History & Heritage

Enter your dates to find available activities

Our most recommended Balat History & Heritage

Bosphorus Boat Cruise & Two Continents Tour with Lunch

1. Bosphorus Boat Cruise & Two Continents Tour with Lunch

From the Golden Horn to the arm of the Boshorous you will experience the beautiful sights of the historical peninsula which separates the old and new parts of Istanbul. You will be a part of history as you take an in-depth look at the residential areas for Byzantine Jews, Italian traders and other non-Muslim minorities. Get a true sense of the history behind the Balat and the Metal Church. Stop at the sights of St. Stephen the Bulgarian, and get a glimpse of what life was really like at the Jewish Hospital. You can take a break from the historic sights by taking a stroll along the Byzantine City Walls. Another charming feature of the tour is the array of colorful shops that you will see at the Spice Bazaar. We'll make a stop at the stalls selling fruits, vegetables and flowers. After enjoying the variety of shops, the tour takes you to the Bosphorus Cruise and through the waterway separating the two continents, Europe and Asia. Marble palaces, ancient wooden villas and the sights of the luxurious residential apartments provide the perfect photo opportunity. From here it is on to Rumell Fortress by boat, where the historical armament can be viewed clearly from the boat. The armament is a unique example of military architecture, and was built by the conqueror to control and protect the Bosphorus. If time permits, the tour will also take you on to visit a leather showroom. Lunch. Tell your friends you’ve been to Asia and Europe in one day by joining us on a guided tour of Istanbul’s most historic sites. Led by an expert guide, you’ll visit the impressive Dolmabahçe Palace, the official home of Ottoman Sultans. Built by two famous Ottoman architects, the palace houses a museum-worthy collection of European furniture, art and antiquities. Then it’s off to the Bosphorus Bridge, which straddles the narrow waterway that separates Europe and Asia. Once you’ve crossed the bridge it’s time to head to Camlica HIll, which offers dramatic, panoramic views of the city from almost 300 meters above sea level. Please note, on Mondays and Thursdays the palace is closed, so the tour will make three different stops: Eyüp Sultan Mosque and Tomb, Pierre Loti Coffee House and Miniatürk park.

...
Istanbul Heritage: 5-Hour Tour on Foot, by Ferry & More

2. Istanbul Heritage: 5-Hour Tour on Foot, by Ferry & More

Meet your guide at the Fuego Café and Restaurant in Sultanhamet, in the heart of the main tourist area of Istanbul. From here you’ll take the local tram to Eminönü Harbor and begin a 5-hour excursion into Istanbul’s heritage. Travel by public bus to the colorful Fener/Balat district, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods and at one time home to Istanbul’s Ottoman Orthodox and Jewish residents. See traces of Ottoman life, including wooden houses, mosques, churches, and synagogues, standing together and demonstrating the multicultural and religious ways of the Ottoman Empire. After walking along the cobblestoned streets of the Fener/Balat World Heritage area, you’ll continue along the historic Byzantine city walls that date to the 4th century A.D. and the time of Constantine the Great. Visit the historic Eyüp mosque complex, a sacred area where pilgrims come to visit the mosques and the tombs of Muslim saints. From here you’ll take a short cable car ride up to the famous Pierre Loti Café, a popular meeting point for locals. Enjoy stunning panoramic views of Istanbul while sipping a drink in one of the cafés where French Poet Pierre Loti was inspired to write Aziyade, part biography and part love story about his escapades in Istanbul in the late 1800s. Walk back down to Eyüp to catch the local ferry for a cruise on the blue waters of the Golden Horn. See Ottoman houses, shipyards, the old and new Galata bridges, Ataturk Bridge, ancient city walls, mosques, churches, and other historic and modern sites. You’ll disembark at Eminönü Harbor, where the tour ends.

...
Istanbul: Guided Off-the-Beaten-Path Experience

3. Istanbul: Guided Off-the-Beaten-Path Experience

Your experience will begin with the ancient Hippodrome, where thousands of spectators were entertained and kept happy by the chariot races. Whilst there you will witness a cistern which was recently discovered in 2010, and you can navigate through the labyrinth of streets and passages that are home to more than 4,000 shops, which is known as the Grand Bazaar. You will soon take a break to experience traditional Turkish tea or coffee and a popular Turkish pastry called borek, all while enjoying the ancient practice of hookah at a favorite local hangout. Following that you'll visit Istanbul’s largest mosque, titled the Suleymaniye Mosque. It is an Ottoman Imperial mosque located on the Third Hill of Istanbul, and is breathtaking due to both its size and interior beauty. From the mosque you will visit a Spice Bazaar which is full of colors and the powerful aromas of exotic spices. Istanbul is a city which has a rich religious history, and is now composed of many different religions. Your next stop will be the Church of St. George, which since the 1600s has been the location of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and is recognized as the spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Religion.

...
Istanbul: Old City Half-Day Bike Tour

4. Istanbul: Old City Half-Day Bike Tour

Explore Istanbul by bike and see some of the most beautiful sights of the city while burning off some calories. You will ride your bike through palaces, mosques, churches, parks, and the most characteristic districts of historic Istanbul, and including Eminönü. Depart from Balat, ride to Eminönü and admire the Galata Bridge, New Mosque, and Spice Bazaar. Look across the Golden Horn to the district of Beyoglu. Ride along the waterfront to Gülhane Park, an oasis of peace extending over the slope of Topkapı Palace. Leaving the park, catch a glimpse of the former gate of the Grand Vizier's residence. Take a short ride to Sultanahmet Park and see the city’s iconic St. Sophia and Blue Mosque. Run the full lap of the Hippodrome, just like the Roman horse-chariots used to, and admire the obelisks that dominate the street. Pass through its imposing gates of Topkapı Palace, the magnificent residence of the sultans, and proceed downhill to the Marmara waterfront. Here you will see some still-standing stretches of the Theodosian walls, which once protected the city. Some more thrusting on the pedals takes you to the Süleyman complex, considered the masterpiece of the Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. Next stop is the Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest closed markets in the world. Here you can lose yourself in the maze of galleries and bargain for handmade carpets and antiques. Continue downhill to Eminönü, and proceed back to Balat.

...
Istanbul: Jewish District 3-Hour Walking Tour

5. Istanbul: Jewish District 3-Hour Walking Tour

Istanbul has had a vibrant Jewish community for more than 1,000 years. After the Turkish conquest of Istanbul, Sultan Mehmet II encouraged immigration to repopulate the city. Over half a million Jews persecuted in Spain and Portugal were encouraged to establish themselves within the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire. In Istanbul, the new immigrants settled mostly near Galata – a quarter on the northern bank of the Golden Horn – where a Jewish community had existed since the early days of the Ottoman Era in Istanbul. On this tour, you'll walk around Galata, exploring its intriguing streets full of colorful life. The tour includes synagogues, the Jewish Museum, Jewish Apartments, the amazing story of Abraham Kamondo, and other Jewish heritage sites. Monday – Friday:  Jewish Museum, Ashkenazi Synagogue, Schneidertemple Synagogue, and outer visits to Georgian Synagogue, Neve Shalom Synagogue, Italian Synagogue, Jewish Apartments, Kamondo Buildings.

...
Istanbul: 6-Hour Byzantine Tour Along the Golden Horn

6. Istanbul: 6-Hour Byzantine Tour Along the Golden Horn

Want to discover the Istanbul of Byzantine Constantinople? Have you finished the famous sites in Sultanahmet and ready to walk in areas where tourists do not go? Then this Byzantine Istanbul (Constantinople) tour along the Golden Horn will be the perfect choice for you. The vastness of the vision and boldness of the design of Byzantine era Constantinople is expressed through the Hagia Sophia located in Sultanahmet but medieval Constantinople around the Golden Horn offers more information. Poke around forgotten corners just over this hauntingly beautiful inlet – the Golden Horn and walk to see Constantinople before the Ottoman Conquest of 1453. Your Byzantine Istanbul Constantinople tour will start with a ferry ride from Eminonu or Karakoy zigzaging both sides of the Golden Horn to end in Ayvansaray. Ayvansaray is where Constantinople officially ended, so you’ll see and walk along the mighty Byzantine walls of Theodosius from the 5th century. Your first visit will be to an extraordinary Greek Orthodox Church – Mary Blachernae. The only church in the whole world where there’s a service on a Friday morning. Built on a sacred water source, the church is a pilgrimage site for the Greek people in Istanbul. Climb the 7th hill of Istanbul as you make your way to one of the oldest Byzantine palaces from the 13th century (Tekfur Sarayi). The highlight of the trip will be the famous Chora, the Byzantine marvel of mosaics and frescoes. Then, walk your way back through Balat which houses one of Istanbul’s surviving mediaeval synagogues and trendiest houses that are now enjoying their second or even third type of use. In Fener, you will see the Greek Orthodox patriarchate housing a column, which is believed to have been used for the binding and flogging of Jesus in Jerusalem.

...
Walk Fener and Balat – Istanbul's Greek Orthodox Region

7. Walk Fener and Balat – Istanbul's Greek Orthodox Region

If you are interested in visiting a functioning Byzantine church or seeing the only church in the world constructed entirely of iron and steel, then do not miss this full-day walking tour through Fener and Balat in Istanbul. The name Fener is derived from a Greek word 'Fanari,' meaning 'lantern' or 'lighthouse' in Turkish, and this district was made up of predominantly Romaic (Greek Orthodox) families up until the beginning of the 20th century. Today, this UNESCO-project filled site is known as the part of Istanbul where the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is situated. On this tour you'll hear the story of Phanariotes who served as dragomans to the Ottoman government and to foreign embassies. Following the included lunch, you will visit Balat, which is located on the southern shores of the Golden Horn. It is one of the Jewish districts where the people re-settled during the time of the Ottoman Empire. We will take you through Balat, where you will find yourself walking down intriguing streets, full of color and life. Synagogues, Armenian churches, Romaic churches, Byzantine remnants, and Ayazmas are all part of the adventure.

...
Istanbul: Off-the-Beaten-Track Museums Tour

8. Istanbul: Off-the-Beaten-Track Museums Tour

Your first stop will be the Suleymaniye Mosque, which was built on the order of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and constructed by the great Ottoman architect Sinan. The construction work began in 1550 and the mosque was finished in 1557. The mosque is modeled in part on the style of a Byzantine basilica, particularly the Hagia Sophia, which was perhaps a conscious move on the part of the sultan to create a continuity and a symbolic connection with the city's past. Driving along the city walls will end at one of the oldest and most important churches in the city, the Church of Chora, which has fascinating wall paintings telling the life of Christ in an historical order. Even though the building itself is small, the meaning was great for Byzantines as being found at the borders of the city and welcoming the visitors. Today the environment is restored and this is a good place to spend time with local artisans and wooden houses. After the church, you will have a tea and coffee break at one of the most splendid spots of Istanbul, with beautiful views over the Golden Horn and Pierre Loti Hill. Following this you will resuming driving along the shores of the Golden Horn through the towns Fener and Balat, which are the old Greek and Jewish living sites. Fener Orthodox Patriarchate is in this area as well.  Following lunch, your next destination will be the Dolmabahce Palace, the last residence of the Ottoman Sultans with 365 rooms and 22 saloons. Famous for the great collection of European antiquity, furniture, and a 4.5 ton chandelier. This will be your last stop, and after this visit you will be driven back to your hotel.

...
Istanbul: Jewish Heritage and Museum Full-Day Tour

9. Istanbul: Jewish Heritage and Museum Full-Day Tour

Explore the Jewish history of Istanbul on a full-day private tour with multilingual guide. You will be met off your cruise ship in Istanbul Port (or from your hotel on request), and transferred by Mercedes vehicle to the heart of the city. Go to the Balat district to see the Ahrida Synagogue, one of the oldest and most prominent of Istanbul’s synagogues. Visit the Neve Shalom Synagogue in Karaköy, built in response to an increase in the Jewish population in the Galata neighborhood. Continue to Ashkenazi Synagogue, the only active Ashkenazi synagogue in Istanbul open to visits. At the heart of Jewish Istanbul, in the old Galata district, you will visit the Jewish Museum, established in 2001 on the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Sephardic Jews to the Ottoman Empire. Remodeled in the former Zülfaris Synagogue, the museum features artifacts, relics, letters and torah scrolls that tell the story of the Jews in Istanbul and Anatolia. There will also be time to see the former mosque and Byzantine church of Hagia Sophia, now considered one of the world’s architectural masterpieces. End in the Grand Bazaar, and bargain for handmade carpets, jewelry and leather souvenirs before your transfer back to the port (or your hotel on request).

...

Other Sightseeing Options in Balat

Want to discover all there is to do in Balat? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Balat

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 12 reviews

I can only recommend you this tour, your guide is very nice and he knows the stuff he's talking about, he'll lead you around some famous sites but also covering secret sites invisible to the tourist eye. This tour is very long (compared to most others), it is very cheap for the amount that you see and you get a locally very experienced guide that gives you all kinds of advises for your istanbul experience (from food to sites). This guide has been the best tour that i have ever booked (thank you oz) and i can only highly (!!!) recommend you, reading this comment, to go check it out :) with my regards

So glad we took that tour! It turned out, it was only the 3 of us with my wife and Adnan - our guide. It was a marvelous 3h experience. Adnan is extremely versed in the history and culture of Istanbul/Constantinople, and a great human being. The tour was a pleasure, and the tips we got from him about local restaurants and places to visit were priceless! Warmly recommend this tour to anybody who has checked out the main attractions in town and wants to experience its authentic and vibrant nature.

Actually, I live in Istanbul:) And I already visited Fener and Balat many times. I booked this tour for my 12-year-old nephew who lives in Dubai. He loves taking this kind of tour. Although I thought that I know those neighborhoods as a local man, I understand I didn't know :) Many thanks to our guide Mr. Cetin for his excellent knowledge. And thanks to Ms. Arzu for her good communication.

Amazing walk off the beaten track through Balat neighborhood. Sabih was showing us the most amazing places such as synagogues, churches and the patriarch of Greek Orthodoxy. All COVID conform. Highly recommended!!

very good day in the company of ozur. very good guide who knows the city very well.