Taksim Square view

Exploring Taksim Square – Guide to Safety, Restaurants, Bars & Things to Do

Taksim Square stands out as a distinctive location in Istanbul… Serving as both a square and a micro-district, housing a metro station with the same name, and symbolizing social movements and protests, it possesses a singular identity and rich historical significance.

For me, Taksim evokes mixed feelings. I like it for numerous bars and lounges where to spend Friday or Saturday night, for some of the most delicious Istanbul street food, and for stylish luxurious hotels. But at the same time, I often feel a sense of unease there due to the constant hectic pace and non-stop noise pollution.

Yet, it’s precisely this juxtaposition of excitement and discomfort that made me want to sit down and write this post about Taksim Square and its surrounding streets with a number of places to visit at different times of the day.

So get comfortable and dive with me into the vibrant heart of the Taksim area and uncover its many layers of intrigue!

If You Consider Staying Around Taksim Square…

Is Taksim a good place to stay? Unlike Istiklal Street, the Taksim Square area can be a wonderful place where to stay for many people, including families because there are a lot of expensive and luxurious hotels around.

There are also a few affordable accommodations, including airbnbs but you need to pay attention to what’s nearby them as many accommodations are next to bars.

Here are my hand-picked lovely options where to stay in/around Taksim:

  • Point Hotel – a contemporary hotel with a focus on functionality and convenience. Mid-budget $$
  • Gezi Hotel – beautiful 5-star hotel reasonably priced in the best location in Taksim
  • By Aydin Suits – full-size apartment in the heart of Taksim (for low & mid budgets)
  • Taksim Bosphoruseconomical hotel for different types of travelers in safe and quiet location ($$)

Please note: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a commission if you make a purchase or booking by clicking a link (at no extra cost to you).

What & Where Is Taksim Square in Istanbul?

This is a nice point to start, as there might be some confusion as to the place and/or definition of Taksim, especially when you talk with people who are new to Istanbul.

Taksim is technically a public square in Beyoğlu (its official name is Taksim Square anyway) but in Istanbul, especially among Istanbulites, it is used as the name for an area with no clear borders that basically stays between the actual Taksim Square and the first half of Istiklal Avenue (and its back alleys), sometimes maybe even larger.

Taksim Square area
Istanbul tram

So, when you are talking to someone from Istanbul and they tell you that they are in Taksim, they might not necessarily mean the square itself, but any part of the above mentioned area.

In this guide, I will be talking about Taksim in that sense as well. Not about the square only (which is rather small), but about the adjacent streets that together with the square make up the Taksim area.

Why is Taksim So Popular?

Taksim Square might be the most well-known (by the name at least) location in Turkey. It is the very center of Istanbul, the starting point of the famous İstiklâl Street, and continues to be the most visited part of the city.

It is worth noting that in recent years, Taksim has lost some of its appeal to the young -and relatively young- people of Istanbul. They now seem to prefer Kadıköy (of the Anatolian side) due to the Taksim area losing its old charm for a variety of reasons – such as government policies (restricting cafés and bars to put tables on the streets for example), the changing crowd, the past bombings on Istiklal Avenue, and closing of some of the popular places.

Still, although it is true that Taksim is not what it used to be years and years ago (which, by the way, is true for almost every popular place you can think of), in my opinion, it is still to this day a much more colorful, multicultural, and exciting place than any other part in the city, including the relatively cleaner and safer, but equally banal Kadıköy, which unfortunately lacks the soul and character Taksim still holds.

Ataturk Cultural Center
Ataturk Cultural Center is another highlight of the Taksim Square. It often hosts various concerts (with world-famous singers), interesting events, and unique exhibits. I recommend you check their page to see what’s planned for that time when you are there. It might be worth to visit!

Is Taksim Safe?

Generally, it is quite safe during most hours of the day as it is almost always crowded, filled with people and police officers as well. But it is certainly not the safest place in Istanbul.

And at very late hours, certain deserted back alleys might be a bit risky to wander alone (even if you are a man) if not downright dangerous. So you might want to avoid certain parts that seem too empty at late hours, just to be extra safe. But in general, you should be all right navigating Taksim, alone or with friends.

I should also mention that there have been bombings on İstiklal Avenue in the past and although it is not (thankfully) frequent, it might be better to avoid it during turbulent times in the country such as elections.

Another note – Taksim and Istiklal used to be a popular area for protests in the past. It is usually closed by police during big occasions (such as the 1st of March or International Women’s Day for example) but there might still be protest marches there, which police may interrupt. So it might be better to avoid the area when you see there is something like that.

Things to Do in Taksim

There is a lot to do and see in Taksim. Here are some of my picks:

See Taksim Republic Monument

The Republic Monument stands right in the center of the square and is difficult to miss. It is an eleven-meter tall, double-sided sculpture created in 1928 by the Italian sculptor Pietro Canonica to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic.

main monument on Taksim Square

It depicts Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his comrades and symbolizes the ideals of the Turkish Republic, including unity, independence, and progress. Standing prominently in Taksim Square, it serves as a significant landmark and a reminder of Turkey’s history and its journey from Ottoman times towards modernity.

Take a Look at Hagia Triada Greek Orthodox Church

This church, also known as the Church of the Holy Trinity, holds significant historical and cultural importance. It was constructed in 1880 and represents a milestone as the first Orthodox religious center built within the former Ottoman Empire.

Hagia Triada church

Hagia Triada is one of the largest sanctuaries in Istanbul, adorned with two bell towers and a massive dome. Its interior has intricate iconography, ornate decorations, and religious artifacts that provide a glimpse into the heritage of Byzantine and Greek Orthodox traditions in the Taksim area.

Today, this church is considered the largest among all active churches in the whole of Istanbul. So if you happen to visit this city in spring, for example for Easter, then it is the right place where to go for service.

Eat Wet Hamburgers at the Square

Wet Hamburgers (or “Islak Hamburger” as they call it in Turkish) are a thing in Istanbul.

wet burger of Istanbul
Here they are – with lots of sauce!

They are basically very small, cheap, and low-quality hamburgers (certainly don’t expect any gourmet stuff, haha) that are “wet” with a lot of sauce, best to eat after a night of drinking as the places that sell them are usually open until the late hours.

You can find them gathered right in the Taksim Square, close to the statue. The most famous of the restaurants is the Kızılkayalar at this location. But personally, I don’t think it is the best.

I would rather have one at a place called Çılgın Dürüm -can be translated as “Crazy Wrap” to English- which is on the same line as Kızılkayalar. Some reviews on google are not the best (for their own reasons), but this place is iconic and very clean. 

Go to CVK Park Hotel Rooftop for Bosphorus Views

There is one place that I love in Taksim a lot which is perfect for some nice afternoon views of the Bosphorus and Asian side after hours of walking and cultural immersion. And this place is Izaka Terrace on the top floor of the luxurious CVK Park Hotel.

Prices here by no means are cheap (telling you right away, so that a visit here doesn’t catch you off guard). But that’s understandable – you are in an exquisite place with views and amenities that epitomize luxury and relaxation.

If you don’t feel like spending much, come here for a drink or coffee with a dessert and spend some time in the elegant ambiance, enjoying the atmosphere and perhaps catching a glimpse of seagulls flying nearby.

Take a Stroll in the Istiklal Street

Istiklal Avenue is the most famous street not just in Istanbul, but Turkey as well, and for good reasons. Starting from Taksim Square and going all the way to Galata, this iconic street is visited by thousands of people every day (both tourists and locals) and is packed with cafés, restaurants, and shops on each side.

Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul

There are also some of the beautiful historical apartments of Istanbul you should see. You can easily spend hours there (if not an entire day) and for more information, you can check out my post about Istiklal if you haven’t seen it yet.

Discover the Bars & Meyhanes

Taksim is famous for its bars and meyhanes (Turkish-style taverns where you can drink rakı and eat tapas.) And if you would like to explore the nightlife of Istanbul, Taksim is also the best place to do so…

Mostly, bars and meyhanes (together with clubs) are located in the side streets and back alleys of Istiklal Street. So when you venture freely into those (mostly the ones on the right while you are walking towards Galata) you can discover a lot of them.

I provide more details about some of my favorite clubs in the following sections.

Visit the Close-by Neighbourhoods

Taksim area is like 5 – 10 minutes away from some of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Istanbul – Cihangir, Galata, Çukurcuma, Şişhane, and Karaköy. I have posts dedicated to some of these neighborhoods and continue writing other guides to have them all.

This is not necessarily a recommendation if it is your first time in Taksim and you are visiting Istanbul for a few days only, as you should do more exploring in the main area.

Istanbul itinerary
view of Istanbul from above

But if you are staying in the area longer or revisiting Istanbul, I would strongly recommend you go to at least one or two of these neighborhoods, all of which are beautiful and have a lot to offer.

Taksim Nightlife

As you would guess, Taksim has a very lively, energetic nightlife that offers everything one can expect from a Friday night filled with fun. From Irish pubs where you can enjoy pints of stouts while watching sports to old-school taverns and clubs with live DJ music, it has it all. And although it is impossible to list them all in a single post, here are some of my picks…

Muaf – One of the old bars of the Beyoğlu scene, Muaf is a three-story bar with a relaxed crowd, nice snacks and a wide selection of drinks. Although it is not the type of place to go dancing, there are some nights with live DJ music there as well, for some reason. Overall, it is a nice place to chill with some beers and snacks, both during the day and evening.

Gizli Bahçe – Gizli Bahçe -which can be translated to English as “Secret Garden”- is a club that plays live DJ music, and has multiple floors where you can drink, mingle with people, and dance. It is not the type of place to go to if you want to sit down, have a relaxed night and speak with your friends. But if you like electronic music and feel like listening to some live performances and dance, you might give it a shot.

Note: You might not get in as a single male.

night in Taksim and Istiklal
hookah bar Istanbul

360 İstanbu – 360 İstanbul is a rooftop bar, restaurant, and -after late hours- club that is located on İstiklâl Street, where you can enjoy different kinds of entertainment at different times of the evening/night. On top of the historical Mısır Apartment, it is a nice place for a romantic dinner against a beautiful view and also for a night of clubbing after late hours, with live DJ music.

James Joyce Irish Pub- My favorite Irish pub in town, James Joyce is a huge bar with multiple floors where you can drink, dance to live music (on some nights), play darts or pool, eat some traditional Irish food if you like to, and mix with a crowd of both Turkish people, tourists, and expats. The place also has live traditional Irish folk music on a certain weekday – should be Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, I unfortunately forgot which was it but you can ask.

Nevizade Area – Nevizade is a small and famous area in the back of Istiklal Street -very close to James Joyce Pub I have mentioned above- that is filled with bars and meyhanes. A very crowded and loud area, where in some parts you sit crammed with other people. It is not for everyone, but definitely worth checking out if you wish to experience Taksim nightlife.

Mis Street – Mis Sokak (“sokak” means street in Turkish) is a famous street when it comes to Taksim nightlife, that houses some nice bars -Kırmızı for example, a very small, but equally cute place, or Arsen Lupen, where you can listen to live rock music on weekends– and it also opens to the back alleys of İstiklâl Street, where you can again find lots of bars, clubs, and meyhanes by yourself.

Best Restaurants in Taksim

Taksim restaurants

And here are some of my restaurant recommendations from the Taksim area (with the exclusion of Saray Muhallebicisi, which is on Istiklal Avenue). In fact, all of the below-mentioned restaurants are located in the back alleys of İstiklâl):

Kirvem Ocakbaşı – An old school Turkish “ocakbaşı” -the name for a type of meyhane that serves kebabs- it has really tasty kebabs, good mezes, and a nice selection of rakıs. The setting is quite simple and the atmosphere is nice too. If you sit on the balcony, the street musicians might bother you a bit, but other than that, it is a very cool place.

Saray Muhallebicisi – Also mentioned in my İstiklal Street guide, Saray Muhallebicisi is an old restaurant chain, a dessert place mainly, but also a restaurant where you can have soups and doner kebab, as well as Turkish breakfast. It has restaurants in different parts of the city, and the one in Taksim is worth trying as well, for breakfast or lunch.

Köfteci Hüseyin – One of the best places to eat meatballs around if not the best. Köfteci Hüseyin has been in business for more than half a century and is a must-visit restaurant in Taksim. It is a small place with a warm atmosphere, and again, it serves delicious meatballs.

Askoroz Balıkçısı – Askoroz Balıkçısı is a small fish restaurant in Taksim. Surprising as it may sound, it does not serve alcoholic drinks but has a nice old-school restaurant ambiance with plates worth trying if you like fish.

Keyf-i Ciğer – A nice kebab and soup place, Keyf-i Ciğer would be a nice choice after a night of drinks when you feel like you have to eat something more filling than wet hamburgers! It is open 24 hours, and it offers tasty kebabs, soups, and mezes.

My Top 5 Tips for Visiting Taksim Square & Surrounding Area

walking from Taksim to Istiklal

Taksim Square in Istanbul is one of the most popular places in the city. It can be overwhelming (often) together with nearby Istiklal Street but it is an iconic place that played different roles throughout Istanbul’s history.

If you are not a fan of noisy crowded streets and squares, you may skip it. Although I’d recommend you check it out briefly just to have an idea of what it is like. Especially considering that Taksim has some nice spots that I mentioned above.

However, before you go, here’s what you have to remember:

1. Do not accept invitations from strangers to enter unfamiliar bars and clubs. There is a thing in the Taksim area where some people (men and women) walk on the streets and give invitations to strangers (tourists) to visit their newly opened lounge, bar, or club. They invite others to walk to that club and ‘take a look’. 

Do NOT agree to that invitation. You don’t know who that person is who is inviting you. He/she can be a scammer or thief. They can walk you around ‘showing bars’ and then demand money in the end for ‘showing a particular place’. This thing is very real and in some ways similar to scams and tricks you encounter in Morocco, like Marrakech Medina or many other cities.

2. Do not go to Tarlabasi, especially if you are with kids. Until this day Tarlabasi is not a safe place in Istanbul. It is known for the concentration of sex workers.

3. Avoid eating just anywhere. Follow my tips here in this post to find good (safe places) where to dine in Taksim Square and around it. While there are many nice places, there are also many of those that don’t follow hygiene standards or are tourist oriented.

4. Do NOT stay directly around Taksim if you don’t like noise and prefer authentic local neighborhoods. Taksim is always crowded and full of tourists as well as people from all over Turkey and nearby countries who work in the area or look for work there. In my opinion, Taksim is a nice place where to hang out and spend some time but not a place where to be based on a holiday to Istanbul and Turkey (unless you come to go to clubs).

5. Avoid Taksim Square if there’s a possibility of any disturbances or unrest in Istanbul or during the time of elections, big events, or concerts in the area. Even during big soccer matches that involve Turkish soccer teams, I’d try to avoid going to Taksim during the hours when fans are walking and ‘celebrating’ or ‘grieving’ soccer moments because that can involve large crowds and heightened emotions, which may lead to potential safety risks or confrontations.

I also invite you to read my post about all tips for Istanbul to know what else to avoid (or choose) doing to have an enjoyable trip to this beautiful city!

Guides to Other Neighborhoods Not to Miss in Istanbul

What You Will Need When Traveling to Istanbul

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *