The Beyoglu district, an extension of the Galata district across Sarayburnu, was known as Pera before the Ottoman Empire. The name Beyoglu started to be used after the conquest of Istanbul. The name, which literally means the son of a Bey (Beg, governor or lord) indicates from where the name of the area derived. There are two hypotheses as to who this Bey was. The first one of them proses that the Bey was the prince of Pontus, Alexios Comnenus, who converted to Islam during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II and who began to live in a mansion he owned the district. The other hypothesis is that the name referred to the so of the Venetian ambassador A. Gritti, Luigi Gritti, who had a mansion in the area.
The Beyoglu district encompasses the area from Taksim to Tunel, and consists of the main street Istiklal Caddesi, which lies beetween the Tunel and Taksim, and all the side streets branching of from here. Entrance to the Tunel funiclar connecting the shores of the Golden Horn to the Beyoglu district on the hill is in Karakoy Square. This, the second underground rail in Europe, opened in 1880 and remains the shoertest line in the world. İstiklal Avenue stretches along the hills of Beyoglu, starting at the upper entrance to “Tunel” and extending all the way to Taksim Square. Begining in the 16th century, Beyoglu was the district for foreign embassies and the non- Moslem minorities. Near the upper entrance to Tunel is the Galata Mevlevihanesi, or Whirling Dervish Lodge, which is a museum today and one of the most interesting of its kind with collections of books and and musical instruments in the Divan Edebiyatı (Ottoman Poetry) Museum on the first floor. When Ankara became the capital of the Turkish Republic, foreign embassies moved to the new capital, and the old embassy buildings in Istanbul became consulates.
Istiklal Street, formerly the Grande Rue de Pera, was famous for its elegants shops, lively and colorful nighlife, theatres and cinemas, but fell out of favour in the 1960s and soon deteriorated. In 1990, to improve the area, traffic was rerouted, a tramline was installed along the street and the buildings were renovate. Today it is and the side streets, again one of the most popular areas of Istnabul with many restaurants, cafes, bars, bookstores and shops. Aboout halfway along Istiklal Avenue is Galatasaray Square, named for the famous high school is a building known as Çicek Pasajı (Flower Passage), with many small restaurants and beerhouses. Parallel to Çiçek Pasajı is a colourful street of fishmongers and greengrocers, and on the side street named Nevizade, a series of lively and crowded restaurants.
The district formerly known as Pera is separated from the part of the city that is surrounded by the city walls. Until the 16th century, when the Ottomans started to establish foreign embassies, Pera was in the countryside and part of the Galata district, a crowded Latin Settlement which was host to summerhouses.
Today, the most important structures here are the Galatasarayı Ocağı, also known as the Acemi Oğlanlar Barracks, the Galata Mevlevihanesi, the Şahkulu Mosque, Asmalımescit Street and Agha Mosque. Suleyman the Magnificent was the Sultan who literally changed the face of this area. As a result of support he gave to the French and the commercial treaties (known as capitulations) he granted them, the Franco-Ottoman relationship improved. The foundation of a French embassy here played a great role in the conversion of this rural area into a district that housed embassies.
After the French embassy (known as the French Palace), the Venetian ambassy was built here, and then an English embassy, Polish embassyi and Dytch embassy were built. In the 17th and 18th centruies, other embassies and consuls were established here.
With the fire of 1831, this rural location started to become more urban. The liberties given as a result of earlier treaties and the legal and commercial security given to foreigners, as well as the right own private property with the start of the Tanzimat Era, provided a legal environment for Europeans to start converting the region into a miniature European city. While being renewed and renovated as a regulated settlementi it started to turn into a center for entertainment and luxury consumption.
As a result, Istiklal Avenue and the streets that run of here were the locations of Italian and French theaters, luxurious residences, hotels, bars, high-class retail stores, entertainment centers, and passages full of exotic items next to the embasises. As a result there are not many Turkish structures in Pera. With the arrival of the electric traim in 1913, connecting Beyoglu to the Şişli District, a cosmopolitan ambiance was created, also attracting Turks.
With an increase in the Muslim population in the region, the city started to change. With World War I, social life somwhat stagnated and then entered a phase of change with the foundation of the Turkish Republic. With the fall-off in the non-Muslim population after 1914, the attraction of the district decreased. Eventhough the new era seemed to start with the old ambiance, brough by the refugees from the 1917 Russian Revolution, Beyoğlu continued to change as a result of the relocation of embasies in Ankara in 1929, the Wealth Tax law, passed in 1942, World War II, Jewish amigration with the foundation of the State of Israel, and the Greek emigration after the events of 6-7 September 1995.