The attack took place on Istiklal Caddesi, a pedestrian street that was relatively quiet Saturday morning but is usually thronged with shoppers, strollers and buskers later in the day.
“This is a suicide attack, a terrorist attack,” Istanbul governor Vasip Sahin told reporters at the scene, saying the bomber was also killed. Three of the wounded were in serious condition, he said.
The bomb exploded near a shopping mall, but Sahin said the intended target was a local authority building in the Beyoglu neighbourhood, where Istiklal Caddesi is situated.
The street, which adjoins Taksim Square in the European part of the city, was evacuated after the attack, an AFP journalist at the scene said. Armed police sealed off the area while a police helicopter hovered overhead.