The Modern Tour takes place in the most cosmopolitan and lively part of Istanbul, the neighbourhood of Beyoglu. Thanks to its fortunate geography, this area has always been a thriving trade and business centre, drawning merchants from all over the world. For centuries Venetians, Genoese, Greeks, Hebrews, Armenians, Turks have lived side by side in this district, creating an incredibly rich multi-cultural heritage. Diplomats and business men built here embassies and refined buildings in western style, making of Beyoglu an elegant and modern district.
On this tour we will visit bustling squares and streets, places of worship of different religions and the massive Galata Tower. Then, we’ll end the tour with a visit to the engaging Rahmi Koc Museum.
- Taksim Square
- Hagia Triada Greek Orthodox Church
- Istiklal Street – Cicek Pasaji
- St. Antony’s Roman Catholic Church
- Galata Tower
- Rahmi Koc Museum (closed on Mondays)
Duration: 6 h approx.
Included: guide service
Not included: entrance fees, transport, lunch
TAKSIM SQUARE is considered the beating heart of Istanbul. Its name, which in Turkish means “distribution”, is due to the fact that, starting from the age of Sultan Mahmud I, this was the place where the water coming from Belgrade Forest were gathered and then distributed to the different areas of the city. In the east part of the square is located the Ataturk Cultural Centre, whereas on the opposite side rises the famous and luxury Hotel Marmara, with a panoramic restaurant.
In the centre of the square one can see the Monument of the Republic, a marble and bronze work by Italian artists Pietro Canonica (sculptor) and Giulio Mongeri (architect). It was unveiled on 8 August 1928 and it symbolizes the foundation of the Turkish Republic (1923). Portrayed in the massive sculpture are the heroes of the War of Independence, among whom Ataturk and Inonu stand out.
In a small side street of Istiklal Caddesi, rises HAGIA TRIADA (The Holy Trinity), the grandest Greek-Orthodox church in Istanbul. It surely is one of the most important religious building constructed after the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans. The temple was completed in a span of 13 years, between 1867 and 1880, basing on a project of the architect Potessarou approved by decree of Sultans Abul Aziz and Abdul Hamit II. The church features a huge dome and two high steeples, easy to spot from Taksim Square. The Gothic style makes the building quite attractive. In the interior we can admire some outstanding decorations such as the iconostasis, the large rose window and the fine stained glass windows. Most of the icons housed in this church seems to have been influenced by the “Western style”, as they move away from the traditional Byzantine icons.
Visiting hours: Sunday morning (Holy Mass at 9)
If Taksim is the heart of Istanbul, ISTIKLAL CADDESI (Independence Boulevard) surely is its aorta. This long (about 3 km) pedestrian street connects Taksim Square to the district of Galata, where the famed Genoese tower is located.
It is said that over 1 million people walk on Istikal street every day. It is without doubt the most lively street of the city; here one can find anything: big shopping malls, restaurants, cafes, fast-food, bakeries, night clubs, tea-rooms, bookshops, art galleries, any kind of peddlers and street artists and much more. Not to be missed are some arcades (pasaj in Turkish) which lead off to the main street; One in particular is really beautiful: Cicek Pasaj, “the Flowers Arcade”.
On Istiklal are located many consulates, indeed this was the renowned Grand Rue de Pera, the headquarter of foreign diplomacies. Strolling in Istiklal one can admire the refined historical buildings, in many architectonic styles (baroque, rococo, neoclassic, neo-gothic, art nouveau etc.), and several religious temples: mosques, churches and synagogues.
Walking down Istiklal Caddesi, it is impossible not to notice ST. ANTONY’S OF PADUA CHURCH, the most important Roman Catholic temple of Istanbul.
In 1724 a church in honor of St. Anotony of Padua was built in the district of Pera, but in 1904 the building was demolished to give place to the tramway line. Two years later, not far from the ruins of the previous structure, the construction of the current church started and it was completed in 1912. The project, designed by the Italian-Turkish architects Mongeri and De Nari, was funded from the donations of the Levantine community which at that time amounted to about 40 thousand people.
The church features a Neo-gothic Venetian style, with an elegant and characteristic facade in red bricks. In the pretty courtyard there is a fine statue of Pope John XXIII, who is known in Turkey as the “Turkish Pope” due to the fact that he spent 10 years in this church as Vatican nuncio.
The Holy Mass is officiated on Sundays in Italian.
Working hours: 8-12 and 15:30-18:30 (winter); 8-12 and 15:30-19:30 (summer). Holy Mass in Italian on Sundays at 11:30 and on Saturdays at 19 (at 18 in winter)
The TOWER OF GALATA is one of the oldest towers in the world. The original structure was built in 528 by the Byzantine emperor Anastasius Oilozus. It was entirely in wood and served as a lighthouse.
In 1348 the Genoese rebuilt the building using massive stones as part of a great fortification system from which they ruled over the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus Strait. Following the conquest of Costantinople in 1453, the Tower of Christ – as the Italians had named it – fell into the Ottomans’ hands who used it firstly as a prison and then as a fire-watching tower.
There is a legendary event linked to this monument: during the reign of Murat IV (1612 – 1640), Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi, a pioneer of aviation, jumped off the top of the tower with a pair of artificial wings and managed to fly over the Bosphorus and land on the hills of Uskudar, on the Asian side.
The tower was opened to the public in 1967, after the last restoration. Since then it attracts thousands of tourists who come here to admire a breathtaking view of the city from the 61 m of its summit, while drinking a good coffee or dine in the elegant restaurant.
Visiting hours: 9-20 (visit & café); 12-16 (lunch service); 20-24 (night club and restaurant)
Rahmi Koc Museum displays unique and wonderful collections dedicated to the history of transport, industry and communications. It is housed in magnificent buildings – themselves prime examples of industrial archaeology – on the northern shore of the Golden Horn.
The huge exhibition area (27000 square meters) of the museum comprises three separate parts. Lengerhane, “the house of the anchor”, was an old Ottoman palace built in the 18th century, during the reign of Sultan Ahmet III, over a pre-existing 12th century Byzantine building. The Rahmi Koc Museology and Culture Foundation acquired and restored the building in 1991, adding an underground gallery to the original structure.
In 1996 the Foundation bought also the historical dockyard of Haskoy, where, since 1861, the maintenance and repairing of the Ottoman Sea Line Company’s ships were carried out.
The open air display area houses durable and large scale objects such as a submarine, a ferry boat, planes and a floating sheerleg.
Visiting hours: Tuesday – Friday 10-17; Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays 10-18 (1 October – 31 March) 10-20 (1 April – 30 September). Closed on Mondays