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  • off the beaten track

Fener and Balat Guided Walking Tour

Explore two of Istanbul's most authentic and interesting neighborhoods

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Child Ages 3 - 8
Infant Ages 0 - 2
Private Tour Base price for 2 adults

Explore Fener and Balat Neighborhoods

Fener and Balat are two historically rich neighborhoods in Istanbul located along the Golden Horn. Get to know them on this small group guided tour.

Fener and Balat are off the major tourist trail; their authenticity makes this guided tour worthwhile. This tour is always a favorite because it’s a reason to leave Sultanahmet and see Istanbul beyond the open-air museum.

Our tour starts with a ferry ride from Eminonu or Karakoy, zigzagging through both sides of the Golden Horn to end in Ayvansaray. It’s a great ferry ride to see the famous Istanbul skyline and witness how the city flourished after the conquest in 1453.

Ayvansaray is where Constantinople officially ended. We see and walk along the mighty Byzantine walls from the fifth century. It’s a good place to listen to many stories about how the siege happened between the Ottoman and Byzantine armies.

Our first visit is to an extraordinary Greek Orthodox Church, Mary Blachernae, the only church in the whole world where there’s a service on Friday mornings. This church is built on a sacred water source and is a pilgrimage for Greek people. You are led by an expert local guide, who has a good story to tell about this unique structure and its history in Istanbul.

We then pass onto Balat, walking through the splashes of color and the vibrancy of its street life, the crisscross of washing lines on the crumbling buildings, the synagogues, the churches, and the labyrinth of cobblestone streets teeming with kids playing football and women beating rugs.

Starting in 1492, Balat grew to become a thriving cultural melting pot of Sephardic Jews from Spain, Greek and Armenian Christians, and Muslims. During our walking tour, we take a break in this vibrant neighborhood and enjoy watching people in their everyday activities.

Our walk ends in Fener, where we see the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate housing a column that is believed to have been used for the binding and flogging of Jesus in Jerusalem.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchal Church is an essential part of this tour because it’s the most sacred site for all of the 300 million Orthodox people in the world. We talk about why Mehmet II, who conquered Constantinople, let the site stay in Istanbul. What is its importance in the Christian world? How are they equal to the Catholic church? We learn this and much more.

It’s a pleasure walking the streets of these two very old neighborhoods of Istanbul. Join our walking tour either with a local private guide or in a small group. Walks in Istanbul make sure it’s always an intimate experience.