Galata, and Beyoğlu further north with its main thoroughfare, the pedestrianized Istiklal Street, and the adjoining Taksim Square is the district of Istanbul north of Sultanahmet/Old City, across the Golden Horn. If anywhere can be regarded as the "downtown" of Istanbul, it is this district, more specifically the Taksim Square. Primarily visited for its nightlife, this district has also its own share of sights and accommodation.
Beginning as a village named Sykai ("the fig fields"), Galata (Turkish: Karaköy) rose to prominence as a trade colony of the Genoese, also with a large population of the Venetians, just north of the then-Byzantine Constantinople. After the Ottomans captured Istanbul, the autonomous status of Galata was left largely untouched, except that its city walls were razed (all what remains of the once mighty Galata Castle are the Galata Tower, built as a tower of the castle, and a short wall section in ruins just below the metro bridge spanning over the Golden Horn). While there were a few countryside retreats of the rich and powerful as well as dervish lodges of those seeking seclusion among its wilderness at that time, the first time the Beyoğlu area ("son of the lord", probably after the certain son of a Genoese ruler of the area, who had a mansion there), formerly Pera (Greek for "the other side", as it literally is from the point of view of Constantinople), which lies north of Galata, was settled en masse is during the 1850s, when the Grande Rue de Péra ("the Great Road of Pera"), today’s Istiklal Street (İstiklal Caddesi), was opened. Taksim Square (Taksim Meydanı) is even younger; it was developed as a city square as late as the 1930s.