Formerly the Greek Orthodox neighborhood (Fener) and the Jewish quarter (Balat), the tides of history have transformed the residents and the conditions of these streets. What remains today is a faded yet beautiful collection of ornate apartments and cobblestoned inclines that lead to historic churches and schools. Among all the history here is also an undeniable wave of youthful entrepreneurship, as seen in the openings of new cafes, galleries and shops. Here are some of our favorite spots, old and new, in these neighborhoods facing the Golden Horn.


Sightseeing 

Phanar Greek Orthodox College by PlanetKorriban


Phanar Greek Orthodox College 

Also called the “Red School,” this castle-like vision overlooks the entire neighborhood from its elevated perch. One of the oldest Greek Orthodox schools in Istanbul, Phanar still has a few students left, and the somewhat steep walk up from Sancaktar Yokuşu to its gate is well worth it for a close-up view. 
 

Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople

The Church of St. George is the principal Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Istanbul. This is also the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (the senior patriarchate of the Greek Orthodox Church)  or simply put, the spiritual leader of the world’s Eastern Orthodox Christians.  

Dr. Sadık Ahmet Cd. No:19, Fener
 
 

Food & Drink 

Forno Balat via Website


Coffee Department

Balat’s first micro-roaster offers quality beans from all around the world. Both a café and store, Coffee Department can brew your beans on the spot or you can take them home to make a cup yourself. If you’re not sure how to use equipment like the Chemex, the coffee workshops and events will teach you to become a home barista. 

Kürkçü Çeşmesi Sokak No:5, Balat
 

Evin Bakery 

Follow the scent of Evin’s freshly baked goods and inside you'll be rewarded with an array of sweet and savory items. You’ll have a hard time choosing from the mounds of Turkish classics such as handmade grissini or ‘un kurabiyesi’ (a sweet butter cookie). This bakery has been open since 1923, so those recipes have proven themselves rather worthy. 

Vodina Caddesi No:82, Balat
 

Forno Balat

Definitely the best place in the neighborhood to get a crunchy lahmacun (a thin dough topped with minced meat and spices). Forno stands out with its modern décor, reminiscent of an Italian pizza parlor, quite contrary to its historic surroundings. While there is pizza on the menu, the lahmacun and pide (boat-shaped dough with various toppings) are the main palatal attractions. 

Fener Kireçhane Sokak No: 13, Balat
 

Naftalin Shop and Café 

You won’t miss this endearingly messy antiques store and its café of the same name right across the street. Browse Naftalin’s vintage furniture, radios and more, before heading to the café for a classic Turkish breakfast in a space that's equally nostalgic. There are a lot of cats who have claimed this space, so if you’re not a feline appreciator you may want to eat elsewhere. 

Yıldırım Caddesi No:22, Balat
 

Balat Sahil Restaurant 

A true meyhane (Turkish tavern) in every sense of the word, this restaurant’s old-school wallpaper, Atatürk portraits, chandeliers and rakı bottles create a charmingly throwback vibe. Order a bottle of rakı and choose among freshly made meze like stuffed onions and fried turbot. 

Mürselpaşa Cd. No: 245, Balat. 0212 525 6185
 

Tarihi Balat Turşucusu 

Turks sure love their pickled vegetables and fruits, and this small shop specializes in exactly that. You’ll see large containers outside with everything from pickled corn to pears. Try the pickled beet and make sure to ask for a glass of “turşu suyu” (pickle juice), which is known to heal a lot of minor ailments — for example, a throbbing hangover.   

Leblebiciler Sk. No:86, Balat 
 
 

Culture

Daniel Firman at The Pill via Facebook


The Pill

One of the area’s first art galleries, The Pill opened with a bang featuring an exhibition by French artist Daniel Firman, including an elephant sculpture hanging from the ceiling. This hyperrealistic display is just one of the many pieces of evidence that this neighborhood is on the rise, buoyed by a more youthful energy.     

Mürselpaşa Caddesi No: 181, Balat

By Feride Yalav

Feride Yalav is a freelance writer based in Istanbul and Berlin who writes for Brownbook and her personal blog, Istanbul22. She also travels the world as the freelance documentary script writer for 'World of Falconry'.