Jewish Heritage Tour in Istanbul

Quick Details

  • Discover Jewish neighborhoods in Istanbul.
  • Two different areas: Galata and Balat
  • Talk about the current political situation in Turkey.
  • Visit the synagogues and cemeteries.
  • Offered as a private tour only
  • Local and professional tour guides

Understand Jewish Heritage in Istanbul

Learn the background story of the Jewish heritage in Istanbul. Our walk includes a deep understanding of the story of the Jewish population in Istanbul with the lead of a specialist guide.

On the midnight of August 2, 1492, when Columbus embarked on what would become his most famous expedition to the New World, his fleet departed from the relatively unknown seaport of Palos because the shipping lanes of Cadiz and Seville were clogged with Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain by the Edict of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain. Where would they go?

In the faraway Ottoman Empire, one ruler extended an immediate welcome to the persecuted Jews of Spain, the Sephardim. For 300 years following the expulsion, the prosperity and creativity of the Ottoman Jews rivaled that of the Golden Age of Spain.

Today, the Jewish community in Turkey is composed of about 26,000 people, and most of them live in Istanbul.

The Neve Shalom Synagogue

Get to know the most beautiful and the largest synagogue of the city, where most of the religious ceremonies like bar-mitzvahs, weddings, and funerals are held.

Towards the end of the 1930s, the Jewish population in the district of Pera and Galata increased so much that the need for a new synagogue became imminent. Built and opened in 1951 by two young architects, it also houses the Museum of Jewish history in Turkey. This is an important part of our Jewish Heritage tour.

Jewish Museum of Turkey

The museum is a well-designed place to learn the story of 700 years of amity between Turks and Jews. The mission of the museum is to collect, preserve, exhibit, interpret, and disseminate knowledge about the cultural heritage of the Turkish Jews. It’s an opportunity to understand the local Jewish heritage in Istanbul.

Ahrida Synagogue

Located in Balat near the Golden Horn, built by Jews of Ohri (Macedonia) more than 550 years ago and recently renovated during the Quincentennial Celebrations in 1992, the Ahrida Synagogue is known foremost for its boat-shaped bimah.

The Town of Balat

Balat housed the first Jews who settled in Istanbul after the Spanish expulsion. Today, it’s a middle-class neighborhood. As you walk through the town, you can see the oldest Jewish houses with their proud stars of David.