Shops have lined the arteries of the passages around Beyoğlu's İstiklal Avenue for centuries. These shops, always happily servicing both locals and foreigners, create a mosaic of markets and bazaars where you can find everything you are looking for – as well as things you weren't looking for – with reasonable prices. The vibrant passages offer a wide selection of stores that sell souvenirs, cloth, jewelry, books and clothing. Here are some you must visit while in the area.
Taking its place at the top of our list, Atlas Passage is one of the most visited passages on İstiklal Avenue. Dating back to the 1870's, the passage today is home to 44 shops and is centered around the cinema of the same name – Atlas Sineması – and a theater as well. The cinema is made up of three halls, has the capacity to hold up to 950 people and is home to the annual Istanbul Film Festival. Even though the motifs on the low ceilings have faded over time, the passage still preserves the aesthetic properties of its era and is still a popular place to visit. With a wide array of stores that sell just about everything, there is something for everyone. From handmade products and antique shops to clothing stores and carpet shops, you can find whatever you need at affordable prices. There are also cafes and restaurants where you can stop and have a cup of coffee or a glass of tea while walking around.
Just across the street from Atlas Passage is the historical Halep Passage, which is also known as Beyoğlu Passage. It is surprising to lean that this spot in the center of Beyoğlu was once a flying circus where magicians did tricks and acrobats on horseback performed stunning feats. Built by the Arab family of Hacar, Halep Passage once boasted a variete in a wooden building at the rear, which was known as the Pera Circus Theater. Renovated for theater and opera productions in 1889, it was known as the French Theater during the Republican period until the 1950's, when it earned fame for its movie theaters and was renamed the Beyoğlu Passage. This arcade, where the famous Beyoğlu Cinema is located, is lined with tiny shops selling everything from posters, albums and picture frames to gift items and books.
Suriye Passage (Syrian Passage)
Located at the end of İstiklal Avenue is another arcade that is distinguishable from the others. Built by Suriya Pasha in the 1880's, Suriye Passage is the most resplendent and dazzling of them all on the inside. The building was originally designed with a shopping area on the lower level and dwellings on the upper levels, and is said to be the first building after the imperial palace to be supplied with electricity and gas by the city. The arcade was also where the first movie theater opened, and silent films began being shown here in 1910. Suriye Passage is not only famous for its luminous interior, but also for the second-hand stores in the arcade. One of the biggest and most popular vintage stores in Istanbul, By Retro, is also located in the arcade. By Retro was opened in 2001 and has provided costumes to Turkish dramas such as "Öyle Bir Geçer Zaman Ki" and "Hatırla Sevgili."
Beyoğlu's permanent outdoor clothing market is just off İstiklal Avenue in Taksim. When entering the narrow street next to Paşabahçe Mağazası, you will be amazed at all the clothing racks and piles of t-shirts, pajama pants and sweaters. Grabbing a bargain or a few is not hard, as everything is moderately priced and affordable. While searching the piles, you will find clothing from world famous brands such as Zara, Mango, H&M, Topshop and Asos. There are even more shops inside the passage that are worth checking out as well. The more neatly organized shops inside might be a bit pricier but still on the affordable side. Keeping up with the latest trends, Terkos Passage is one of the best ways to shop on a budget and still look chic!
As one of the most active shopping spots on İstiklal Avenue, Aznavur Passage is a multi-story passage with a narrow entrance and a variety of shops selling unique things. On the ground floor, you can find stores selling second-hand clothes, jewelry, comic books and CDs, whereas on the second floor, there are shops selling clothes and accessories that originate from Asia. On the upper floors, there are various facilities such as a gym and a language school. With the ninth floor bearing traces of Italian architecture, the passage was named after the Aznavur family.
Çiçek Passage (Flower Passage)
Although not a shopping arcade, Çiçek Passage is the L-shaped courtyard of a building named Cite de Pera, one of the first European-style buildings constructed during the Ottoman Empire's late 19th century effort to modernize. During its heyday, the Cite de Pera building housed posh shops on its ground floor and offices on the floors above. Later in the 1970s, the passage became a place to eat and drink with taverns and meyhanes that served inexpensive but good food. In the late 1980s, about a century after it was built, part of the Cite de Pera collapsed and the building was closed. The building was then renovated and reopened after the tourism boom in the 1990s, and the passage became a more upscale eating and drinking locale for a somewhat richer class of patrons. If you're looking for a place to have a couple of drinks or just to see the beautiful architecture the passage has to offer, Çiçek Passage is the right place to be!