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Balat is a historically Jewish neighborhood on the shores of the Golden Horn in Istanbul. While a significant Jewish population existed in the area since Byzantine times, the community grew substantially as Jews were evicted from Spain in 1492. 

The most important attraction in the neighborhood may be the Chora Church, today known as the Kariye Museum. With its intricate mosaics and frescoes from the Byzantine era, it is a must-see.  Also worth checking out are the ruins of the Byzantine palace, Tekfur Salay, which is built into the old city walls. Dating to the late 1200s or early 1300s, the palace was built for Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenetus but over time served as a menagerie, brothel, pottery workshop and poorhouse. It is currently closed, but you can catch a decent glimpse from outside.

While the area once had 19 synagogues, only two of importance remain today: the Ahrida Synagogue and the Yanbol Synagogue.  Both are said to take their names from towns in Macedonia from where their founding congregations hailed. Nearby you’ll also find the site of a Jewish School and Jewish Hospital.

Practical Information

Balat sits on the southern shore of the Golden Horn. To get there, take a ferry to Balat or catch a bus along the waterfront road that begins as Ragip Gumuspala Caddesi near the Galata Bridge, turns into Abdulezelpasa Caddesi after the Ataturk Bridge and finally becomes Mursel Pasa Caddesi. Get off at the Coprubasi stop.

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