I’m beginning to think that we could have dedicated 91 days to just Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district. In fact, a blog devoted entirely to the city’s main shopping street isn’t inconceivable. İstiklal Caddesi For 91 Days. The number of bars, restaurants, shops, theaters and galleries along “Independence Street” is overwhelming. We spent an entire day exploring just its historic arcades. What follows are short descriptions of our favorites, with links to their exact locations.
The most famous of İstiklal’s arcades is the Çiçek Pasajı, or the Flower Passage. This is one of the prettiest locations in Beyoğlu, and among the most popular with tourists. As such, its prior function as a home for florists has long since vanished, and the passage is now monopolized by expensive restaurants. [Location | More Pics]
The Atlas Pasajı dates from 1871 and centers around a cinema of the same name, where we attended a screening during the Istanbul Film Festival. Apart from the excellent theater, the arcade is a good place to shop for affordable alternative clothing. [Location | More Pics]
The Avrupa Pasajı (Europe Passage) is ornamented by classical statues and topped with a round roof that allows in plenty of light. Most of the stores here today focus on jewelry and upscale souvenirs. This arcade runs parallel to İstiklal Caddesi and is a little difficult to pinpoint without assistance. [Location | More Pics]
Perhaps our favorite spot of the day was in the courtyard found at the back of the narrow Hazzopulo Pasajı, which was packed with students drinking tea and playing backgammon. As soon as we emerged into this very cool corner of the city, we felt ourselves leveling up. Drinking tea in Hazzopulo advances you from Istanbul Level 3 (beginner) to Level 4 (novice). [Location | More Pics]
The hardest arcade to find was the Aslıhan Pasajı, but it was worth the effort. This long, narrow, multi-floor passage is dedicated entirely to second-hand books and comics. I enjoy comics, and especially browsing through stacks of old, used copies. I’ve noticed that, in Istanbul, the most popular comic by far is Conan the Barbarian. Do Turks have a thing for Conan? [Location | More Pics]
Found at the southern end of İstiklal Caddesi, the Cité de Syrie was built in 1908. Hidden within this arcade’s basement is an incredible second-hand clothing and costume store called By Retro. Otherwise, besides a single sofa sitting alone in the hallway, this beautiful arcade is almost entirely empty. [Location | More Pics]
Other arcades we visited on İstiklal Caddesi were more forgettable, but still fun to hunt down. Rumeli has a great cafe called Mona Lisa, decorated with posters of old film stars. Aleppo is home to another cool theater, and Aznavur feels very dated and has shops selling handmade trinkets. Pasaj Markiz was our least favorite of the day; behind a lovely facade, it’s occupied entirely by a Sears-like department store called “Darty”.