taksim1Taksim Meydanı (Taksim Square) is to İstanbul what Trafalgar Square is to London or Times Square to New York. It's here that Turks have traditionally come to celebrate or protest alongside an iconic monument to Atatürk and the Turkish Republic

Despite that fact it has never been a particularly impressive public space, consisting as it does of an actual square that is little more than a giant traffic island and a separate triangle of land at the top of İstiklal Caddesi where the statue can be found. 

In 2012 work began on a new-look Taksim Square which was intended tol include the rebuilding of the Taksim Artillery Barracks (Yaksim Topcu Kışlası). This had been a huge edifice originally erected in 1802, possibly under the supervision of Kirkor Balyan. Fifty years years later it acquired a Moorish appearance reminiscent of the entrance to Istanbul University in Beyazıt. From 1918 to 1941 the barracks was reused as a sports stadium before being demolished. Taksim Square itself started out as parade ground in front of the barracks.

Since the complex included a mosque its recreation would have facilitated the introduction of a mosque into an area seen as symbolic of the Turkish Republic which was bound to prove controversial, as did the suggestion that the new "barracks" would house a shopping mall. 

The original barracks was built over an old cemetery on the site of what is now Gezi Park, an insignificant patch of greenery with a somewhat dubious reputation that shot to worldwide fame in summer 2013 when protests against its destruction in favour of the barracks sparked a ludicruously heavy-handed police reaction. This led to weeks of turmoil not just in İstanbul but all over the country as a result of which several people died, several more were blinded and many hundreds were injured.taksim5Gezi Park, 2013

It remains to seen what will become of Gezi Park now although the first phase of the square's redevelopment does mean that at least it is now visible which was not the case before. The sea of concrete that has been thrown down around it is hardly an improvement though.

Some of the gravestones removed from the old cemetery have been relocated in Feriköy.

A cluster of four- and five-star hotels stand in and around the square. 

Taksim Square forms an important hub in a network of major thoroughfares. Mete Caddesi runs beside Gezi Park to Maçka Park. Gümüşsuyu Caddesi runs downhill from near the Atatürk Cultural Centre to Beşiktaş. Pedestrianized İstiklal Caddesi runs straight out to Tünel and thence via the funicular to Karaköy. Sıraselviler Caddesi runs downhill from next to İstiklal Caddesi to Cihangir/Çukurcuma and on down to Tophane. Tarlabaşı Bulvarı runs from behind the stone cistern through Tarlabaşı to Şişhane and then via the Atatürk Bridge to the far side of the Golden Horn. Cumhuriyet Caddesi runs from the western side of Gezi Park through Harbiye to Şişli.

taksim4Around the Square

Gezi Park runs along the northern side of Taksim Square with the Divan, Ceylan Intercontinental and Hyatt hotels immediately behind it and the Gezi Bosphorus Hotel beside it.

The eastern side of the square is occupied by the Atatürk Cultural Centre (AKM) which has been closed for several years while arguments rage over what should be done with it. It was designed by Hayati Tabanlıoğlu in 1969 and rebuilt in 1978 after a fire, and probably has as many detractors as fans. 

The Marmara hotel occupies most of the south side of the square. Its busy gym is clearly visible to people walking across the square. taksim4Taksim and maksem - parts of water distribution system. Note small birdhouses on facade of taksim

The western side of the square is the most historically interesting. The stone wall that runs along the back was once a giant cistern (maksem) where water brought into the city from the Belgrade Forest was stored ready for distribution via the little stone taksim (water distribution point, 1723) at the top of İstiklal Caddesi. The cistern is now used for temporary exhibitions while the taksim has been turned into an information centre.

Rather like Eros in Piccadilly, the monument to the founding of the Turkish Republic is unexpectedly small. The sculpures by Pietro Canonica are encased in a decorative stone frame designed by Giulio Mongeri. It was erected in 1928 and has occupied a big space in Turkish hearts ever since. 

If you walk down Mete Caddesi along the east side of Gezi Park you will come to the distinctive Atatürk Kitaplığı (Atatürk Library) designed by Sedat Hakkı Erdem in 1976 and offering readers a spectacular Bosphorus backdrop.

If you continue over the crossroads beside the Grand Hyatt Hotel you will come eventually to Maçka Demokrasi Park and the small cable-car that carries passengers swiftly across to Maçka and Nişantaşı. On the way you will pass, on the right, the imposing Taşkışla (Stone Barracks), designed originally as a military hospital in 1846 by the British architect, William James Smith. Later it became the Mecidiye Kışla (Mecidiye Barracks). Today it forms part of İstanbul Technical University.

taksim3Interior of the TaksimEating

Want to grab a quick, cheap bite? Then the Taksim end of İstiklal Caddesi is known for its many döner kebab stands as well as for its more unlikely ıslak (wet) burgers, a sort of Turkish take on a spicy McDonald’s.


Ceylan Intercontinental. Tel: 0212-368 4444

Divan Hotel

One of Turkey’s best-known hotels, the 191-room Divan was completely rebuilt to bring it up to modern standards in 2011 and now boasts smart, modern rooms complete with iPod docks. The lobby bar is the epitome of cosy intimacy.

Tel: 0212-315 5500, www.divan.com.tr, Asker Ocağı Caddesi No 1, Elmadağ

Gezi Hotel Bosphorus

As you head uphill from the Atatürk Library to Taksim Square you will find this new hotel just across the road from Gezi Park. Bedrooms feature lavish Ottoman fabrics. Some manage Bosphorus views as does the rooftop G'Nova restaurant.

Tel: 0212-393 2700. www.gezibosphorus.com, Mete Caddesi No. 34

Grand Hyatt İstanbul Hotel. Tel: 0212-368 1234

The Marmara. Tel: 0212-251 4696

Transport info

The funicular from Kabataş terminates right in Taksim Square. You can get to it by tram from Sultanahmet.

The nostalgic tram also starts its stately trundle along İstiklal Caddesi from Taksim Square.

Nearby areas





İstiklal Caddesi








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