Fener and Balat District

Fener and Balat District

For those seeking less-traveled destinations, the historic neighborhoods of Fener and Balat are worth exploring. These neighborhoods are home to families who still live in close-knit communities and worship in houses painted in various colors, and hang their laundry on wooden strips of cloth between homes.

Fener and Balat are some of the oldest areas in Istanbul, and have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite their unique atmosphere, these districts remain off the beaten path and are rarely visited by tourists.

Fener and Balat District

In these neighborhoods, visitors can admire the well-restored, colorful Ottoman houses and religious buildings. The labyrinth-like alleys create an impression of being filled with ancient treasures, and the sight of children playing in the streets adds to the charm of this timeless area of Istanbul.

Fener, the first district, is historically known as the most important Greek quarter of the city. It is a short, half-hour walk up the Golden Horn to Eminönü. After the capture of Constantinople by the Ottomans, Sultan encouraged Orthodox people to settle in Fener, which led to its prosperity. This is evident in the excellent buildings that still stand today in this area.

The Fener neighborhood is home to several important places of worship, including the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Church of St. George. The latter is considered a fundamental place for the 250 million Orthodox Christians who recognize it as their spiritual authority equivalent to the Vatican. The impressive Greek Orthodox High School, built of red bricks and overlooking the Golden Horn, is another symbol of the Fener district.

Adjacent to Fener is Balat, the former Jewish quarter of Istanbul. Its development can be traced back to 1492 when Jews persecuted under the Spanish Inquisition were welcomed by the Sultan, who even sent his fleet to Spain to rescue them.

Over the years, Balat has been home to various ethnic groups as they achieved success in the city. Galata, for example, was the predominant Jewish neighborhood in Constantinople and still has three active synagogues. Today, Balat is one of the most charming neighborhoods in Istanbul and has experienced a revival since 2000 when it was included in a UNESCO restoration and development plan. Turkish television series have also brought attention to this district, highlighting its unique architecture and charming character.