The ancient Greek quarter of Fener and Balat ( the nearby ancient Jewish quarter ), located on the southern bank of the Golden Horn, have a very rich historical heritage and are a very popular tourist area of Istanbul. Fener and Balat have become a tourist place with the recent contributions in the field of tourism
The Fener and Balat area is very well known by locals and tourists. The main squares are quite colorful with cafes and tourist restaurants. At the same time, the area is full of antique shops. There is a UNESCO/EU project in the area to restore the many buildings with Balat.
Fener (the Vatican of the Greeks)
Being a very impressive neighborhood, Fener offers a fantastic experience to its visitors with its authentic atmosphere including many interesting churches, the Fener Greek Patriarchate, unusual architecture and splendor, the Fener Greek High School for Boys, narrow streets and slopes with colorful cafes, restaurants and antique stores in Istanbul.
Fener has been a Greek neighborhood since the 16th century and the wealthy Greeks who lived there also held important positions during the Ottoman era. Greeks continued to live in Fener until the mid-20th century. Thereafter was more resident by poor immigrants from eastern Turkey.
Did you know that Fener is the “Vatican of Greek Orthodoxy“? Fener is home to the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Bulgarian Church of St. Stephen, which is one of the few prefabricated cast iron churches in the world. The Greek Patriarchate of Fener is still the mother church of Greek Orthodox Christianity worldwide.
Balat (an old Jewish quarter)
The neighborhood of Balat, which adjoins Fener, also fascinates visitors with its colorful cafes and restaurants, antique and vintage stores, traces of Jewish heritage, various synagogues and churches. Balat has been home to Greek-speaking Jews since the Byzantines. However, in the 15th century, Sephardim exiled from Spain settled in Balat.
The Balat area is also very rich in Byzantine heritage. Being an ancient Jewish district, it has always been poorer than Fener. There is a large Jewish population in Balat, so you can find many synagogues and Jewish settlements, as well as some churches and mosques.
Where do you walk in Balat?
1. Kadir Has University (Cibali)
2. Cibali Gate
3. Gul Mosque
4. Church of St. Nicholas
5. Atolye Kafasi
6. The Red School
7. Church of St. George (Fener)
8. Yildirim Street
9. Merdivenli Mektep Street
10. Yuvakimyon Highschool
11. Church of St. Mary of the Mongols
12. Kiremit Street
13. Merdivenli Yokus Street
14. Ahrida Synagogue (Balat)
15. Leblebiciler Street
Things to do and see
Fener Center and the cafe district
The area between Yildirim Street and Vodina Street, near the waterfront, is the most lively part of Fener. The authentic and colorful cafes and restaurants on the left and right side welcome visitors who have come to discover Fener and take a break after taking many pictures.
You can see the famous colored doors when you climb the highest slope of Camci Cesmesi street.
The Greek Patriarchate of Fener and the Church of Saint George
The Greek Patriarchate of Fener and the Patriarchal Church of St. George are located in Fener on the banks of the Golden Horn and share the same yard.
The Patriarchate is still the mother church of Greek Orthodox Christianity worldwide. The church of St. George has many valuable objects and the throne of the 5th century is the most important.
Fener Greek High School for Boys (Red Castle - Red School)
When you look at Fener from far away, you will surely see this building at first sight that stands out with its red silhouette and beautiful architecture, which most people think should be a church. In fact, it is the Fener Greek High School for Boys. Also known as the Red Castle or Red School, it is also one of the favorite photographic spots for visitors with its magnificent structure, which you reach by crossing a long slope, and which makes you look up even when you arrive at its door.
The building was constructed with red bricks and building materials brought from France in 1881. In fact, the size of the building proves how rich and important this area was at the time
Fener Antiques Auction Market
The Fener and Balat region is very famous for its antique dealers and therefore there should be a place for antique auctions, right? Located on Vodina Street, Fener Antiques Auction Market is a perfect place that attracts the attention of visitors with its auctions that start after 3 pm.
Here you can find a wide range of antiques at a reasonable price and buy for your loved ones.
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church (Iron Church, Aya Istefanos)
The Bulgarian church (Aya Istefanos / Sveti Stefan), also known as the Iron Church, is located on the coast of the Golden Horn, near the Fener district.
The iron molds used in the structure were brought from Vienna in 1871 by ship. The church was built for the Bulgarian minority who left the Greek patriarchate Fener.
Mongols Church (Bloody Church)
Located in Balat, it is a blessed church from the late 13th century and is also known as Saint Mary of the Mongols.
The most important feature of the church is that it was not converted into a mosque during the Ottoman Empire and was left to the worship of the Greek Orthodox community
Balat and its surroundings
Market of Balat, district of the secondhand trades and antique dealers
On your way to the center of Balat, on the pretty little square where the Synagogue is located, you will come to the impressive and authentic Cifit bazaar, on Leblebiciler Street. The name Cifit was given to the Jews during the Ottoman period.
And the bazaar got its name because of the Jewish merchants who were once in the area. You can find a variety of nice antique stores and stores selling mirrors here. There is also the Yanbol synagogue and the famous Agora tavern
The ramp of Merdivenli (stairs) and the historical houses of Balat
The Corbaci Cesmesi ramp, also known as Merdivenli ramp (staircase), is a very popular place where locals and tourists are very interested and have many pictures taken.
When you visit Balat, we recommend you to visit this area restored in the framework of the UNESCO cultural heritage project.
Ferruh Kethuda Mosque, built by Mimar Sinan (famous Ottoman architect) in 1562, is a very small mosque compared to the other magnificent and great works of Sinan. An interesting detail is that the mihrab of the mosque is decorated with tiles brought from the famous Tekfur Palace nearby. However, another interesting feature of the mosque is that it has a sundial in the backyard
The Ahrida Synagogue in Balat is the oldest synagogue in Istanbul with its baroque style structure and is named after the city of Ohrid in Macedonia. Founded in the Byzantine era, the synagogue is still open for worship. The most remarkable part of the synagogue is the sacred chest, which is covered with beautiful tapestries
Surp Hresdagabet Armenian Church
Dating from the 16th century, the historic Armenian church of Hresdagabet was rebuilt on a sacred spring in the 18th century. Hreshdagabet means “archangel” in Armenian. It is also called the “Miracle Church” because of the belief that it has healing powers for patients who attend the rite on Holy Day.
Hazrat Jabir Mosque
Located in Cember Street, the mosque attracts visitors with its beautiful brick structure. It is an old church of the IXth century which was initially called Aya Thekla. In 1490, it was transformed into a mosque by Atik Mustafa Pasha. Later, it took the name of Hazrat Jabir, considered a holy man who lived between 604-697.
Where to eat
The Fener district between Yildirim and Vodina streets is full of authentic and colorful cafes and restaurants. Similarly, you can find pleasant and lively cafes and restaurants in and around the Balat market.
Among the popular places in Fener and Balat are Perispri, which offers a very pleasant atmosphere in an antique and vintage environment, Forno, famous for its buffet breakfast, Kofteci Arnavut, famous for its meatballs and desserts, and the famous Balat Pickleman.
In addition, Agora Tavern, located in the Balat market area, is also one of the most famous and historic taverns in Istanbul. We recommend you to enjoy a dinner here.
How to best explore Fener & Balat?
Nous vous recommandons vivement des visites guidées pour explorer au mieux la région de Fener et Balat. Avec des visites guidées, vous pouvez apprendre l’histoire de la région du passé et d’aujourd’hui, et avoir un aperçu détaillé de chaque détail et histoire des sites touristiques. Vous ne vous perdrez pas et éviterez les éventuels pièges à touristes.