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Veer off the beaten track and embark on a private walk through the two historical locations of Fener and Balat. Loved for their rippling cobblestone streets and charming multicolored houses, these two neighborhoods show you that there is much to love beyond Istanbul’s typical attractions.
A visit to the Fener and Balat neighborhoods exposes two of Istanbul’s lesser-known treasures. Established in the Ottoman period, their colorful walls tell a story of the city’s unrivaled tolerance to different cultures and religions. Listen to tales of ancient Greek and Jewish culture as told by the swelling streets winding through the neighborhood’s gorgeous houses.
Enjoy the most colorful streets of Istanbul.
Start your tour with a scenic ferry ride through the world’s largest natural harbor, from Karakoy to Ayvansaray. During your ride, enjoy magnificent views of Istanbul’s skyline and a brief history lesson on Constantinople from your guide.
At Ayvansaray, walk along the mighty Byzantine walls that were the official mark of the end of Constantinople. Here, learn more about the history of the conquest and the siege that ensued.
Not far from the Golden Horn is your next stop; the St. Mary of Blachernae church. The church was once a giant columned basilica and one of the most famous churches in Constantinople. However, the original structure was destroyed in an unfortunate fire in 1434. It was neglected until 1867, when a much smaller structure was built in a small parcel around the holy fountain.
Today, the church gives you deep insight into what was once one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture before the conquest. It is also a sacred pilgrimage destination for Greek Orthodox Christians.
Our day tour then takes us to the Jewish neighborhood of Balat, which started thriving in 1492, a time when Sephardic Jews, Muslims, and Armenian Christians called it home. It is a vibrant neighborhood with breathtaking multicolored houses and doors. The cobblestone streets are clean and quiet, with a peaceful atmosphere amplified by the cute houses on either side.
Here, we will visit the historic Ahrida (Ohrid) Synagogue. This 15th-century structure is the work of Macedonian Jews (Romaniotes), who named it after their city of origin (Ohrid). It is one of the oldest in Turkey, and while there, take time to appreciate its incredible Baroque-style architecture. Other exciting attractions in the synagogue include the Holy chest with exemplary tapestries and a boat-shaped reading platform.
From there, we continue on the streets of Balat as we appreciate this breathtaking concrete canvas. Along the way, there are impressive photo spots that you should take advantage of to preserve these precious memories. One of the best places to do so is the Corbaci Cesmesi ramp (Merdivenli ramp) in the Balat neighborhood. The restored area is a trendy photo spot in the community.
Our scenic trek will end in the former Greek district of Fener. As you explore its quiet and breathtaking streets, you will realize that the neighborhood has some incredible attractions to offer. These include:
I. Fener Greek High School (Red School)
Also known as the Phanar Greek Orthodox College, this iconic structure is the oldest Greek Orthodox school in the city. Its history may not be as epic as some of Istanbul’s top attractions, but its architectural design is one of a kind. The existing structure was constructed in the late 19th century using materials imported from France and various architectural styles. It has a castle-like shape with an unmistakable red silhouette that stands out in the neighborhood.
II. The Fener Greek Patriarchate & the Church of St. George
Your walk will then take you to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchal Church (dedicated to St. George), which serves as the most sacred site to over 300 million Orthodox people from all over the world. The church has been the seat of the senior patriarchate of the Eastern Orthodox Church, spiritual leader of all Orthodox Christians, from the 17th century.
Since its construction, the church has survived three fires and a terrorist attack. Today, it is a symbol of resistance that attracts thousands of tourists visiting Fener each year. As you explore the magnificent structure, learn its rich history and that of the neighborhood and its importance to the Christian world.
The Church of St. George also houses several exciting relics that you will enjoy viewing. These include some rare mosaics, Saints Gregory and John Chrysostom, and a 5th-century patriarchal throne.
Exactly! As for any other sample tour on the website, we can customize this tour on request.