Istanbul (Beyoglu – Modern Istanbul)

Istiklâl Caddesi

Continuing our wonderful and vibrant journey through the city of Istanbul, we now turn to the most modern part, north of the Golden Horn. Here we find the agitated Beyoglu neighborhood.

Istiklâl Caddesi
One of the biggest pedestrian avenues in the city is located in this neighborhood and walking through it and enjoying all the movement and all the life in it is a wonderful game of contrasts and cultures. Here we can appreciate and smile every time a kid is running to catch the tram illegally, while posing enthusiastically to our photographs!

 Traditional  Turkish sweets in one of the famous pastry shops of  Istiklâl Caddesi

Along this avenue we find lots of commerce, stores, coffee shops and pastry shops, museums and churches. It is from this avenue that some of the most beautiful pictures of the red trams of Istanbul come from.
In one of the tips of this avenue we have the Galata Tower and on the other end we have the Taksim Square.

Galata Tower
With 60m of height, this imposing monument dates back from the XI century when it served to monitor navigation. After conquering Istanbul in 1453, the Ottoman transformed it into a prison. It was also used as fire lookout tower.

Nowadays it serves for us to enjoy one of the best views over the city!

Modern Art Museum
This museum exists since the end of 2004, presenting especially works of Turkish artists from the beginning of the XX century to the present, as well as temporary exhibits that may include foreign artists.
It was the first private modern art museum in Turkey and also presents many of the private collections of the family that opened it, the Eczacıbaşı.

The museum is located in a former Customs warehouse, in front of the Bosphorus.

The Taksim Square was always a place of great significance in Istanbul, Taksim means distribution, and it was precisely here that water distribution (from the north areas to Istanbul) was centered, therefore the name of the square.
This square has been the starting place of many political demonstrations of diverse orientations, some of which ended in a not so peaceful way.

Nowadays this square remains the center of the activity of the entire Beyogly district.

 Dolmabahçe Palace

A bit distant from the center, beyond the Taksim area, you can find one of the most beautiful palaces of Istanbul, the Dolmabahçe Palace.

This was the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire, from 1853 to 1922, being the first palace of European style in Istanbul. Its construction was ordered by the Sultan Abdülmecid I between 1842 and 1853.

One of its highlights is the crystal chandelier offered by the United Kingdom’s Queen Victoria, which decorated the central hall. Dolmabahçe has also the biggest collection of crystal chandeliers, from the Bohemia and Baccarat regions, in the world.

The founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, spend his last days in one of the palace bedrooms, room which is nowadays part of the museum. Unfortunately (on one hand), fortunately (on the other), we couldn’t enter the palace once we were carrying some precious bottles of Quinta do Vesúvio 2009.

 The hectic Besiktas neighborhood 

There was an area on this most modern side of Istanbul that aroused a great interest in me, the Besiktas neighborhood. And I’m not a big fan of football, but the streets of this region are actually very cheerful and full of life, with lots of restaurants, bars, stores and street markets.

Fish Market in Besiktas

This north side of the city is quite more modern, for sure, but it also has its history, more recent, but interesting as well.

As I initially said, Istanbul is divided into a European side, where we traveled through these last articles, and an Asian side. Apart from being less interesting than the European side (for me, at least), the Asian side also deserves a visit, at least to make the boat trip along the Bosphorus!

Istanbul is a complete city; it has history, astonishing gastronomy that goes a long way from the kebabs, it has energy and endless beauty, yes, but it also has garbage on the streets, beggars, lots of poverty, refugee children asking for money on the streets, unfortunately it has all that, but none of it should be deterrent for visiting this wonderful city.

My advice is for you to go with the flow of the city, after visiting the main historical and touristic attractions, get lost on the streets of Istanbul, surround yourselves with the local culture and enjoy.

Another aspect that makes Istanbul so unique (as by now you have realized by the pictures) are the Cats. They’re everywhere, from the Blue Mosque, to the palaces, from small stores to the greatest cafes in the city, there’s not a street without cats, and they seem to have the statute of Sultans. The why is one of the imposing questions, and the answer is based in two legends related to the Islamic Religion. According to one of them, the Prophet Muhammad was saved by a cat that defended him from a venomous snake. On the second legend, the Prophet had a profound love for cats, particularly his cat Muezza. Once upon a time, according to this legend, Muhammad found Muezza sleeping on the sleeve of his tunic and cut it so he wouldn’t disturb the dreams and the rest of his pet.

Legends or truths, the certain thing is that the Turkish became passionate and respectful towards these beautiful felines. I myself am 100% in favor!

The people are cheerful, the city is safe, the food is wonderful and we had some of our best gastronomic experiences of all times, the cultural diversity is contagious, the architecture is vibrant, the environment is the typically chaotic of a big city and I can only say I loved Istanbul and I hope I can go back soon!

Istanbul (Old City)

Where to Stay
Grand Hyatt Istanbul
Hyatt Regency Istanbul Atakoy
Ciragan Palace Kempinski

Text: Cíntia Oliveira | Photos: Flavors & Senses

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