4 star rating: Recommended 20 Reviews

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  • Location:Istanbul, Turkey
  • Duration:4 hours (approx.)

Private Tour: Istanbul's Jewish Heritage

Uncover the rich history of Jewish culture during this privately guided tour in Istanbul. Explore old Jewish synagogues such as the Etz Ahayim Synagogue and Ashkenazi Synagogue and learn about Istanbul’s vast Jewish heritage. Enjoy visits to famous sites like Galata Tower and the Jewish Museum of Turkey (referred to as the Zülfaris Synagogue) to grasp the depth of Jewish people’s history from ancient times through Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires to present day.


  • 4-hour private tour of Istanbul’s Jewish sites
  • Learn about the centuries-old history and culture of Istanbul’s Jewish community
  • Admire the Galata Tower, one of the city's most striking landmarks
  • Visit two prominent synagogues, Ashkenazi Synagogue and Etz Ahayim Synagogue
  • Gain a deeper understanding of Jewish and Muslim coexistence at the Jewish Museum of Turkey

Recent Photos of This Tour

What You Can Expect

Private Tour: Istanbul's Jewish Heritage

Learn about the Jewish history in Istanbul from your guide

Start your privately guided tour of Istanbul’s Jewish history with a pickup from your centrally located hotel in Istanbul. Board your vehicle and cruise to the old Jewish neighborhood of Galata and learn how the fourth crusade captured and demolished the area in the year 1203. Then, admire the elegance of the Galata Tower. Hear how this famous Istanbul monument and vantage point was constructed in the 14th century as part of colonial expansion into Constantinople by the Genoese.

Next, walk over to the Ashkenaz Synagogue, currently the only active synagoue of it kind in Istanbul. Learn about the Austrian Jews who established it in 1900 for the Ashkenazi Jewish sect. Today the synagogue still celebrates bar mitzvahs, weddings, other religious ceremonies and is available to visitors and those who wish to pray.

With your expert guide continue through the Beyoğlu neighborhood to the Jewish Museum of Turkey formerly known as the Zülfaris Synagogue. Learn how this 19th century religious building was renovated and rebuilt as a musuem in 2001 to honor the 500th anniversary of Sephardic Jews coming to the Ottoman Empire. Enter the museum and see how Jewish culture and tradition coalesced with Turkish history. Plus, learn how Muslims and Jews lived with one another and see a display that explains the successful Jewish quest from Spain to Turkey.

Finally, visit Etz Ahayim Synagogue also referred to as the Ortaköy Synagogue. Located in the Beşiktaş district in the neighborhood of Ortaköy, gain insight into how various ethnicities and religions such as Greeks, Turks, Armenians and Jews were all able to live together in harmony during the rule of the Ottoman Empire. Even in present day this neighborhood is a perfect example of how colors and creeds can live in peace.

In the afternoon, leave Ortaköy with new knowledge of Jewish history in Turkey and head back to your hotel where your tour concludes.

Customer Reviews

5 star rating: Highly Recommended October 2015

This tour was so fantastic! From meeting us in a huge gold mini van at the port where our cruise ended, to bringing us to our hotel afterwards, it was luxurious and showed great hospitality. Our guide had arranged for us in advance to visit inside two synagogues and with all the security it is clear we could not have done this on our own. She knew quite a lot about the history of Jews in the Ottoman Empire and had spent a few months on a kibbutz in Israel. She knew her stuff. We started with a visit to Galata tower, which was beyond what was advertised. That gave us a terrific orientation to Istanbul. We saw five synagogues all together in real working class neighborhoods, and we felt like the only tourists on the street. It was so special! We stopped for coffee in a neighborhood shop that had so much character. It was really a remarkable experience, worth very penny!

5 star rating: Highly Recommended July 2014

Very interesting and we enjoyed it a lot. It would have been even better if the guide was Jewish or knew more personally about the Jewish community, past and present, but he still did a very good job. It was great having an air conditioned car to take us around.

5 star rating: Highly Recommended May 2014

Very well organised and will recommend your company to anyone who is thinking of going on a guided tour
The guide and driver were first class. Lawrence kraft

5 star rating: Highly Recommended April 2014

Very interesting tour. Guide excellent. Highly recommended

5 star rating: Highly Recommended April 2014

Our guide was brilliant, and the driver was polite and efficient. We could not have asked for a better introduction to Istanbul's Jewish Quarter. We loved Istanbul and are hoping to return again soon.

5 star rating: Highly Recommended December 2013

We took this tour because we wanted to visit synagogues and we knew the security issues make it difficult to arrange. Apart from anything else the synagogues are not obvious even when you are standing in front of them. You need to take your passport to gain entry to the Sephardi synagogue.We saw two synagogues and the Jewish Museum; the large Sephardi synagogue (Etz hachaim) at Oberoy was particularly impressive and the museum was fascinating. Our guide (who was not Jewish) was most helpful; the minibus was comfortable and carefully driven. A very worthwhile morning and we would thoroughly recommend the tour.

5 star rating: Highly Recommended December 2013

Good tour

5 star rating: Highly Recommended September 2012

Our guide was wonderful. He wqs very warm and inviting. It would have been better, however, if a representative from each of the synagogues we visited had been able to tell us something about the congregation and not merely ask for a donation. Speaking with a congregant would have greatly added to our understanding of the Istanbul Jewish community - their customs, issues, etc. This, however, was not the fault of our guide.

5 star rating: Highly Recommended August 2011

FIrst I want to give the highest praise for our delightful,knowledgeable helpful, sweet, chic,friendly tour guide, Mine pronounced Meenay (hope her name is correct) This is a must see for anyone interested in Jewish Heritage. Our tour was half a day and fine for us.we had read of one dissatisfied traveller's opinion and were concerned. We were so interested in the three Synagogues we saw. Each with a different story. at Neve Shalom the Rabbi himself met with us. The tour for two was so well organized with our guide and driver. I don't know how much you want to read but The tour as set is wonderful and then we were given options of certain sites to see. A tour is a must as it is difficult to get from one area to another unless someone really directs you and takes you. It was surprising to learn that the Neve Shalom Synagogue ( I am pretty sure that is the one) does not have dues but is supported by contributions. Mine told us a great deal of information about the Jewish Community (24,000 Jews) and 16 active Synagogues as well as about Istanbul itself especially since we had just arrived the day before. Be prepared to do some walking on cobblestone streets...some of the fun about this through streets with much to see en route.
THe security is very tight as we appreciated and as it is necessary so plan ahead to send your passport information at least a week or more ahead of your tour.
Marcia and Richard Schaefer Delmar (near Albany) New York

4 star rating: Recommended July 2015

Tour interesting. Guide knew his history of Istanbul. Knew a lot about the synagogues etc, but was not Jewish so perhaps we missed some of what life inTurkey was like before and after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

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Tour code: 3795IST_P08


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