After another enjoyable buffet breakfast in the hotel’s elegant restaurant we wandered along to the nearest tram stop and took a Line 1 tram service all the way to Kabatas from where we transferred to an underground funicular train to Taksim Square.
The Kabatas – Taksim funicular is a modern, air-conditioned underground train transporting passengers along the line in just two and a half minutes. This service is included in the Istanbul transport system and we were able to make use of our travel cards for the short journey to Taksim Square.
This huge square is located in the Beyoglu district of Istanbul, it’s the main leisure and shopping hub and is considered to be the beating heart of the city. Standing proudly in the centre of the square is the Monument of the Republic by the famous sculptor Pieter Canamica . It commemorates the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 following the Turkish War of Independence.
Off to one side of the square lies Taksim Gezi Park where we took a short stroll under the shade of its large trees. This small urban park is frequently used as the starting point for political protests and demonstrations but thankfully there were no disturbances and it was very peaceful at the time of our visit. At the side of the park a festival was taking place with local foodstuffs and handicrafts but as it was early in the day not all the stalls were operating.
The elegant Istiklal Street is located just off the square and stretches for over a mile (1.64km). It’s home to Istanbul’s designer and high-end stores which are housed in some beautiful, historic buildings. The street is closed to traffic apart from a bright red heritage tram (Line 2) that slowly makes its way along this pedestrianised road at 40 minute intervals, ringing its little bell to alert people to clear its path.
This old tram line was reinstated in 1990 after the road had been pedestrianised with five stops on its route between Taksim Square and Tünel. This service is also part of the Istanbul travel system with passengers just needing to tap as they board the tram.
On reaching the end of the shopping street we followed signs to the Galata Tower located down a narrow, tree lined cobblestone street. We viewed the tower but decided against joining the lengthy queue to climb the steps to its summit as this was snaking around the building and slightly further up the hill and we thought we might be waiting ages.
Surrounding the tower are some attractive pavement cafes, one of which is located in an historic tram carriage. After exploring the area a little more, we made our way further south to the much older funicular heritage line which transported us to Karaköy on the northern side of the Galata Bridge at the opposite side of the Golden Horn from where we had visited the previous day.
Along this river bank, it was much quieter and we took in the dramatic views whilst slowly walking along the promenade until the path came to a sudden end. Retracing our steps, we returned to the Galata Bridge and caught a Line 1 team back to Sultanahmet, stopping off again for some tea and cakes.
Following a short rest, we climbed the steep hill to the Topkapi Palace which had been closed the previous day (Tuesday). Entrance to the palace , which served as the main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman Empire is 72 TL. Photography is not permitted inside the palace but a visit is highly recommended.
We returned to our hotel by tram and then relaxed once again in the hotel’s sauna. Wandering the streets after dusk, we came across the Gülsoy restaurant opposite the Sehzade Camii Mosque where we found a vacant table on its attractive terrace. I ordered grilled trout but the waiter returned to inform me that it was no longer available so I quickly scoured the menu again and settled on a chicken dish which tasted quite good.
After we had finished our meal, we took the metro for the first time during our stay in Istanbul back to Taksim Square to soak up the evening atmosphere. Heading over there by tram earlier in the day had been more scenic but taking the metro was obviously much quicker whisking us there in a matter of minutes. Using the travel card worked well, and as we were sharing one, we remembered to hand it to each other and tap twice at the turnstiles.
Taksim had taken on a totally different appearance at night and was much busier with crowds of people out for an evening stroll and a spot of shopping. We joined the throngs and sauntered along the historic avenue moving to one side as the heritage tram passed by crammed full of passengers, some clinging to its side in a dangerous fashion. It felt perfectly safe wandering the streets but it was surprisingly chilly in the breeze and I was glad that I had taken a cardigan with me.
Although we had just eaten dinner, we couldn’t resist the temptation of calling into a small cafe for our ‘dessert course’ of late night tea and cakes. My phone app indicated that I’d walked more than 20,000 steps already that day, so I felt my second cake of the day was justified!
Back at the hotel we collected our iPads from our room and relaxed in the bar with glasses of Turkish tea. I have to admit that the presentation was impressive with the tea being served in tall glasses on a silver tray but the tea itself, less so. It was much too strong for us, but something to try once during our short break in Istanbul.
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