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One of Istanbul’s best-hidden gems is the colorful neighborhood named Balat. This old district filled with beautiful colorful wooden houses and cafes will instantly give the feel-good vibes. Visiting Balat is best during the morning, it is relatively unknown for most tourists, but we promise it is one of the best things to do in Istanbul.
3 Hours Before Flight Time
One Bedroom for each room (depends on number of guests in one room)
Depends on room type (one bathroom for each room)
Balat is one of the oldest districts of Istanbul with some wooden houses over 200 years old. Friendly local families, a cultural mix of Jewish, Christians, and Muslims people are all welcoming you to their neighborhood. Balat has Synagogues, Churches, and Mosques, something you do not see all along that often. The second you enter Balat with its colorful historical buildings and narrow streets. Wander around the quiet sloping streets of Balat. The area is slowly transforming into a hipster area where old neglected buildings are renovated into cool cafes, restaurants and design shops.
You will meet your local guide at your hotel and then have a brief information about our one day walking trip in historical Fener-Balat district. After briefing we take a bus ride to Fener District and start our walking tour. First we visit Cibali which is a lovely neighborhood full of bohemian style cafes and restaurants. Later on we continue our trip by visiting Hagios Nikolaos Greek Orthodox Church which we do not have exact information when it was built but it is the only Greek Orthodox Church in the neighborhood. After we enjoy mosaics inside of the church we proceed to Gül Mosque (Gül means rose in Turkish) which used to be a Greek Orthodox Church in the time of Byzantine Reign of the city. Turks converted the church into a mosque and named after Gül(Rose) because it was full of roses when they first see the building as a tradition in Greek Orthodox culture to ornate churches with roses in memoriam of Virgin Mary. After we see one of few mosque that was converted from a church, we proceed to House of Dimitri Kantemir who was a musician that wrote books about classical Turkish music and the house is one of the good example that you may see classical Greek Mansion in Istanbul. Later on we proceed to visit Phanar Greek Orthodox College which was established in 1454 by the Patriarch, Gennadius Scholarius who appointed the Thessalonian Matthaios Kamariotis as its first Director. It soon became the school of the prominent Greek (Phanariotes) and other Orthodox families in the Ottoman Empire, and many Ottoman ministers as well as Wallachian and Moldavian princes appointed by the Ottoman state, such as Dimitrie Cantemir, graduated from it. The current school building is located near the Church of St. George in the neighborhood of Fener (Phanar in Greek), which is the seat of the Patriarchate. It is known among the locals with nicknames such as The Red Castle and The Red School. Designed by the Ottoman Greek architect Konstantinos Dimadis, the building was erected between 1881 and 1883 with an eclectic mix of different styles and at a cost of 17,210 Ottoman gold pounds, a huge sum for that period. The money was given by Georgios Zariphis, a prominent Greek Ottoman banker and financier belonging to the Rum community of Istanbul. Despite its function as a school, the building is often referred to as “the 5th largest castle in Europe” because of its castle-like shape. The large dome at the top of the building is used as an observatory for astronomy classes and has a large antique telescope inside. Today the school, which is the “second largest” school after the Zografeion Lyceum, has six Turkish teachers, while the remaining fifteen are Greek. The school (like all minority schools, as it is compulsory by law) applies the full Turkish curriculum in addition to Greek subjects: Greek language, literature and religion. After our visit there, we proceed to Sveti Stefan Bulgarian Orthodox Church which is famous for its unique architectural syle. Also known as Steel Church because only used material is steel to build skeleton of the building, was built on 1898. Besides of these Iconic buildings, we are going to enjoy narrow and steep alleys of Balat District with a beautiful Golden Horn scenery and also we will enjoy our coffees in anti-mainstream cafes around the neighborhood. After our programme ends, we will be transferred to our hotel and farewell till the next trip.
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This actually depends on the purpose of the vacation and the places you want to visit in Turkey. But, Turkey experiences intense tourism mobility mostly between April and December. It doesn’t mean that only these 9 months are the beautiful periods for Turkey vacation. For instance, regions like Istanbul and Cappadocia offer their visitors a different kind of beauty in each month. Keep in mind that in low season, prices are lower as well when compared to the peak seasons.
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