Fener and Balat

Fener and Balat – Best Places to Witness History

Turkey has so much to offer its visitors. It is full of natural beauties, mosques, museums, historic ruins, and archaeological sites. Its bustling cities, excellent food, beautiful beaches, and beautiful mountains never fail to impress tourists. While planning to visit Turkey, you must have heard of cities like Istanbul, Antalya, Cappadocia, and places like Topkapi Palace. But today you are going to be introduced to two least known yet beautiful places: Fener and Balat. These two districts are the neighborhoods of Istanbul and possess a tremendous multicultural historical background. While walking there, you will see the harmony between buildings that people from different religions and communities living there have created. But before wandering in these two exceptionally wonderful and quaint places, it is good to glance at their history.
Explore the historic outer western area of Istanbul away from typical tourist routes. Experience the local culture and lifestyle, admire centuries-old Ottoman buildings, take a cable car up Pierre Loti Hill, and cruise the waters of the Golden Horn.

History of Fener and Balat

The name ‘Fener’ came from the Greek word ‘Fanarion,’ which means ‘lighthouse.’ It indicates that there was a lighthouse nearby. The Fanarion was later called Fener. Fener, the Turkey, was a trade junction with a lot of sea traffic due to its position on the shore of the Golden Horn.

Pursuing the collapse of Constantinople, the Byzantine aristocracy fled to Europe and the Mediterranean in groups. Right after Sultan Mehmed, the Conqueror announced religious independence for all inhabitants of the new monarchy, they commenced to return to Istanbul, and many started living in Fener. Later, the inmates of the Greek majority became known as Fanariots. These people were highly cultured, well educated, and wealthy—the Ottoman state-employed many of them as foreign dignitaries and translators.

On the other hand, Balat was a famous Jewish community. According to the Istanbul Encyclopedia, the Balat location was a Jewish neighborhood even in the Byzantine period. But it is evident that after the descent of Constantinople, Jewish residents from Spain, Rhodes, Macedonia, Italy, and other lands came in swarms to settle here. It was an active commercial area full of workshops and stores owned by Jewish people. There were a lot of antique dealers, Fez makers, and glassmakers. The site still has some prominent synagogues, but it isn’t easy to get an opportunity to visit them.

Fener Istanbul
Fener and Balat

Fener and Balat Colorful Houses

With several beautiful places to explore, the biggest temptation is undeniably the multicolored buildings that line both sides of the streets of Fener and Balat. The red, blue, pink, orange, and grey houses create a sensational blend of colors loved by residents and visitors. These streets are the most stunning in Turkey and are ideal for Instagrammers to capture enticing photographs. The trendy area of Corbaci Cesmesi in the Balat neighborhood is a place you would not want to miss. This restored area is another dapper photo spot in the community.

Exceptional Delicacies at Fener and Balat

Besides witnessing remarkable places in Fener and Balat, there are so many places where you can hang on and have a variety of foods to eat. So treat yourself to some savory local dishes at the lively, colorful, authentic restaurants and cafes.

Some distinguished spots to eat mouthwatering food in the area include Agora Tavern, Perispri, Balat Sahil restaurant, the Forno, and Kofteci Arnavut.

Places Worth Visiting

As you have decided to peek into local and traditional Turkey, you might be eager to know about some of the best sites to visit in Fener and Balat. Let’s start with Orthodox School.

●     The Redbrick Fener Greek High School

This memorial can be seen pretentiously as far as the Galata Tower. Some people mistake it for a patriarchate, but it is actually a school. Patriarch Gennadius Scholarius constructed it in the year 1454. But the building that exists now was established between 1881 and 1883.

It brags a diverse mixture of architectural designs, a castle-like shape, and construction materials imported from France. Although the public is not permitted to visit the building, its exterior is unmissable. The building is covered in bright red bricks and has a three-storied structure capped with towers. It is built in by far the most impractical location in the city.

●     The Magnified Bulgarian St. Stephen Church

Istanbul possesses some of the best houses of worship. And one of the most stunning churches in the city is in Fener, Istanbul. This church is located next to the Golden Horn.

Houses in Balat
Colorful umbrellas in Istanbul

It was constructed by Bulgarians residing in the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. Although the original structure of the richly ornamented church was destroyed due to fire, St. Stephan church still stands among the most remarkable churches that emerged. In the late 19th century, it was reconstructed in a neo-Gothic style utilizing prefabricated cast-iron materials and then embellished with rich adornments. Its prefabricated elements were developed in Vienna and delivered to Istanbul through the Danube and the Balck Sea. The Bulgarian St. Stephen Church is one of the last existing prefabricated churches with a steel skeleton in the world.

The church’s dome was gold-plated in the glory of its patron saint on St. Stephen’s feast day in December 2010. It is one of many stunning sights in Fener that every tourist must-see while exploring the area.

●     Cifit Bazar

If you love shopping, you must stop by the bazaar on Leblebiciler Street that offers original products. It has several antique and vintage shops that you should visit. The name of the market came from the Jewish merchants that once bought and sold in the area. There is the famous Yanbol Synagogue and Agora Tavern on the same street.


●     Other Places

Some other weighty places you can visit are the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Fener Antik Mezat, Church of Sveti Stefan, Balat Toy Museum, Church of Our Lady of the Mongols, Agora Meyhane, Ferruh Kethuda Mosque, and Ahrida Synagogue.

Ways to Reach Fener and Balat

It is super easy to reach Fener and Balat. To get to Fener, you will have to take the 28E, 36CE, 99A, 28E, or 44B bus that carries out passengers up the shore of the Golden Horn.

While if you are wondering how to get to Balat, Istanbul, you can take a ferry from Karakoy, Ayvansaray, Uskudar, or Eminonu.  Then you will have to walk back along the shore to take any of these buses alternatively.

Discover our itinerary in Fener and Balat

Colorful Stairs
Fener and Balat street


You will have a remarkable experience while visiting Fener and Balat. In Balat, Turkey, you will see children playing in the streets and people gathering at doorsteps reviving a pure Turkish local atmosphere. The lovely not-so-narrow and cobbled streets, small art galleries, typical houses, shops, restaurants, and cafes with souvenirs will give you a sense of tranquility and consensus.

Both the districts are home to dervish convents, synagogues, mosques, churches, incredible wooden mansions, and picturesque Ottoman houses. While strolling through the colorful streets, you will observe different layers of history.

Explore the historic outer western area of Istanbul away from typical tourist routes. Experience the local culture and lifestyle, admire centuries-old Ottoman buildings, take a cable car up Pierre Loti Hill, and cruise the waters of the Golden Horn.