Fener Balat – Navigating the Narrow Streets
Balat Fener is probably Istanbul’s most up and coming trendy hang out with deeply rooted history and architecture. The hub of painted houses in the brightest colors, washing lines running between buildings, your fair share of weddings photoshoots & melting pot of Jewish, Armenian, and Orthodox communities.
The name Fener is derived from the Greek word Fanari, meaning lantern. Fener is one of the most important Greek neighborhoods in Istanbul since 1600. Until the 20th century, most of the Greek residents of Istanbul lived here.
Neighboring Fener is Balat, where the less affluent Greeks and Jews lived. Balat is home to a vast number of churches, mosques and synagogues – a melting pot of religion, culture and history.
You won’t believe you’re in Turkey! I was taken back by the European influence and authenticity of these neighborhoods.
How to Get There
I personally enjoyed walking for about 30 minutes from downtown Beyoglu to Balat. Continue walking with the water to your left. If you prefer taking the tram then bus here is how:
What You’ll See
- Phanar Greek Orthodox College – elevated and overviewing Fener is one of the city’s few remaining Greek orthodox schools.
- Church of Saint George – home to the Fener Greek Patriarchate, the church opened in the 1600s still runs services.
- Bulgarian Iron Church – right on the waterfront is yet another symbolic stop in Fener-Balat. Recently reopened in 2018 and worth the stop.
Where to Eat
- Çayada Cafe – while walking towards Fener-Balat, with the water still to your left, stop at this little rooftop cafe for some snacks, good coffee and artsy decor.
- Vanilla Cafe – a pleasant surprise! Just about the most comfortable stop in the neighborhood, you can sit outside and enjoy the street views or go upstairs and relax on their indoor swing or couches.
- Cooklife – in the heart of Balat is this VSCO cam worthy cafe. In what too crowded to get instagramable photos, but there are plenty of opportunities. Check out their linked Instagram to see for yourself.
There is so much to do here, this is just scratching the surface of these incredible two towns. In fact, at some point in the early 2000s the UNESCO Heritage Centre funded some renovations to older buildings. You’ll get your fair share of photo snaps, great food, and authentic Turkish culture. Enjoy!