From Tea Houses To Galleries: A Day In The Colorful Balat Istanbul

Post author SJ

Written by our local expert SJ

Sarah-Jane has lived in Croatia for 10+ years. SJ, as she is known, has been traveling the Balkans & beyond since 2000. She now shares her passion for traveling with her husband & kids.

Step into the charming bohemian quarter of Balat in Istanbul, and you’ll be transported to a world where time seems to have stood still. This historic neighborhood is home to colorful tea houses, vibrant street art, and eclectic galleries that showcase local talent.

From sipping traditional Turkish tea with locals to exploring hidden alleys adorned with captivating murals, there’s no shortage of things to do in Balat.

In this blog post, we’ll take you on a journey through the best experiences that this fascinating neighborhood has to offer – so pack your bags and get ready for a day in Balat Istanbul!


Turkey Travel Blog_How To Spend One Day In Balat Istanbul

Balat Is Istanbul’s Charming Bohemian Quarter

If you’re looking for a taste of the real Istanbul, away from tourist traps, then head to Balat. This charming bohemian quarter is brimming with character and is the perfect place to experience local life.

From time-honored tea houses to bustling markets and independent art galleries, there’s plenty to explore in Balat. And with its central location on the European side of Istanbul, it’s easy to get to from anywhere in the city.

So whether you’re looking for a unique shopping experience or want to soak up the atmosphere of this vibrant neighborhood, be sure to add Balat to your Istanbul itinerary.

What To See In Balat, Istanbul

Colorful sights if Balat, Istanbul Turkey

Balat is home to some of Istanbul’s most charming architecture. Stroll down its narrow streets, and you’ll find an array of colors and styles, from Ottoman-era mansions to Art Nouveau buildings.

There are also several fascinating museums and galleries in Balat. The Museum of Turkish Jews is a must-see for anyone interested in the history of the city’s Jewish community. The Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate Museum is another interesting option, as it chronicles the history of Istanbul’s Greek Orthodox community.

And, of course, no visit to Balat would be complete without exploring its many tea houses and cafes. These are great places to people-watch and soak up the local atmosphere.

Balat is one of Istanbul’s most charming and bohemian neighborhoods. It’s a great place to experience local life and find some hidden gems. Here are some of the best things to do in Balat:

  • Visit the historical landmarks: Balat is home to many historical landmarks, including the Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the Aya Yorgi Church, and the Balat Synagogue
  • Explore the art galleries: Several art galleries in Balat showcase local and international artists
  • Visit the tea houses: Balat is known for its many tea houses, which are perfect for relaxing with a cup of tea and people-watching
  • Take a walk through the neighborhood: Balat is a great neighborhood to explore on foot. Wander down the narrow streets and take in the sights and sounds of this vibrant community

Balat Art Galleries and Cultural Centers

The Küçük Ayasofya Mosque
Dome of “Little Hagia Sophia” mosque

Istanbul’s bohemian quarter of Balat is home to several art galleries and cultural centers that are worth checking out.

  • The Firuzağa Mosque, for example, is one of the most beautiful mosques in the city and houses a small but interesting museum
  • The Küçük Ayasofya Mosque, also known as Little Hagia Sophia, is another must-see, especially for its stunning interior decoration

Tea Houses and Cafes

Eating in Balat, Istanbul Turkey

There’s no shortage of charming tea houses and cafes in Balat. Whether you’re looking for a place to relax with a cup of tea or coffee or a light meal, you’ll find plenty of options to choose from.

Some of our favorite tea houses and cafes in Balat include:

  • Hünkar Beyazıt Konakları: This beautiful café is located in a converted Ottoman house and features an outdoor patio overlooking the street below. The perfect spot for people-watching with a cup of tea or coffee in hand
  • Abracadabra Café: A cozy café located in an old Turkish bathhouse, Abracadabra is an excellent spot for lunch or a light snack. Make sure to try their delicious Turkish pancakes!
  • Orient Express Tea House: As the name suggests, this tea house has an Oriental theme, with low tables and cushions for seating. They offer a wide variety of teas, as well as small dishes like mezze platters and baklava
  • Cicek Pasaji: This historic covered marketplace is now home to several different cafés, each with its own unique atmosphere. We recommend grabbing a table at one of the outdoor cafés and enjoying some people-watching while you sip your drink
  • The Karaköy Güllüoğlu Bakery is also worth a visit for its delicious Turkish pastries and coffee

Rainbow Stairs Istanbul

A day in Balat, Istanbul Turkey

We think that this is such a photo-worthy stop. 

Shopping In Balat

Shopping in Balat, Istanbul Turkey

If you’re looking for a truly unique shopping experience, head to Balat. This charming bohemian quarter is filled with one-of-a-kind shops selling everything from handmade jewelry to vintage clothes.

For souvenirs, check out the many shops selling traditional Turkish goods like copper pots and hand-painted ceramics. Or pick up some unique jewelry at one of the many independent jewelers.

If you’re in the market for something more substantial, there are plenty of furniture and home decor options. Whether you’re looking for an antique rug or a modern piece of art, you’ll find it in Balat.

Souvenir Shopping In Balat

When it comes to souvenir shopping, Balat is a veritable treasure trove, as we have already mentioned. The neighborhood is home to many art galleries and shops selling handmade goods, so you’re sure to find something unique to take home with you.

If you’re looking for traditional Turkish souvenirs to take home to your family and friends, stop by one of the many jewelry stores in Balat. Here you’ll find an array of colorful Turkish evil eye charms and other trinkets that make for great low-cost gifts and mementos.

Eating In Balat

Traditional Turkish Drink Raki, Salgam (Turnip Juice) with Adana Kebab

When it comes to food, Balat has a lot to offer. The neighborhood is home to some of Istanbul’s best-known restaurants, serving everything from traditional Turkish cuisine to international fare. And with its many cafes and bakeries, there’s no shortage of places to grab a quick bite or a cup of coffee.

Here are some of our favorite spots to eat in Balat:

  • Asma Yapragi: This restaurant is a must-visit for anyone interested in trying traditional Turkish food. The menu features a wide variety of dishes, all of which are cooked to perfection
  • Black Swan: If you’re looking for something a bit more upscale, Black Swan is the place for you. The restaurant serves international cuisine with a focus on seafood
  • Cafe Su: This cafe is perfect for relaxing with a book or catching up with friends over coffee and cake. The atmosphere is cozy, and the staff is friendly
  • Dukan: Dukan is one of the most popular bakeries in Balat, and for good reason. The bread and pastries are delicious, and the prices are very reasonable

Traditional Cuisine And Street Food In Balat

Balat cafe, Istanbul, Turkey

Balat is home to some of Istanbul’s best traditional cuisine and street food. The area is known for its strong Turkish and Armenian influence, seen in the many restaurants and cafes serving these cuisines. There are also a number of street vendors selling kebabs, börek, and other traditional Turkish snacks.

If you’re looking for a sit-down meal, there are plenty of options to choose from.

  • For traditional Turkish cuisine: try Küçük Balat or Ada Restaurant
  • For Armenian dishes: check out Hamsi Asmali or Karadeniz Pide Salonu
  • If you’re in the mood for something lighter: many cafes are serving fresh salads and sandwiches 

Seafood Restaurants

What To Eat In Turkey - Turkish Food - Balik Ekmek

You won’t be disappointed if you’re looking for a delicious seafood meal in Balat, Istanbul. There are several seafood restaurants to choose from, each with its own unique atmosphere and menu.

  • Köşkeroğlu Fish Restaurant: One of the most popular seafood restaurants in Balat is Köşkeroğlu Fish Restaurant. This restaurant has been serving fresh seafood dishes since 1864, making it one of the oldest seafood establishments in the city. The menu features a wide variety of fish and shellfish dishes, all cooked to perfection
  • İstakoz: This restaurant specializes in grilled octopus, which is a must-try when in Istanbul. The octopus is cooked over an open flame and served with a lemon garlic sauce – it’s simply irresistible!
  • Saray Muhallebicisi:  If you want a more casual dining experience, check out Saray Muhallebicisi. This traditional Turkish cafe serves delicious fish sandwiches perfect for a quick bite. The cafe also has an extensive selection of hot and cold beverages to wash down your sandwich

No matter what you’re in the mood for, you’ll surely find it in Balat. So come hungry and enjoy some of the best food Istanbul offers!

How To Get To Balat District

To get to Balat from anywhere in Istanbul, I would suggest you take a taxi. From Sultanahmet to Balat will take around 20 minutes, whereas from the Karakoy district will be just a 15-minute drive.

Where Is Balat In Istanbul – Map

Tips For Exploring Balat

Balat is one of the most charming and atmospheric neighborhoods in Istanbul. With its winding streets, historic architecture, and vibrant community life, Balat is a must-visit for any traveler looking to experience the real Istanbul. Even if you skip shopping and eating, you can explore the streets of Balat themselves and admire the colorful murals.

Here are some tips for making the most of your one day in Balat:

  • Start your day with a cup of Turkish coffee at one of the many traditional coffeehouses. This is a great way to people-watch!
  • Stroll through the neighborhood and take in the colorful street art and atmospheric old buildings. Make sure to stop by the iconic Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate – one of the oldest churches in Istanbul
  • Wander down to the Golden Horn waterfront and watch the fishermen haul in their daily catch. You can also take a ferry ride across the water for stunning views of Istanbul’s skyline
  • In the afternoon, visit one of Balat’s many art galleries or independent shops. This is a great place to find unique souvenirs or gifts for loved ones back home
  • End your day with a delicious meal at one of Balat’s many restaurants or cafes. Be sure to try some traditional Turkish dishes like börek (a savory pastry) or köfte (meatballs)

Is Balat a UNESCO World Heritage site?


Where in Istanbul is Balat?

Balat is on the European side of Turkey on the western bank of the Golden Horn.

Is Balat worth visiting?

Absolutely! It is such a vibrant and colorful part of Istanbul, not to mention historical.

What is Balat known for?

Balat is known today for it’s beautifully colored houses and charming Bohemian vibe. Historically, is was the center of the Jewish community in Istanbul.

What is the best way to see the colorful houses of Balat?

Using a local guide is a great way to see the houses without the crowds. Guides know the optimal times to visit, so it’s definitely worth hiring someone to take you.

How far is Balat from the Blue Mosque?

There is a 4km distance between the two.

How do I get from Balat to Taksim?

The distance between the two is 3km. While there is no direct connection, you can opt to take the metro and tram or you can take a taxi ride.

How do I get from Sultanahmet to Balat?

Again, you can take a quick taxi ride (approximately 6 minutes) or you can opt for a tram ride which is 22 minutes. The tram is cheaper, but takes a bit longer.

Now that you know how to spend a day in Balat, when will you wander these colorful streets?

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