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Someones who visited Istanbul’s Istiklal Caddesi (İstiklal Caddesi) in the new millennium will tell you that it’s a occupied but pleasant walker street in the Beyoğlu district, housing a huge variety of shops, picture galleries, restaurants, bars and picture palaces. And that is exact what Istiklal Caddesi today is. However, most people don’t know that it was formerly known as the ‘Grande Rue de Pera’, Istanbul’s most elegant street and home to the city’s biggest shops, various embassies and church services as well as fashionable residences and tea-houses. A street people wouldn’t dream of taking a stroll on wearing an standard pair of jeans. Let me take you on a trip down memory lane.

Istiklal Caddesi before the creation of Turkey

It wasn’t until the founding of the Republic of Turkey that this best-known street received its third and present name. Look for on the Map with Tourist Attractions in the Cool Part of Istanbul. Earlier the street was simply called Grand Avenue (Cadde-i Kebir). With the arrival and settlement of non-Muslims and European foreigners in the 17th century, Istiklal Caddesi was referred to as ‘Grand Rue de Pera’.

At the end of the 18th century French, English, Dutch, Greek, Venetian, Spanish, Russian, Swiss and Prussian diplomats made their winter manors in the area. Along with this multi-national population came the still existing variety in spiritual buildings such as the Roman Catholic churches of Santa Maria and St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral, the Greek Orthodox Haghia Triada, the Armenian Church, and many other church services and temples.

In the second half of the 19th century, due to the evolution of the transportation and increased foreign trade of the Ottoman Empire, the area between Taksim and Galatasaray improved and became a cosmopolitan settlement for the merchandisers, business community, bankers, foreigners and rich people who followed the style in Paris. At the end of the century all basic facilities that a modern society requires such as water, gas and the tramway were constructed. Three theatres also simultaneously staged the most famed Paris plays of those times.

Istiklal Caddesi after the Republic of Turkey Was Established

In the 20th century, the joining of the first electric tramway from Taksim to Şişli made the Taksim-Galatasaray stretch more popular than the Galatasaray-Tünel part.
In the young Republic times Turkish businessmen substituted the foreigners. The Beyoğlu district, and Istiklal Caddesi in particular, became the most modern part of the city. It was the hot spot of the intellects because of the cultural background and variety, together with the presence of best-known restaurants, patisseries, and luxurious shops. The whole street was considered so distinguished that people used to dress up to take a walk or do some shopping in the avenue.

In the 1950s, the influx of immigrants from Turkey’s parts to Istanbul caused a sudden, unexpected growth and rapid urbanization of the city. New formed settlements and changes in the society’s culture made the Beyoğlu district and Istiklal Caddesi lose its crème de la crème visibility.

Fortunately, today thanks to an cheered Beyoğlu Beautification Project by the municipality, together with its central location and historical background, the street has recovered most of its former status. Istiklal Caddesi is again recognized as the center of the city and packed with people browsing the street with its refurbished 19th century Turkish architecture buildings, countless shops and extremely vivid night life.

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