Fener And Balat in Istanbul
The former Greek district of Fener and the adjoining old Jewish neighborhood of Balat, both of which are located on the southern bank of Golden Horn, have a very rich historical legacy and are among Istanbul's most well-liked tourist destinations. Due to recent developments in the tourism industry, Fener and Balat have developed into a popular tourist destination.
Both residents and visitors know a lot about the area. The main squares are quite vibrant and filled with tourist-oriented cafes and eateries. In addition, there are many antique stores in the area. A joint UNESCO/EU initiative to rehabilitate the several buildings in the area with Balat is underway.
Fener (the Vatican of the Greeks)
Fener, a very impressive neighborhood, provides visitors with an amazing experience thanks to its authentic atmosphere, which includes numerous fascinating churches, the Fener Greek Patriarchate, unusual architecture and splendor, the Fener Greek High School for Boys, and steep, narrow streets lined with vibrant cafes, restaurants, and antique stores.
Greeks have settled in Fener since the sixteenth century, and the affluent Greeks who lived there attained prominence throughout the Ottoman era. Up to the middle of the 20th century, there were still Greeks living in Fener. After it, poor immigration from eastern Turkey became more prevalent.
Balat (an old Jewish quarter)
Similar to Fener, the nearby area of Balat captivates tourists with its vibrant cafes and eateries, vintage and antique stores, signs of Jewish heritage, and many synagogues and churches. Jews who speak Greek have lived in Balat since the Byzantine era. The expelled Sephardics from Spain, however, moved in Balat in the 15th century.
The Byzantine heritage is also very strong in the Balat region. It has always been less wealthy than Fener because it is an older Jewish neighborhood. Balat has a sizable Jewish population, thus there are numerous synagogues and other Jewish institutions there in addition to a few churches and mosques.
Things to Do and See
Fener and around
Fener center and the cafes area
The busiest part of Fener is the region near the coast between Yildirim and Vodina streets. Visitors who come to explore Fener and take a break after shooting a lot of pictures are warmly welcomed by the authentic and colorful cafes and restaurants on the left and right. When you continue to ascend the Camci Cesmesi street's incline, you will be able to glimpse the well-known colorful gates.
The Fener Greek Patriarchate and the St. George Church
On the banks of the Golden Horn in Fener, Turkey, the Patriarchal St. George Church and the Fener Greek Patriarchate coexist in the same courtyard. The Patriarchate continues to serve as the mother church for all Greek Orthodox Christians. The most notable of the numerous priceless items in St. George Church is a throne from the fifth century.
Fener Greek High School for Boys (Red Castle – Red School)
When viewing Fener from a distance, you will undoubtedly notice this structure right away because of its striking red silhouette and exquisite construction, which most people believe belongs in a church. The Fener Greek High School for Boys is what this actually is. It is also known as the Red Castle or the Red School. With its stunning construction, which is accessible only after descending a steep hill, and which causes you to bow your head even when you approach its door, it is also one of the most popular locations for tourists to take photographs.
In 1881, building supplies were imported from France and red bricks were used to construct the structure. In fact, the building's splendor serves as evidence of how prosperous and significant the region was at the time.
Fener Antik Mezat (Antiques Auction place)
Since the Fener and Balat region is well known for its antique businesses, an antique auction house seems like it should exist. The Fener Antik Mezat, which is situated on Vodina Street, is an ideal location that draws attention from tourists thanks to its auctions, which begin after 3 PM and go until 8 PM. You can buy a variety of antiques for your loved ones here for an affordable price.
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church (Iron Church, Aya Istefanos)
The Bulgarian Church (Aya Istefanos / Sveti Stefan), also referred to as the Iron Church, is situated near to the Fener neighborhood on the Golden Horn coast. The iron molds for the building were sent by sea from Vienna in 1871. The Bulgarian minority that fled the Fener Greek Patriarchate had a church erected for them.
Church of Our Lady of the Mongols (Bloody Church)
It is a holy church from the late 13th century that is situated in Balat and is also known as the Saint Mary of the Mongols. The church's primary distinguishing characteristic is that it was not turned into a mosque during the Ottoman Empire and remained a place of worship for the Greek Orthodox populace.
Balat and around
Balat market, vintage and antique shops area
The spectacular and genuine Cifit Bazaar is located on the Leblebiciler Street in Balat's city center, in the charming little plaza where the Synagogue resides. the title given to Jews by the Cifit during the Ottoman era. And the bazaar got its name from the Jewish craftsmen who used to live there. There are several charming antique, vintage, and mirror-selling stores in this area. Additionally, there is the renowned Agora Tavern and the Yanbol Synagogue.
Balat Toy Museum
The wonderful toys on display at this museum will take you on a voyage through time, from the past to the present, and even into the future. You can take use of the fantastic toy collections assembled here from all regions of the world, as well as the particularly made toys and workshops appropriate for all age groups. You'll undoubtedly recognize a part of yourself here.
The 1000m2 historical structure that houses the Balat Toy Museum, which houses 17,000 toys in 15 categories, welcomes visitors. The historical streets of Balat are a perfect place for you and your kids to discover the old Istanbul.
The museum is open every day of the week between 10:00 and 20:00.
Address: Yavuz Sultan Selim Mahallesi, Abdülezzelpaşa Caddesi, No: 65, Balat, Istanbul
The Merdivenli (Stairs) Ramp and Historical Balat Houses
Both locals and visitors are particularly interested in and take a lot of pictures at the Corbaci Cesmesi ramp, also known as the Merdivenli (Stair) ramp. We advise you to visit this restored region as part of the UNESCO Cultural Heritage project when you are in Balat.
Ferruh Kethuda Mosque
Mimar Sinan, a well-known Ottoman architect, constructed the Ferruh Kethuda Mosque in 1562, but it is a very modest mosque in comparison to Sinan's other wonderful and outstanding creations. An intriguing feature is that tiles from the neighboring historic Tekfur Palace were used to embellish the mosque's mihrab. The mosque does, however, include a sundial in the rear, which is another intriguing aspect of the building.
The Ahrida Synagogue in Balat, named after the Macedonian town of Ohrid, is the oldest synagogue in Istanbul. It has a Baroque-style architecture. The synagogue, which dates back to the Byzantine era, is still available for worship. The Holy Chest, which is covered in exquisite tapestries, is the synagogue's most notable feature.
Surp Hresdagabet Armenian Church
The famous Hresdagabet Armenian Church, which dates to the 16th century, was rebuilt on a holy spring in the 18th century. The word "archangel" in Armenian is hreshdagabet. Due to a belief that it has a healing ability for those attending the ritual on the Day of the Saint, it is also known as "the Miracle Church."
Hazrat Jabir Mosque
The mosque, which is on Cember Street, attracts visitors with its charming brick exterior. Aya Thekla was the original name of this ancient church, which dates to the ninth century. Atik Mustafa Pasha transformed it into a mosque around 1490. Later, it adopted the name of Hazrat Jabir, who is thought to have lived between the years 606 and 697.
There are numerous genuine and vibrant cafes and eateries in the Fener neighborhood between Yildirim and Vodina streets. In a similar vein, the Balat market area has a number of charming and bustling cafes and eateries.
The Perispri, which provides a very pleasant ambiance in an antique and historical setting, the Forno, renowned for its breakfast buffet, Kofteci Arnavut, renowned for its meatballs and desserts, and the renowned Balat Pickleman are a few of the popular places in Fener and Balat.
One of Istanbul's most renowned and ancient pubs is the Agora Tavern, which is situated in the Balat market district. We suggest that you have dinner here.
Where to Stay?
Regarding lodging, the regions do not offer many options. There are only a few hotels available. At first glance, the region's well-known mid-range hotels are Hotel Troya Balat, Balat House, and Fener Suit Apart Hotel.
The Ideal Way to Explore Fener and Balat
To really experience the Fener and Balat region, we strongly advise taking a guided tour. With guided tours, you can get a close-up look at each detail and the history of the sights while also learning about the region's past and present. You can avoid potential tourist traps and won't get lost.
Here, we only recommend tried-and-true routes that have received high ratings from previous visitors. You are welcome to reserve one of the most popular tours listed below.
Free cancellation up to 24 hours prior to the start of the activity
Fener and Balat are two charming and historic neighborhoods located on the Golden Horn in Istanbul. Both neighborhoods are known for their beautiful and well-preserved Ottoman-era houses, colorful streets, and vibrant local cultures. Fener, with its historic Patriarchate and the iconic Fener Greek High School, is a hub of Greek culture and history in Istanbul, while Balat is a melting pot of different cultures and religions, with its beautiful synagogues, churches, and mosques all coexisting peacefully. Whether you are interested in exploring the city's rich history or simply enjoying the laid-back atmosphere of these two neighborhoods, Fener and Balat are essential stops for anyone visiting Istanbul.