Southwestern İstiklal Caddesi (ie, southwest of Galatasaray Square) and Tepebaşı were the heart of 19th-century “European” Istanbul. (In the 20th century, the modern city center moved northward to Taksim Square, Nişantaşı and beyond.
It’s here that you’ll find many of the grand old 19th-century embassies (including the American, British, Russian and Swedish) left from the time when every European country wanted to influence the Ottoman sultan.
Also here are the city’s oldest “grand hotels.” The Pera Palace Hotel, next to the Palazzo Corpi (formerly the American embassy/consulate), was built for passengers arriving on the fabled Orient Express from Paris, and is still a grand hotel. So is the Grand Hotel de Londres, built for British businessmen, as was the old Hotel Bristol, which has now been converted into the wonderful Pera Museum.
When I stay here, I walk to the Tünel, ride it to Karaköy(Galata), then take the Kabataş-Bağcılar Tram across the Galata Bridge to Eminönü and its ferry docks, Sirkeci railway station, Sultanahmet and/or the Grand Bazaar.
—by Tom Brosnahan