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Trees in bloom outside of Bulgarian Church of St. Stephen.
NEIGHBORHOOD GUIDE

A guide to local favorites in Fener and Balat

Trees in bloom outside of Bulgarian Church of St. Stephen.
  • By Jennifer Hattam
  • Photos by Emanuele Satolli
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Fener and Balat
Istanbul
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The photogenically crumbling old buildings of these intertwined neighborhoods along the Golden Horn have become a magnet for Turkish hipsters, creating a colorful and fascinating, if sometimes discomfiting, mix of soulful history and faux nostalgia, posing Instagrammers and hard-working tradesmen. Look for traces of the area’s once-diverse religious heritage — glimpses of hidden-away church spires, doors crowned by Greek or Hebrew writing — amid the third-wave coffee shops, vintage-clothing stores, street art and design ateliers.

Meet Jennifer Hattam

Jennifer is a journalist covering environmental, political, social and urban issues, as well as arts, culture, food and travel. Originally from San Francisco, she loved Istanbul upon her first visit and has lived there since 2008. She still has no plans to swap her coffee addiction for the local tea habit.

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Fener and Balat

Forno Balat
Expect a wait on weekends for the ample Turkish breakfast spreads and stone-oven-baked pizzas, pide, and lahmacun served up in this cheery, casually stylish spot.
Forno Balat, Fener Kirechane Sokak 13, Balat, Fatih, Istanbul, 34087
The Pill
This former generator factory now produces edgy contemporary art exhibitions, often solo shows by emerging artists. Only a small white sign above the door sets the building apart from its industrial neighbors.
The Pill, Murselpasa Caddesi 181, Ayvansaray, Fatih, Istanbul, 34087
Camhane
Glass artist Yasemin Aslan Bakiri has converted a historic stone building (next to the Bulgarian church, along the waterfront) into a workshop and exhibition space for her own elaborate pieces, including life-size glass caftans, and works by other artists.
Camhane, Murselpasa Caddesi, Balat, Fatih, Istanbul, 34087
Antique auctions
Daily auctions at the area’s many antique shops — think yard sale, not Sotheby’s — see lively bidding on an eclectic array of knickknacks, retro appliances and the occasional treasure. Look for the signs giving “mezat” (auction) hours. Saklibahce is a good starting point.
Vodina Caddesi 160, Balat, Fatih, Istanbul, 34087
Atolye Kafasi
Decorated with colorful wood products — chairs, trays, bowls and more — made and sold on-site, this brick-walled cafe stays open later than most places in Balat and hosts occasional acoustic-music performances and other events.
Atolye Kafasi, Abdulezelpasa Caddesi 75, Cibali, Fatih, Istanbul, 34083
Bulgarian Church of St. Stephen
Better known as the “iron church,” this neo-Gothic landmark was assembled from 500 tons of prefabricated iron parts, cast in Vienna and shipped down the Danube River. The gilded interior gleams after a 2018 restoration.
Bulgarian Church of St. Stephen, Murselpasa Caddesi 10, Balat, Fatih, Istanbul, 34087
Cibalikapi Balikcisi
It may have “fisherman” in its Turkish name, but this cozy meyhane (tavern) on the edge of Balat prides itself most on its meze, or savory small dishes meant for sharing, including many recipes you won’t find elsewhere.
Cibalikapi Balikcisi, Kadir Has Caddesi 5, Cibali, Fatih, Istanbul, 34083
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Jennifer Hattam
Jennifer is a journalist covering environmental, political, social and urban issues, as well as arts, culture, food and travel. Originally from San Francisco, she loved Istanbul upon her first visit and has lived there since 2008. She still has no plans to swap her coffee addiction for the local tea habit.
Emanuele Satolli
Emanuele is a photojournalist based in Istanbul. Since obtaining his Masters in Journalism from the University of Turin, he has specialized in stories about the human condition, social change, and armed conflict. He loves living in Istanbul, a city in two continents. Every day he tries to find an excuse to cross the Bosporus sea from Asia to Europe in a 15-minute ferry trip.

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