Exploring Balat and Fener

Exploring Balat and Fener

The areas of Fener, Balat and Fatih are rich in history and fascinating in their own rights. It’s small wonder making your way through their ancient, narrow streets that they have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The three districts are located within the old city walls, to the west of Eminönü, overlooking the Golden Horn. Unless accompanied by a seasoned local, it can be difficult to visit them if you’re not a natural explorer. So we went one morning and did it for you. Follow us!

Naftalin Vintage Shop & CaféNaftalin Vintage Shop ve Café
Our first stop is Naftalin Café. Standing opposite of each other, Naftalin Café and Vintage Shop are the concept projects of a welcoming couple. The antique shop brings old furniture, posters and accessories back to life. The café, decorated in this antique vibe, creates a retro ambience with smooth vinyl sounds playing in the background. The café is the ideal place to start your day. We highly recommend their homemade jams.

Kirmizi Kilisesi Red Church photoGreek Orthodox College & Red Church
Once you enter Fener, the Greek neighborhood, the streets will start to get narrower and more labyrinthine. Walking in between houses of vivid colors and bizarre shapes, you can see children playing soccer in the streets. You will arrive in front of Rum Lisesi, the Greek Orthodox College. It is a splendid and unusual red-brick building that dominates the hill of Fener. It looks like there’s no way in, but if you insist a bit, the guards usually will let you have a look. Afterward, a brisk climb up the picturesque staircase will have you atop a hill and a 13th century church. This is the beautiful Church of St. Mary of the Mongols, also known as the Red Church.

Köfteci Arnavut
Now it’s (already) time for lunch. It’s a bit confusing to find the place but if you ask anyone in the neighborhood for “the best meatballs in Balat”, they will directly take you here. Originally named Mavi Köşe Lokantası, Köfteci Arnavut is a well-known restaurant in Balat. Don’t expect something fancy. Order meatballs and traditional Albanian dessert Triliçe. And enjoy.

Kariye Müzesi - Chora ChurchChora Church
Although the Kariye/Chora Church is a little bit out-of-the-way and not in our planned district, it’s on the top of ‘places to visit in Istanbul’ list. You have to get into inner parts of the old city towards Edirnekapı. But believe us, it’s worth the time and energy. Originally built in the 4th century as the ‘Church of the Holy Savior Outside the Walls’ or ‘in the Country’ (chora), it was indeed outside the walls built by Constantine the Great. The building you see was built in the late 11th century, with lots of repairs and restructuring in the following centuries. Virtually all of the interior decorations — from the famous mosaics to the less renowned but equally striking mural paintings — date from around 1320. The mosaics will really take your breath away.

Balat streets photo

(c) Mustafa Seven

Naftalin Vintage Shop & Café
Balat Mah. Yıldırım Cad. No.27, Fener – (0535) 643 80 98
Hours: Every day 10:00–21:00

Greek Orthodox College & Red Church
Sancaktar Yokuşu No: 36 Fener – (0212) 521 22 52
Hours: Every day 09:00–15:00

Köfteci Arnavut
Mürselpaşa Cad. No.139, Balat – (0212) 531 66 52
Hours: Every day 06:00-16:30
Price: meat balls 11 TL

Chora Museum
Kariye Mahallesi, Kariye Camii Sokak No.18, Fatih – (0212) 631 92 41
Hours: Every day (Not wednesday) 09:00-17:00
Admission Fee: 15 TL

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