Taksim Square is the most known modern city center of Istanbul. Many hotels and restaurants are in or near the Square and on Istiklal Street, and there is a local bus terminal for public transportation and the main subway station. Istiklal pedestrian street has many bars, night clubs and movie theaters therefore it’s always busy with young people almost for 24 hours a day. The Square is also the meeting place to celebrate New Year’s Eve, parades, public concerts and other shows.
The most important monument in Taksim Square is the Independence Monument standing at the beginning of Istiklal pedestrian street. This is also the turnaround point for the old tram which is the only vehicle permitted on Istiklal Street beside police and government cars.
The monument was made by the Italian sculptor Pietro Canonica and opened in 1928, it describes Ataturk, founder of the Republic, as a military commander-in-chief and a statesman. Since its opening, the monument became the center spot of official ceremonies in Istanbul.
On its south façade overlooking the Siraselviler Street, there is Ataturk, Ismet Inonu and Fevzi Cakmak in the front and other figures behind them, including two Russian generals. On the north façade overlooking at Cumhuriyet Street, the War of Independence is symbolized. On the east and west façades, the Turkish Army is symbolized with a soldier holding Turkish Flag.
Across this monument on the other side of the Square, there is a huge building which is Atatürk Cultural Center. In the early years of the Republic, an opera building was started to build which was completed after a long construction period of 13 years. It was opened with the name of Istanbul Cultural Palace in 1969 but suffered a great damage because of a fire in 1970. It was renovated and was given the name of Atatürk Cultural Center in 1978, known as AKM. Several national and international concerts, operas, meetings, exhibitions and premiers were held in AKM, especially performances of Istanbul State Theaters, State Opera and Ballet, State Symphony Orchestra, State Turkish Classic Music Chorus, and International Istanbul Festival attracted many spectators. Nowadays it’s being renovated again thus closed since 2008.
During the late Ottoman Sultan Mahmud, I arranged Taksim as a point where the main water lines from north of Istanbul were collected and branched off to other districts of the city. Therefore, the Square took its name from the big stone reservoir located on the west side of the square; “taksim” means “distribution” in Turkish.