Why Riotous Istanbul Is Still The Coolest City In Europe [PHOTOS]


Within the last week,

a rash of intense and violent protests have broken out around Turkey.The protests began in Istanbul, the country’s capital, over a plan to demolish the last park in the city, but soon escalated into widespread protests around the country directed at the Turkish government.

In Istanbul, protesters have taken over Taksim Square, a major hub in the city, where they have continuously clashed with police in riot gear.

Yet just outside the chaotic square, life in Istanbul continues as normal and the city continues to be a playground for the young and hip. The city’s tourism industry isn’t particularly worried about the riots, which are largely confined from the areas where violence has broken out. And the U.S. State Department hasn’t issued any warnings about travel to Turkey.

Though tourists should be careful, especially near places like Taksim Square and Besiktas where protesters have gathered, the city is still a worthwhile place to visit.

Tourists are still visiting Istanbul despite anti-government protests that have broken out. If you go, be sure to avoid Taksim Square, at the far end of Istiklal Caddesi, where protesters and police have been clashing.

It's gotten very intense in Taksim Square, with two people dead and many injured.

Strangely, there's a carnival-like atmosphere in Taksim Square, with vendors selling everything from street food to helmets.

But outside certain areas, life in Istanbul is business as usual. The Istanbul Modern, located in a former warehouse on the Bosphorus, showcases cutting-edge contemporary art from Turkish artists.

The restaurant at the Istanbul Modern serves modern international cuisine in a sleek design-conscious setting.

Nearby, the neighbourhood of Cihangir is quickly becoming one of the coolest areas in Istanbul, attracting hipsters and artists with its Bohemian chic vibe and its cafes, shops and galleries.

There's a bustling Sunday brunch scene in Cihangir, where people linger at leafy outdoor cafes over coffee and baklava.

Eclectic cafes serving international fare, like Susam Cafe, have sprouted up all over the area.

There are lots of quaint used book stores full of hard-to-find Turkish and English books.

And trendy hipster-friendly thrift shops.

Istiklal Caddesi (not far from Taksim Square) is Istanbul's main pedestrian artery. Here, shops pandering to tourists—touting Turkish delights, ceramics and other souvenirs—sit beside trendy cafes and Western imports like Starbucks, Nike and Burger King.

Another chic area nearby is Tünel Pasaji, a quiet, arcade-style passageway at the end of Istiklal Caddesi that's filled with happening cafes, antique shops and used book stores.

At night, this passage fills up with young Istanbulites who linger at cafe tables over cigarettes and drinks.

The House Cafe is a local chain in Istanbul where trendy Istanbulites gather for cay (Turkish tea) and mezze. There's a branch on Istiklal Caddesi, not far from Taksim Square.

The 19th-century Misir Apartment building, also on Istiklal Caddesi, is home to edgy art galleries, like Galeri Nev.

On top of the Misir Apartment building is 360, an uber-trendy restaurant and bar. It's open for meals, but the best time to go is probably for sunset.

At the end of the day, everyone retreats to rooftop bars, like the one atop the sleek Marmara Pera hotel, to catch the incredible views. From up here, you'd never know about the tumult happening in nearby Taksim Square.

Local beers like Efes and Turkish wines abound at these happy hours, along with Turkish bar snacks like olives and spiced nuts.

Endless streams of people parade up and down Istiklal Caddesi all night long, heading down towards Taksim Square.

At night, the nightclubs and bars along Istiklal Caddesi are packed.

As are the chic nightclubs in the neighbourhood of Ortaköy, right on the Bosphorus. A favourite is the legendary Reina, which is frequented by trendy Istanbulites and celebrities like Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant.

There's an incredible array of late-night eats available, but one of the best spots for a midnight snack is along the Bosphorus at the Galata Bridge near the Karaköy fish market, where vendors sell fresh grilled fish sandwiches made to order.

Or you can stop at any of the kebab shops on Istiklal Caddesi, which are open late.

Turkey's tourism industry still wants you to visit.

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