At the north end of İstiklal Caddesi, Istanbul's largest public square was once essentially a chaotic traffic circle and public transportation hub, but the Istanbul municipality has recently embarked on a project to completely pedestrianize the area (by rerouting traffic through underground tunnels) and create a true open plaza. The redevelopment of Taksim has been controversial, with some critics saying the ambitious makeover will end up dehumanizing the space. Meanwhile,
plans by the government to likewise redevelop Gezi Parkı, next to the square, sparked major anti-government protests in summer 2013. At the time of this writing, redevelopment of the area was still underway.
The entrance to the Taksim Square station, from which both the metro and the funicular going down to Kabataş can be reached, is located in the square, so you'll probably end up here at one point or another. The open area at the top of İstiklal is dominated by the Monument of the Republic, built in 1928 and featuring Atatürk and his revolutionary cohorts. Also facing the square are Atatürk Cultural Center—the city's main concert hall —and the high-rise Marmara Hotel. Cumhuriyet Caddesi, the main street heading north from the square, is lined with travel agencies and airline ticket offices. Further up Cumhuriyet, Vali Konağı Caddesi splits off from the avenue and veers right, taking you to Nişantaşı, the city's high-fashion district.