The vast walls of Byzantium that could not resist the Ottomans, the call to prayer, the golden horn horns and the narrow streets that opened the golden horn, renewed centuries-old buildings that UNESCO and the European Union accept the cultural heritage.
Until the conquest of Istanbul, these two districts, dominated by the Christian population, met Muslims with conquest. When the Ottoman Empire opened its doors to the oppressed Jews in Europe, Balat and Fener met traces of three religions over the centuries.
It is rumored that the district of Balat is named after “Palat”, which means Greek palace. Because the old palace of Byzantium was in this region. Balat stands on the slope of the Golden Horn undefeated to the flowing time. In the narrow streets, in their bay full of flowers, they lived in the houses, living Greek, Armenian, Turkish, Jewish, Christian and Muslim side by side. Today it is possible to observe this mosaic created by different people. On top of that, even though Balat is in the middle of the city, fortunately, he persistently continues to maintain the spirit of the neighborhood. Lined up on ropes extending to neighboring windows, colorful flowers hanging from the windows and historic Balat-Fener houses are the favorite of the series and film industry.
You can come up with a shot at any moment on the streets, which is a natural plateau. Even from the other end of the world, some have heard Balat’s praise. 19th century. Many of the houses, which are examples of Ottoman architecture, were built after the 1894 earthquake. That is why the 120-year-old Balat houses are indispensable for photographers, travelers who want to explore the city and those who want to immortalize their best days with its magnificent architecture. Especially on weekends, it is possible to see brides and grooms.
One of the most remarkable heritage of Balat is undoubtedly the city walls. These are the ruins of the walls surrounding the historical peninsula Old Istanbul. There were 450 towers and 45 gates in the 19.5 km long city walls built 1600 years ago.
Wooden Minaret Mosque
After the conquest, this mosque was built for the prayers of the soldiers in charge of the walls. It is even rumored that Fatih Sultan Mehmet prayed in this mosque. This mosque, which was wooden at the time, was brought to the time with the restoration thought that the masonry was still brought. The minaret was rebuilt with bricks. Location>>
To get to know the neighborhood in-depth, to touch the culture of its experience, it is necessary to visit historical bazaars, if any. Balat Bazaar, also known as Çıfıt Bazaar, is the place that best describes this district.
In 1492, the Jews who escaped the persecution in Spain were brought to Istanbul under the auspices of Sultan Beyazit II and settled in Balat and the Jews of Seferad founded this bazaar. In the Ottoman period, the Çıfıt Bazaar was called the shopping area where there are Jewish shops where you can find many things. The name comes from here. There are still several trades that continue the family tradition in this market. Location>>
At the entrance of the bazaar, there are two synagogues built by Jews who took refuge in the Ottoman Empire.
Yambol and Ahrida Synagogues
The Jews who immigrated from Yambol in Bulgaria established the synagogue that bears the name of their towns, and the Jews who emigrated from Ohrid, Macedonia, founded the Ahrida Synagogue. Location>>
Ferruh Kethüda Mosque is just a short distance from the bazaar.
Ferruh Kethüda Mosque
The mosque was built in 1562 for Ferruh Kethüda, the housekeeper of Semiz Ali Pasha, Grand Vizier of Suleiman the Magnificent. Location>>
Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
Apart from the congregation and domestic tourists, the patriarchate place hosts thousands of Orthodox from around the world year. The first thing that stands out on the wall of the Patriarchate is the symbol of the Byzantine double-headed eagle. Aya Yorgi church is in the courtyard. On Sunday, the church holds rituals involving the patriarch. Inside the church is a magnificent icon wall with gold leafs. It is said to have been completed in two decades by two masters. The Patriarch Bartholomew’s royal throne, which is 4 meters long, is about 1500 years old. Location>>
The Fener region is known as a district where the Greeks had important duties in the palace during the Ottoman period.
Greek Orthodox Church of Virgin Mary
It is popularly known as the Bloody Church. The only church that survived from Byzantium to the present day.
As it is known, within the century after the conquest, all domed churches were turned into mosques. However, Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror issued a decree upon the request of the Greek architect of the Fatih Mosque and ordered that this church should not be built as a mosque. A copy of the decree is still in the church. The original is in the patriarchate archive. Location>>
It is rumored that Istanbul was founded on 7 hills. The hill crowned by Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque is known as the 5th Hill.
Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque
The mosque, Fener and the Golden Horn are looking down. The mosque was built by Suleiman the Magnificent on behalf of his father. The construction of the mosque started in 1519 and was completed in 3 years. There are also the tombs of Yavuz Sultan Selim and his wife Havza Sultan. Location>>
The building, which is seen from almost every point of the Golden Horn, is confused with the Fener Greek Patriarchate. The other name among the people is the Red School.
Fener Greek High School
The Red School was built in 1881. The building’s red bricks were brought from Marseille, France. The school, which was formerly the Fener Greek High School for Boys, now has a mixed slope. Location>>
An important building that adds value to the architectural value of Istanbul is the world’s first and only iron-made church, the famous Bulgarian Stefanos church. Popularly known as the iron church, the building is now under restoration. Location>>
Food and Drink in Fener and Balat?
Among the attractions of Fener and Balat are Perispri, which offers a very nice atmosphere in an antique and vintage environment, Forno, famous for its buffet breakfast, Köfteci Arnavut, famous for its meatballs and desserts, and the famous Balat Pickled.
How to go to Fener and Balat?
Fener and Balat are approximately 5 km far away from Eminönü, Karaköy or Eyüp.
The easiest way to get to Fener and Balat is by using IETT Buses departing from Eminönü and following the coastal road over the Golden Horn or departing from Taksim.
Another practical way is to take the Metrobus stop at Ayvansaray stop or Metro (M2 line) at Haliç stop and then take a 15-minute walk along the coastal road or use the IETT Buses to Eminönü direction.