This part of Istanbul, situated on the ‘left bank’ (European side) between Bosporous and Halic bridges, is interesting to explore.
It is a labyrinth of narrow streets, meaning every time I go I discover something different that I missed before.
The first time I got the tram to Aksaray, and from there walked towards the sea. Going this way you pass through the city walls…
..and then the area of Zeyrek, full of old Ottoman wooden houses….
…Then to Fener, the former Greek neighbourhood.
From here I followed the coast up to Balat.
On subsequent trips I simply got a bus from Eminonu, getting off wherever I fancied along the way. This way is easier but buses get very crowded and they’re easier to navigate once you already have some sense of where you’re going. It’s some distance if you try to cover it all on foot, but not impossible.
Balat was formally a wealthy neighbourhood, mainly housing Jewish residents. However the Jews started to move out of Balat around the late 1800s, following a strong earthquake. By the 1960s none of the wealthier residents remained and the area fell into disrepair, housing only poor immigrants.
Only recently UNESCO got involved and work started to preserve this historically significant area.
There’s a good choice of little cafes and restaurants along the route, from traditional Turkish kebab shops to arty looking hipster cafes. Or you can be a cheapskate like me, buy a pastry and a cola from the supermarket and go sit in the park watching the boats go by, thus spending less than two euros.
There are a couple of large synagogues, but you need to make a prior arrangement to go in and look around, and I’m not much of a planner. Anyway I really preferred just walking around the narrow streets, getting lost and seeing what I could find.