Getting off the beaten path is not hard to do amongst Istanbul’s labyrinth streets, but some places are better suited to getting lost than others. The Balat neighborhood is a favorite of ours, where washing strung across narrow cobbled streets make great photograph opportunities and there are still plenty of beautiful historic churches and mosques to discover, without the hoards of tourists to distract you.
Once predominantly a neighborhood where Christians, Jews, and Muslims lived, prayed, and worked side by side, the area is still home to a large number of historical religious buildings from the Yavuz Sultan Selim mosque and shrine overlooking the Golden Horn to the Greek Orthodox Aya Nikola church and the sites of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantiople, formerly center of the entire Orthodox Church. Another important structure and widely visible is the Greek Lycee of the Fener. Its castle-like outline and elaborate red brick details can be marveled at from afar, or on a guided tour of the premises.
Balat’s iconic colorful residential buildings and the laundry lines connecting them are a picturesque sight to behold, as is the Kastamonu Pazarı (Kastamonu Open Market). Each Sunday this market attracts locals and gastronomy professionals from all over town with stalls overflowing with fresh organic produce.