Compared to the other bodies of water surrounding the city, the Golden Horn may fall behind the Bosphorus as far as the scenery is concerned, yet its surroundings, filled with nostalgic memories and historic nuances, guarantee you no less than a full day authentic tour.
Kadir Has University and, located within the complex, Rezan Has Museum, are excellent examples of thoughtful restoration, completed in consideration of the area’s past. The history of Cibali Tobacco Factory has also been preserved through a temporary display at the museum, open to visitors daily from 9am. If you’re wondering what’s the best way to reach this point, simply take a short walk from the metro stop located in the middle of the Golden Horn bridge.
Entering through the Cibali gate, take a walk through the neighborhood of Cibalikapı alongside the historic sea walls, which in the Byzantine times used to protect the city from attacks from the water. The gate is believed to have been carved out by Cebe Ali Bey during the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. One of the most important sights of the area is Gül Mosque, formerly serving as the church of St. Theodosia, dating back to the byzantine times. From there, continue to Perispri in Fener for a traditional breakfast in an antique-filled, authentic location.
The Fener neighborhood is considered one of the most important places within the Greek Orthodox church tradition, and visited by worshippers from all around the world throughout the year. For this reason, many interesting, yet still active places in the area are only available to visit upon appointment made by a certified tour guide. If you decide to skip places such as the Patriarchate or the Church of Saint Mary of the Mongols for that reason, you can instead visit the Bulgarian Church of Saint Stephen.
Time for a well-deserved coffee break. Vodina Caddesi has many options for you to choose from, and on weekends your choice might depend on seat availability rather than anything else. We like to stop by Pop’s, a bit away from the crowds, and spend the time getting there on vintage shopping in Balat’s many colorful places. For clothes and accessories, make sure to visit Kulis Vintage, for unique ceramic pieces —Eskici Sandık Kurdu, and if you’re passing by the area on a Wednesday, don’t miss the antiques auction at the Fener Antik Mezat.
Since 1937, Köfteci Arnavut (Mavi Köşe) has been serving humble meatballs to the tradesmen of the area. A true relic of Balat’s past, it hasn’t changed its work system one bit. Mine Hanım, who took over the business from her father, shuffles the plates around, making sure there is something in front of everyone. If you’re truly famished, have the delicious tripe soup as well. Thanks to the quick service, you will definitely make it on time to catch the ferry to the next stop!
The zigzag Golden Horn ferry connection takes us from Balat to Eyüpsultan—the area considered one of the holiest in the city. Located within short walking distance from one another are the lively Eyüp square, and most importantly, the Eyüp Sultan Mosque and his tomb. Abu Ayyub al-Ansari (Eyüp in Turkish) was a friend of the Prophet Muhammed, killed during the first Arab siege of Constantinople in the second half of the seventh century. Depending on how crowded it is (and it can get really busy!), the most convenient way to leave the area is by using the same zigzag ferry connection as before.
If you aren’t tired yet, the boat can drop you off at Hasköy on the other side of the Golden Horn for a visit at the Rahmi Koç Museum, which features a fascinating display of Istanbul’s industrial past. Alternatively, you can stay onboard to transfer at one of the larger transport hubs such as Karaköy or Üsküdar.