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 undertaken an ongoing project to completely pedestrianize the area and create a true open plaza. Most traffic has already been rerouted through underground tunnels, and repaving and landscaping was still underway at the time of this writing. 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, which sparked major anti-government protests in summer 2013, are apparently not off the table yet.
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 the long-shuttered Atatürk Cultural Center—once 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, currency-exchange offices, and airline ticket offices. Farther up Cumhuriyet, Vali Konağı Caddesi splits off from the avenue and veers right, taking you to Nişantaşı, the city's high-fashion district.