Guide To Surviving Taksim Square In Istanbul With Your Sanity Intact

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Post author Nicky

Written by our local expert Nicky

Nicky, originally from the UK, is now a local in Turkey. She moved to Marmaris, Türkiye for love 12 years ago and is now your Turkey travel planner.

This is your guide to mastering Taksim, a place I have been exploring for the past 12 years. It is the heart of Istanbul, nestled on the European side.

I’ll show you how to tackle the crowds with ease, discover hotels and restaurants that elevate your stay, and soak in the vibrant life around Taksim Square and İstiklal Street.  My post is your key to unlocking the best of Istanbul’s bustling without stressing out.


Turkey Travel Blog_Guide To Surviving Taksim Istanbul

If you’re visiting Istanbul soon or even thinking about it, Taksim will no doubt be on your shortlist of places to visit. And so it should be.

Taksim is a fantastic place. It’s the heart of modern Istanbul. In this huge and sprawling city, you’ll hear countless languages spoken at any one time, and people from all walks of life mingle together in one vast and bustling spot.

But Taksim is also a complicated place to visit if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Taksim can drive even the most patient person towards distraction. It’s a place where you will not be able to walk in a straight line for more than a couple of seconds and somewhere that will have you swearing, even if you don’t usually. It’s also renowned for scams, and if you have zero knowledge of the site, you’ll probably get lost.

But it’s also a magnificent place too. After all, you can’t have sunshine without rain, eh?

What And Where Is Taksim, Istanbul

Best Things To Do In Istanbul - taksim square Red tram in Istiklal street

Istanbul doesn’t actually have a city center because it’s so big and made up of many different districts. But, many people deem Taksim to be the central point. It’s certainly where most people go to parties; it’s a shopper’s dream, and if you love food, it’s a great spot to head to.

İstiklal Street

It’s the home of the famous Istiklal Caddesi and Taksim Square. It’s also where you’ll find Gezi Park, the flashpoint of protests several years ago, and the Republic Monument, built to commemorate the Turkish Republic’s formation in 1923.

You can easily reach Taksim from any part of Istanbul. It’s connected by buses, Metro, and taxis. But remember that traffic in Istanbul is worse than it’s ever been, and Taksim is a hectic place. For that reason, if you can take the Metro, it’s probably the fastest and easiest way to get to and from Taksim.

Many people choose to stay in Taksim, mainly because of the nightlife and because it’s pretty easy to get to any other part of Istanbul. You’ll find countless hotels and hostels here, including some International hotel chains.

However, if you want a quiet base for your time in Istanbul, Taksim isn’t the best option. This is where nightclubs play their music until at least 7 am, and it’s certainly not quiet music either. You’ll also still see traffic at 4 am and people walking around (often quite crowded) until the wee hours.

Is Taksim Square In Istanbul Dangerous

Istiklal streetm Taksim Istanbul Guide

This is a ubiquitous question.

Any big city has parts that are a little more dangerous than others, and this is true of most city center areas worldwide. Taksim isn’t dangerous per se, but the fact that it’s so busy and has a considerable amount of nightlife does mean that there are occasional drunken fights. There are some shady people around, but again, that’s true of any big city.

If you do any research into this part of Istanbul, you’ll also find that Taksim is usually where protests occur. Despite that, they’re very few and far between. The best advice is that if you see any protest going on, move away and don’t participate. Stay out of it and enjoy your time in the city instead.

If you do run into any trouble or need any help, you’ll find police around, both on Istiklal and at the top of the street, in Taksim Square. If you get lost or you’re not sure where to go, you can also ask any shop or restaurant staff, and they’re sure to help you—people are pretty helpful in Taksim, even if it is so crowded!

Of course, pickpocketing is generally a problem in all crowded areas in Istanbul. Taksim is indeed crowded. There are times when you can’t walk that easily. So, make sure that you keep your belongings in your bag and that you don’t flash your phone or expensive camera while you’re walking.

If you’re wearing a backpack or any type of bag on the side of your body, hold it very close to you. If you’re wearing a backpack, consider wearing it on your front instead—you’ll see countless people doing the same thing.

The other thing you’ll notice about Taksim is that there are many children asking for money, people selling tissues, and people begging. It’s a contentious subject. For sure, some are genuine and do require help, but some aren’t. It sounds awful to say that it can be a nuisance, but the fact is that Taksim, along with Sultanahmet, is one of the most popular tourist areas in Istanbul.

Tourists mean money, right? So, it’s not surprising that you’ll find this sort of thing happening.

What should you do? That’s up to you. If you feel that someone is genuine and you want to help, do so. If you’re not sure, continue walking. You shouldn’t feel pressured because you can’t help everyone, but it’s a decision you need to think about for yourself and do what sits right with you.

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Neighborhoods To Avoid In Taksim

There are a few areas in Taksim we recommend avoiding while visiting the district, both in terms of staying in and walking through.



This neighborhood is within walking distance of Taksim Square and Istikal Street. Extreme poverty and violence related to that poverty color daily life here, and taxi drivers won’t even venture this way if they can avoid it.


Another run-down neighborhood near Taksim Square and Istikal Street, technically in the Beyoglu district of Istanbul, is Tarlabaşı. It is easy to accidentally walk into this area if you aren’t aware. Don’t detour too far to the east or northeast of Istikal to avoid this area, known for its sex workers and aggressive vibe.

Why Is Taksim Stressful

Taksim Square Istanbul Guide

If you stand at the top of Istiklal Caddesi (street) and look down, you will have your answer.

It is BUSY. If you think you’ve seen busy before, you haven’t actually seen it until you’ve been to Taksim. Go on a Friday or Saturday, and it goes up ten notches more.

Istiklal Caddesi is basically one very long pedestrianized street that is remarkably narrow, considering how many people use it. On either side of the road, there are many bars, restaurants, shops, cinemas, and even Madame Tussaud’s. Then, also on either side, there are side streets that shoot off and have a million and one other things to see and do on all of them.

Add to that the taxis and police cars that need to get across the pedestrianized part from those side streets, and you can see how it could be pretty stressful, especially when an ambulance is trying to get down to help someone.

But that’s not all.

You also have musicians playing for money, which causes crowds to gather. Then, you have to try and get around the crowd when people are walking at you from all directions.

Trust me, in Taksim, people do not seem to know how to be around others. They become so enthralled at everything that’s going on around them, and trust me, it’s an assault on the senses that they forget they’re among other humans. People walk into you; they nudge you out of the way without meaning to; they stop right in front of you when you’re walking so that you pile into the back of them. They refuse to move, so you have to move instead. You get people posing for selfies and photos right in the middle of the street – RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE! I can feel my anger rising just by typing this.

It’s one of those situations that you won’t understand until you’ve experienced it yourself.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Taksim—love, love, love it—but it’s pretty stressful.

So, how can you enjoy Taksim without feeling like you need to lay down for a few hours in a darkened room afterward?

What To See & Do In Taksim

Very bust Istiklal Street In Taksim Istanbul

Taksim is like the beating heart of the city, buzzing with life, culture, and some seriously cool sights that you won’t want to miss. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or just in it for the ‘gram, there’s something here for everyone. Let’s dive into the top tourist sights and why they’re worth your time.

1. Taksim Square

First, you can’t go to Taksim and not hang out in Taksim Square. It’s the central spot where everyone gathers, and it’s alive with the energy of street performers, vendors, and happy tourists. The Independence Monument is smack dab in the middle, celebrating Turkey’s War of Independence. It’s great for history enthusiasts and those who enjoy people-watching.

2. Istiklal Avenue

Just a stone’s throw from the square is Istiklal Avenue, a long pedestrian street that’s the backbone of Taksim’s shopping and nightlife. Lined with shops, cafes, and bars, it’s perfect for a leisurely stroll, a bit of window shopping, or diving into some local cuisine. Plus, the historic tram that runs down its length adds a charming touch. Whether you’re a shopaholic or a foodie, you’ll find your bliss here.

3. Galata Tower

Istanbul in January - Galata Tower

A bit of a walk from the main square but totally worth it, Galata Tower offers some of the best views over Istanbul. This medieval stone tower has a rich history, and climbing to the top gives you a 360-degree view of the city’s skyline. Perfect for photographers and those looking for a romantic spot.

4. Cihangir Neighborhood

For a more laid-back vibe, wander over to the Cihangir neighborhood. It’s known for its cool cafes, vintage shops, and artsy atmosphere. A favorite among writers, artists, and expats, it’s the perfect place to unwind with a coffee and soak up some local culture.

5. The Street Food

Mate enjoying istanbul street food on the sidewalk - Traditional Turkish Street Food Lahmacun
Ready to Eat.

Okay, so it’s not a “sight” per se, but trust me, the street food in Taksim is something you’ve got to see (and taste) to believe. From kebabs to the legendary ‘wet burger,’ you’ll find all kinds of treats to keep you fueled as you explore. Food lovers, rejoice!

6. Taksim Art Galleries

Art enthusiasts, you’re in for a treat. Taksim is home to numerous art galleries showcasing contemporary Turkish and international art. Spend an afternoon gallery hopping and immerse yourself in the vibrant local art scene.

7. Atatürk Cultural Center

Make sure to swing by the Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM). This isn’t just any spot; it’s a gleaming beacon of arts and culture right in the hustle and bustle of Istanbul. Freshly revamped, AKM hosts everything from cutting-edge art exhibitions to concerts that’ll blow your socks off.

Whether you’re a die-hard art enthusiast or just looking to dip your toes into Turkey’s contemporary culture scene, this place is a must-visit. Its modern architecture is a sight to behold, and the lineup of events means there’s always something new to discover. 

8. Nightlife

Last but definitely not least, Taksim’s nightlife is legendary. Whether you’re into cozy bars, swanky rooftop terraces, or buzzing nightclubs, there’s a spot for every taste. It’s the perfect way to cap off your day of exploring.

How To Enjoy Taksim Without Requiring Anger Management

Istiklal Caddesi - Taksim Istanbul

Even if you follow the advice below, your visit to Taksim will probably be stressful. But by following it, you’ll be able to enjoy your holiday, too. Remember, this is one of the most beautiful and fascinating parts of the city, and it’s so cosmopolitan and international that it’s extraordinary. It’s also pretty historic.

So, here is my advice on how to enjoy Taksim and make the most of it without feeling like you’re about to burst a blood vessel.

Wear Comfortable Shoes

If you’ve ever been to Las Vegas, you’ll be familiar with this concept. You look at the Strip, and you think, “Oh, that’s not far; I can walk.” But it’s a literal desert mirage because four hours later, you’re still walking. Istiklal Caddesi is precisely like that. You think it’s not that far, but it goes on and on. There are a million and one things to see and do, too, so you’re sure to forget the time.

The best advice? Wear comfortable shoes. You might want to be all city glam, but there’s a reason most people wear trainers. Also, make sure you stop regularly and drink plenty of water – dehydration will not help you!

Try And Avoid Using An Umbrella

It rains a fair amount in Istanbul, and of course, you don’t want to get wet. But Taksim and umbrellas do not mix. You will have someone’s eye out. Of course, you’ll see lots of umbrellas, but my advice is to avoid those people like the plague because the chances of you escaping unscathed are pretty narrow. Just put your hood up, or even better, wear a raincoat.

Look After Your Belongings

We mentioned this one earlier, but it’s essential to note it again. Backpacks should be worn on your front if you can. Don’t flash your valuables, and make sure that you keep an unyielding hold on your bag. You don’t want to carry too much either because the chances are you’ll have quite a few shopping bags by the end of the day.

Walk In The Right Direction

Generally speaking, and I mean usually because hardly anyone adheres to this, it’s best to walk down Istiklal on the right side and up on the left. But don’t expect everyone else to. This is just the general flow of “traffic.” Truthfully, if everyone did this, Taksim wouldn’t be half as stressful.

Take Your Time

It’s not worth rushing anywhere in Taksim because you won’t get where you need to be in time. Instead, take your time and enjoy what you’re seeing. The sheer number of people around you makes it very difficult to move at any speed, and even if you manage it, you’ll find yourself weaving in and out, causing nothing short of sore feet and a headache.

Get Your Bearings First

Taksim is one of those places that when you emerge from the taxi, bus, or Metro station, you’re suddenly so overwhelmed with “wow, look at this” that you want to get straight into it. But you forget how big it is and how much there is to see. There are so many hidden places that you don’t want to leave, and then you read about something and wish you’d gone there.

My advice? Just soak it all up first and then explore calmly. Take a walk down and back up to get your bearings before you try to go into any shop, restaurant, attraction, or old building.

If You Need To Stop, Move To The Side

Seriously, this is common sense, for sure, but you’d be amazed how many people don’t do it. By reading this, I hope that more people do it and then the place becomes calmer! If you need to stop for whatever reason, maybe to tie your shoelace or take a selfie, don’t just stop in the middle of the street! Please don’t – there are so many people who will be cursing you. Instead, move to the side and do whatever you need to do.

Don’t Try To Do It All In One Day

When you’re short on time, it’s easy to think that you can visit Taksim and see whatever you need to see in a day. Once you get there, you’ll quickly notice that’s not the case. There are many nooks and crannies full of interesting buildings, delicious local restaurants, museums, and galleries that you don’t want to miss out on. It’s best to schedule at least two days in if not more.

You could even try to do one side of Istiklal and its side streets on one day and then go back to do the other side on another day.

Avoid Weekends

It’s best to avoid weekends if you can. Saturdays are not fun. They’re so busy with locals as well as tourists that you’ll not get very far. It’s best to go midweek if you can, but even then, it’s super busy.

Another time to avoid? New Year’s Eve. You might think the location would be fantastic for such a special occasion, and for sure, it is, but you CANNOT MOVE. Literally.

Take A Deep Breath!

Look, Taksim is so unique, and you’re going to love every second there, but you will feel like screaming at some point. My advice? Just take a deep breath and embrace the madness as part of the experience.

Istanbul Taksim Square Hotel Options

There are numerous hotels in Taksim, but my choice is the Pera Sultan Suit. The hotel is located at the intersection of Kocatepe Mahallesi and Feridiye Avenue, steps from the heart of Taksim Square. It boasts excellent reviews and features comfortable and luxurious accommodations only 500 meters from the famous Istiklal Caddesi, with plenty of restaurants, bars, and shopping all close by.

 These other Taksim hotels are just a few meters away. 


For sure, there’s nowhere in the world like Taksim, stressful or not!

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