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Religion in Istanbul History Tour

Explore off-the-beaten track Istanbul with an expert guide
From US$391 privately
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Tour Details
Duration
3 hours
Product Type
Tour
Venues
  • Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
  • Fener Neighborhood
  • Balat Neighborhood
Photos & Highlights
  • Explore fascinating and overlooked Istanbul neighborhoods
  • Learn about Istanbul's multicultural history
Select a date
Tour Description
Istanbul is a palimpsest—a city of layers upon layers, in which histories and cultures exist on top of, and alongside, one another. It is traditionally a melting pot, and over the last 100 years, the diverse populations of this city have once again shifted, further expanding the demographics of the city. On this Istanbul Religion Tour, we will pull back the layers of history in order to look closely at how different populations have inhabited and shaped the city, developing a deeper appreciation for the ethnic and religious diversity of a city most commonly associated with the mosques that dominate its skyline.

Greek Fener, Jewish Balat, Muslim Eyup

This walk will guide us from the traditionally Greek neighborhood of Fener, where the golden Greek Patriarchate still sits tucked among old wooden houses, to the old Jewish Istanbul neighborhood of Balat, where trendy cafes and eastern Turkish migrants live next to old synagogues, to the rose-scented Muslim neighborhood of Eyup. History is never fully abstract in this dynamic city, so we’ll look closely at how different populations have inhabited and shaped the city. Following the curve of the Golden Horn and passing through polyglot neighborhoods with traditional Ottoman houses on cobblestoned streets, we’ll examine how the social and political history of the Turkish Republic has molded these districts. 

Looking to explore more off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods? Try our Istanbul Asian Side Tour of Uskudar and Kuzguncuk.

Off The Beaten Path

This is an atmospheric walk through a part of the city normally overlooked by visitors. We’ll pass by, and perhaps drop into, churches, synagogues, and mosques all settled next to each other on a narrow grid plan of curving streets. We’ll stick our heads into alleyways, marketplaces, and coffee shops, gaining not only an intellectual insight into the culture of Istanbul but also an experiential one as well. 

Istanbul Religion Tour

We’ll focus on the cultural lives of the Greek, Armenian, and Jewish people who have called this area home since antiquity. We will also discuss the waves of recent immigration that have brought a Muslim population—largely from Anatolia and largely conservative—into the neighborhood. And thus, much of this walk will attempt to frame and contextualize questions of identity in Istanbul today. 

Layers of History

Our walk concludes in Eyup, one of the first Muslim settlements of the Ottoman Turks, and a sacred part of historical Istanbul. With its lively square and central mosque, this neighborhood serves as a telling contrast to Fener and Balat. The history of Istanbul is constantly being written over and built upon. These three neighborhoods illustrate the multicultural melting pot that continues to morph and redefine this city.

FAQ

Is there a dress code on your tours in Istanbul?
Yes, sites visited on this tour are considered holy places. Shoulders and knees must be covered. Dresses and shorts must be below knee level, and shoulders must be covered (zip-on jackets or scarves are acceptable). We recommend bringing along scarves or shawls to be able to cover those body parts. 
These rules may seem unduly strict, but remember, you are a guest visiting sites that are regarded as religious sanctuaries. 
Where You'll Start
34 Reviews (4.52)

Reviews can only be left by Context customers after they have completed a tour. For more information about our reviews, please see our FAQ.

Wonderful!
Had a great time in the miserable weather with Claire. She bravely soldiered along through the incredible Balat and Fener neighborhoods and provided extraordinary tidbits about Eyũp, the synagogues of Balat, the Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate and so on. The beautiful cobbled streets are an incredible side of Istanbul not to be missed. Topped off by a splendidly hot and soothing cup of sahlep in the rain. What could be better?
It was really enjoyable. We were sorry that we were unable to view a synagogue due to the security around it. Ebru explained this and said that we would sit at a cafe nearby and talk about the Jewish history. For whatever reason we didn’t. It was a most enjoyable tour. Ebru is extremely knowledgeable even about rather obscure points. I’m not sure it is her fault we didn’t talk about Jewish history. I may have asked her too many questions in the Bulgarian church and used up our time. I would do this tour again. I learned so much.