This big city square is considered as the heart of the modern Istanbul. Many hotels and restaurants can be found here and on Istiklal Street, and there is a big bus terminal for public transportation and the main subway station. The Square is also the gathering place for locals to celebrate New Year's Eve, parades and other military gatherings.
The most important monument in Taksim Square is the Independence Monument (Istiklal Aniti in Turkish), at the beginning of Istiklal pedestrian street. This is also the turnaround point for the red old tram which is the only vehicle permitted on Istiklal Street beside police and government cars.
The monument was made by the Italian sculptor Pietro Canonica and opened in 1928, it commemorates Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic, in both of his roles; a military commander-in-chief and a statesman. Since it's opening, the monument became the center spot of official ceremonies.
On its south facade overlooking the Siraselviler Street, there is Ataturk, Ismet Inonu and Fevzi Cakmak in the front and other figures behind them symbolizing the foundation of the Republic. On the north facade overlooking at Cumhuriyet Street, the War of Independence is symbolized. On the east and west facades, the Turkish Army is symbolized with a soldier holding the Turkish Flag.
Across this monument, on the other side of the Square, there is the huge settlement of Ataturk Cultural Center. The changing urban life after the establishment of the Republic pointed out that an opera building was a great need and necessity. After a long construction period of 13 years, opening under the name of Istanbul Cultural Palace in 1969 and suffering a great damage because of a fire in 1970, the place was given the name of Ataturk Cultural Center in 1978, known as AKM in Turkish. Today many national and international concerts, meetings, exhibitions and premiers are made in AKM, especially performances of Istanbul State Theaters, State Opera and Ballet, State Symphony Orchestra, State Turkish Classic Music Chorus, and International Istanbul Festival attract lots of spectators.
During the late Ottoman period Sultan Mahmut I arranged Taksim as a point where the main water lines from north of Istanbul were collected and branched off to other parts of the city. Therefore the Square took its name from the big stone reservoir located on the west side of the square (taksim means distribution in Turkish).
Beyoglu and Istiklal Street
Beyoglu near Taksim Square is a part of the heart of Istanbul, it's a great way to get away from the old city and enjoy modern Istanbul as the locals do. There is so much going on in the approximately 2,5 kilometers long street between the Tunnel funicular stop near Galata Tower and Taksim Square that you can spend a whole day here. You can find a brief of Istanbul in every corner, there is a hidden story of the city everywhere. Religions, languages and ethnic groups live brotherly around these premises, it's the center of art and culture, many national, international and local activities reach art lovers through the neighborhood.
Beyoglu is a residential area consisting of 45 districts and about 225,000 residents, but the daily population reaches up to a million being the center of commerce, entertainment and culture. It's one of the most important tourist points and one of the most famous avenues of the city, the distinguished brands of business and entertainment world serves in this area as well. Many exquisite boutiques, music and bookstores, libraries, art galleries, cinemas, theaters, cafes, bars, restaurants, pubs, coffee houses, patisseries, chocolateries, and technological centers are lined on Istiklal Street.
Beyoglu has a large number of foreigners of all nationalities living in this neighborhood. The area is also home to significant Turkish Christian and Jewish communities, there are several churches and synagogues.
The Galatasaray Square is almost at the halfway of the Avenue and houses one of the finest educational institutions established in Turkey during the Ottoman Empire; formerly Mekteb-i Sultani (School of Sultans), today Galatasaray Lisesi (high school).
Across Galatasaray Square there are some significant historic buildings such as the Cicek Pasaji (The Flower Courtyard) with many small restaurants and taverns, and Balik Pazari (Fish Market) where you can find some fresh fish and vegetables.
On the same street and on its side streets there are also Catholic churches such as St. Antoine and Santa Maria, Armenian Churches, Synagogues, old mosques, Pera Palace Hotel built in 1892 by George Nagelmackers, academic and cultural institutions established by various European nations such as Germany, Italy, Austria, and France in the early 19th century, consulates of several nations including Germany, France, Greece, Sweden, Armenia, Russia, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and United Kingdom, amongst which the British and German consulates being the most impressive buildings in the area.
To the end of this pedestrian street towards Galata, there is Tunnel, the world's second-oldest subway, connecting Pera district with Karakoy district on the Golden Horn. Next to this you can also see Divan Literature Museum which is called as Galata Mevlevihane belonging to Mevlevi order founded by Mevlana, where Whirling Dervish ceremonies are performed twice a month.
Old Galata and Pera districts were inhabited since the Byzantine Empire. During the 19th century Ottoman Empire, the street was known as Grande Rue de Pera and the district became a center for foreigners, Levantines, Ottoman intellectuals and western culture admirers. After 1923 the street's name was changed to Istiklal (Independence in Turkish) to commemorate the War of Independence led by Ataturk.