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Taksim Square


View of Taksim Square from Burger King
View of Taksim Square from Burger King
View of Taksim Park and Levent financial district as seen from the roof bar of The Marmara Hotel on Taksim Square
View of Taksim Park and Levent financial district as seen from the roof bar of The Marmara Hotel on Taksim Square

Taksim Square (Turkish: Taksim Meydanı) situated in the European part of Istanbul, Turkey, is a major shopping, tourist and leisure district famed for its restaurants, shops and hotels. It is considered the heart of modern Istanbul, and is the location of the Cumhuriyet Anıtı (Republic Monument), which was built in 1928 and commemorates the formation of the Turkish Republic.


Taksim, from Arabic taqṣīm, means "division" or "distribution". The Taksim square was originally the point where the main water lines from the north of Istanbul were collected and branched off to other parts of the city (hence the name). This use for the area was established by Sultan Mahmud I. The square takes its name from the stone reservoir which is located in this area. Additionally, the word "Taksim" can refer to a special improvisational musical form in Turkish classical music that is guided by the Makam system.

Taksim Square today


Taksim is a main transportation hub and a popular destination for both tourists and the native population of Istanbul. İstiklal Caddesi (Independence Avenue), a long pedestrian shopping street, ends at this square, and a nostalgic tram runs from the square along the avenue, ending near the Tünel (1875) which is the world's second-oldest subway line after London's Underground (1863). Surrounding Taksim Square are numerous travel agencies, hotels, restaurants, pubs, and international fast food chains such as Pizza Hut, McDonald's and Burger King. It is also home to some of Istanbul's grandest hotels including the InterContinental, the Ritz-Carlton and The Marmara Hotel.

Taksim is also a favourite location for public events such as parades, New Year celebrations or other social gatherings.

Atatürk Cultural Center (in Turkish, Atatürk Kültür Merkezi), a multi-purpose cultural center and opera house, is also located on Taksim Square.


Taksim Square is an important hub for public transport in Istanbul. In addition to serving as the main transfer point for the municipal bus system, Taksim Square is also the terminus of the 4.Levent-Taksim subway line of the Istanbul Metro. The İstiklal Avenue-Tünel nostalgic tram line also starts in Taksim.

Taksim's position was given an extra boost on June 29, 2006, when the new funicular line connecting the Taksim Metro station with the Kabataş tramway station and seaport was opened, allowing riders to ascend to Taksim in just 110 seconds.


The square has been an important venue for political protests during much of its existence. Groups from all sides of the political spectrum in Turkey, as well as many NGOs, try to demonstrate in this square in order to use its visibility for the benefit of their cause. On February 16th, 1969, some 150 leftist demonstrators were injured during clashes with right wing groups in what is known as "Bloody Sunday." In the events known as the Taksim Square massacre, thirty-six left-wing demonstrators were killed by unidentified and allegedly right-wing gunmen on the square during the Labour Day demonstrations of May 1, 1977. Following many other violent incidents, all forms of group protests were banned in the square and the police units maintain a round-the-clock presence to prevent any incidents. The ban doesn't apply to surrounding avenues or streets. Taksim Square was the location of football riots in 2000 when two Leeds United fans were stabbed to death during clashes with Galatasaray fans, the night before the 1999-2000 UEFA Cup semi-final first league match between the two teams.

However, gatherings for events such as New Year's Eve, Republic Day celebrations or mass-screenings of important football matches are excluded from the ban.

İstiklal Avenue

İstiklal Avenue in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul
İstiklal Avenue in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul

İstiklal Avenue (Turkish: İstiklal Caddesi, Greek: Μεγάλη Οδός του Πέραν, French: Grand Rue de Pera, English: Independence Avenue) is one of the most famous avenues in Istanbul, Turkey, visited by nearly 3 million people in a single day over the course of weekends. Located in the historic Beyoğlu district, it is an elegant pedestrian street, approximately three kilometers long, which houses exquisite boutiques, music stores, bookstores, art galleries, cinemas, theaters, libraries, cafés, pubs, night clubs with live music, historical patisseries, chocolateries and restaurants. The avenue, surrounded by the unique nineteenth century Turkish architecture, starts from the medieval Genoese neighbourhood around Galata Tower and ultimately leads up to Taksim Square.

Historic tram on İstiklal Avenue
Historic tram on İstiklal Avenue

Galatasaray Square is located at approximately the center of the avenue and is home to one of the finest educational institutions established in Turkey at the time of the Ottoman Empire; originally known as the Galata Sarayı Enderun-u Hümayunu (Galata Palace Imperial School) and today known as Galatasaray Lisesi.

In the historic Karaköy district towards the end of the avenue, it is possible to see the world's second-oldest subway station, generally known and referred to as simply Tünel (The Tunnel) which entered service in 1875. Moreover, the German High School of Istanbul (Deutsche Schule Istanbul in German, Özel Alman Lisesi in Turkish), one of the best high schools in the city, is also located near Tünel.

The cosmopolitan avenue is surrounded by an array of historical and politically significant buildings, such as the Çiçek Pasajı (Flower Passage) where small, intimate restaurants and taverns are found; Balık Pazarı (The Fish Market), the Roman Catholic churches of Santa Maria and S. Antonio di Padova, the Greek Orthodox Haghia Triada, the Armenian Church (among many other churches), several synagogues, mosques, academic institutions established by various European nations such as Austria, France, Germany and Italy in the early 19th century, consulates (former embassies before 1923) of several nations including France, Greece, Russia, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

During the Ottoman period, the avenue was called Cadde-i Kebir (Grand Avenue) and was a popular spot for Ottoman intellectuals, also becoming a center for European foreigners and the local Italian and French Levantines who referred to it as Grande Rue de Péra. When 19th century travelers referred to Constantinople (today, Istanbul) as the Paris of the East, they were mentioning the Grande Rue de Péra (İstiklal Caddesi) and its half-European, half-Asian culture. With the declaration of the Republic on October 29, 1923, the avenue's name was changed to İstiklal (Independence) for commemorating the triumph at the Turkish War of Independence.

Panoramic view of İstiklal Avenue as seen from Galatasaray Square in front of the main entrance gate of Galatasaray Lisesi


The Tünel is a short subway line in Istanbul, Turkey. It is an underground funicular with only two stations, and an uphill track of approximately 573 meters. The Tünel is the second-oldest subway line in the world, after the London Underground.

The Tünel was opened in January 17, 1875 to provide an easy ride between the two neighborhoods of Pera and Galata, both in the new district of Istanbul on the hill north of the Golden Horn. Many people used to work in the low Galata, and live uphill in Pera. The Tünel, climbing about 60 meters, saved them this difficult walk.

Galata and Pera are now called Karaköy, and Beyoğlu, respectively. The lower station is named Karaköy, and the upper station Tünel Meydanı - Tünel Square (located on the lower end of Istiklal Avenue). A trip between the two stations now takes 1.5 minutes, with an extra two minutes of waiting between operations to allow passengers to board the train. The Tünel has two trains running simultaneously on the same track with two steel cars (with pneumatic tires) attached to each, and their cruising speed is roughly 25 km/h. There is a short duplex part of the track in the middle, where two trains pass side by side and continue their ways to opposite directions.


Today, the tiny Tünel is rarely useful for most of Istanbul's population, although it is still part of the municipal transport network and integrated tickets are valid. A larger (but separate) metro system is available, and other public transportation options include buses, cabs, and even a cable car (see article on Public transport in Istanbul).


The Tünel was originally conceived by the French engineer Henri Gavand in 1867. Two years later, in November 6, 1869, he received permission from the Ottoman sultan Abdülaziz to start the project. After finding foreign funding, construction began in July 30, 1871 and ended in December 1874. The Tünel was finally opened for service in January 17, 1875.

When it opened, the Tünel was powered by horses. The line began being powered by electricity in 1910. The Tünel was nationalized in 1939 to become part of the new IETT (İstanbul Elektrik Tramvay ve Tünel) transportation organization. In 1971, the Tünel was renovated and modernized, and the original wooden cars were replaced by metal ones.



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