Istanbul Balat Neighborhood Former Jewish Quarter

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Istanbul Balat Jewish Neighborhood

Istanbul Balat Neighborhood Where Sephardi, Ashkenazi, Romaniote Jews Had Lived

Derived from Palation, meaning “palace” in the Greek language, Balat is a district on the shore of the Golden Horn in Istanbul.

Balat district took Palation name because of the fact that Byzantine Emperors entered the Blachernae Palace located out of the city from the gate in this district by coming through sea route on Golden Horn.

Map Of Golden Horn Showing Major Neighboring Fener And Balat Areas
Istanbul Balat Neighborhood Map of Golden Horn Area

Golden Horn District Map – Istanbul Balat Neighborhood

Commonly known in Turkey as Fener Balat Neighborhoods

Together with Fener (Phanar) district located just next to it, Balat is one of the districts of Golden Horn attracting the highest number of tourists. Photography clubs and local agencies often organizes Fener-Balat tours and promotes these districts located on periphery now.

Fener district was where established Greek families were living during the Ottoman times. It was famous for Phanar Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. Mentioned together with Fener most of the time, Balat was a Jewish district in the Ottoman period.

Beginning with Byzantine period, there was a certain Jewish settlement there. There is a not well-known and special reason why it turned into a Jewish district during the Ottoman period.

Old Houses of Ottoman Istanbul

Historical Ottoman Wooden Houses of Istanbul

Wooden Houses of Ottoman Istanbul

Emigration of Sephardi Jews from Spain to Istanbul

After the marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile in 1492, Christian Union was established in Spain. Isabel and Ferdinand beat Muslim Arabs (Moors) who were living on the southern part of the country for over 700 years and the last stronghold Granada (Alhambra Castle) fell.

Christian Monarchs who ended the Arab existence in Spain decided to go for the Jewish community as well. They did not want any religious folks other than Christians to live in Spain. This incident is called Reconquista in the world history.

Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile Taking Over Granada Of Spain
Istanbul Balat Neighborhood Francisco Pradilla Painting

Great painting from Francisco Pradilla depicting “Fall of Granada” to Isabel & Ferdinand

When the Jewish community found themselves in a desperate predicament, Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II sent ships to Spain and brought this displaced community to Istanbul.

Having had to emigrate from Spain, Jewish people were placed in Balat district. They lived in this district as a neighbor to Christians and Muslims for centuries.

Because of the number of Jewish people living there, arguably the most magnificent synagogue in Istanbul, Ahrica Synagogue, is located in Balat. Jewish Heritage tour programs in Istanbul include Galata, Karaköy, Ortaköy and Balat districts.

Old Traditional Houses of Istanbul from Ottoman Empire Period
Istanbul oldish streets off the beaten track

Old Streets of Balat Neighborhood – Off the beaten path Istanbul

In order to Visit a Synagogue in Istanbul

In order to visit this synagogue in Istanbul, one has to contact Chief Rabbinate. Synagogues are under strict security protection. You can contact Chief Rabbinate on its website. Informing them about your date and hour of visit and sending your passport copies are enough for them to arrange your visit.

There was a dense Jewish population in Balat until the World War I period. During the war and afterwards, population decreased and the foundation of Israel in 1948 had an effect on why the district was depopulated by the Jewish.

Factories and workshops was moved to Golden Horn area during the city planning at late Ottoman period and such industrial structures discredited this area. Well established Jewish and Greek families left this district and moved to Galata district and Bosphorus shores.

Factories and workshops were demolished during the Republican period and some parks and highways were built near the shore area. Although the facade of Balat changed a lot throughout the last 150 years, there are still many restored, beautiful houses. Therefore it is often visited by the photography artists.

Balat Neighborhood is best to see ordinary lives of Istanbul
Istanbul Balat Neighborhood - Children of Balat

Children in Balat region are very cute. – Istanbul Balat Neighborhood


Fener Balat Private Guided Walking Tours

Istanbul possesses wide Greco-Roman cultural heritage since it served as the capital of Byzantine Empire for over 1000 years. Therefore Fener (Greek) and Balat (Jewish) neighborhoods are rich in history.

You may consider joining to Fener Balat Private Guided Walking Tours with an experienced tour guide: Serhat Engul. You may contact to Serhat through serhateng@gmail.com or +90 532 256 93 12 phone number.


Old 19th Century Houses of Istanbul By Greek & Jewish Community
Greek and Jewish wooden houses in Istanbul

Old 19th Century Houses of Istanbul By Greek & Jewish Community


Further Recommended Reading:


 Istanbul Balat Neighborhood Former Jewish Quarter of Ottoman Istanbul By Serhat Engul

Istanbul Balat Neighborhood Sephardi, Ashkenazi, Romaniote Jews of Istanbul 2018

Istanbul Balat Neighborhood Former Jewish Quarter was last modified: July 3rd, 2018 by Serhat Engül
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