caddesi, Hamalbaşı Sok leads in 100m to the British Consulate, an impressive Renaissance-style structure, designed by Charles Barry, architect of the British Houses of Parliament.

The famous Çiçek Pasajı (Flower Passage) enjoyed its heyday in the 1930s, when the music and entertainment was supplied courtesy of anti-Bolshevik Russian émigrés. These days it’s home to an assortment of attractive but rather overpriced and touristy restaurants. Far better are Nevizade Sokak, a street dedicated to fish restaurants (all with outside tables) and incredibly lively bars and clubs and, further south near the Tünel entrance, the similar but trendier streets around Asmalımescit Sokak.