Taksim Square is the heart of modern Istanbul, laid out in the late 1800s near a taksim (branching-point) in the city's water distribution system. You can still see the taksim at the beginning of Istiklal Caddesi.
The Independence Monument (Istiklal Aniti) in the circle at the southern end of the square commemorates the Turkish Republic's founder, Kemal Atatürk, in both his roles, as military commander-in-chief and as statesman.
The open space to the north was once a reservoir. Facing the square at its northern end is the Atatürk Cultural Center.
Cumhuriyet Caddesi (Republic Avenue) goes north from the square to the upscale districts of Elmadag, Harbiye, Nisantasi and Sisli.
Taksim Park, to the west, was formerly a huge Ottoman artillery barracks. Across Cumhuriyet Caddesi from it was the barracks parade ground, called the Talimhane. After World War II this large, flat, open area was developed with a grid of streets, and more recently has seen the construction of more than a dozen medium-size 4-star hotels.