Immerse yourself in the rich Jewish heritage of Istanbul.
After the arrival of Ottoman Turks in 1453, Istanbul became the Capital of Ottoman Empire. Comprehending the synergy that is generated by coexistence of diverse cultures, Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror secured a social ambience of freedom for ethnic groups with different faiths, which accelerated the economic and social improvement of Istanbul. In 1492 Sultan Bayezit invited the Sephardic Jews that were exiled from Spain as the decision of Court of Inquisition, to come and live in Istanbul as equal citizens. This historic event reinforced the on-going cohesion of Ottoman society composed of various ethnic groups and faiths that still is celebrated in modern day Turkey.
Begin your day by meeting your guide for your day of celebrating the Jewish Heritage of Old Constantinople.
Start your day of exploration with a visit to Ortakoy where in 1492 Sephardic Jews arrived to set foot on Ottoman lands escaping from Spanish Inquisition. Today’s Ortakoy is a lively district where locals go for pleasurable time spent at fish restaurants.
Leaving Ortakoy, you will head on to Balat, the oldest Jewish neighborhood of Istanbul. One can see few synagogues in this fascinating location where Muslims and Jewish community lived in harmony to constitute the Ottoman society. You can even see Star of David carved in some balconies to verify the fact how free the Jews were during Ottoman era.
Visit the Ahrida Synagogue that is famed for its bema and meet Lady Caroline to hear interesting stories about the local community. Ahrida is the oldest Synagogue of Istanbul having an age of 500 years. Built by early Balkanian Jewish community that migrated to Istanbul, the temple is famed for its bema that is supposed to resemble the Ark of Noah.
Note the apartment buildings that are ornamented with David's star which manifest the pride that Istanbul Jewish citizens took during Ottoman rule. Your next stop will be the biggest of Jewish Synagogues of Istanbul, Neve Shalom, where the Jewish society of Istanbul holds their important gatherings.
After visiting Neve Shalom Synagogue, you will explore the Zulfaris Synagogue, now a Jewish museum displaying the history and culture of the Sephardic Jews migrated to the Ottoman Empire. You will explore how the two cultures influenced by each other throughout the centuries.
Leaving the Zulfaris Synagogue, you will visit the Grand Bazaar where the Genoese and Venitian merchants once had their ware houses where they store their inventory of brass, copper, rugs and tiles before they were loaded on the ships to sail to Venice and Genoa. Today Nuru Osmaniye District is where you can find the most reputable stores with wide collections of jewelry, antiques and oriental rugs.
- The price of this tour includes a driver and air-conditioned vehicle, all transportation costs, and an English-speaking guide. The entrance fee to Zulfaris Museum is included. Ahrida and Neve Shalom synagogues do not request entrance fees from visitors.
- The cost of lunch and drinks is not included.
- Please wear comfortable walking shoes (for both comfort and protection against risks of sliding), a hat, and sunscreen. Feel free to wear shorts and T-shirts both in Istanbul and the rest of Turkey.
- On September 24, 2015, The Spice Market and Grand Bazaar will be closed.
- Please note that for all visitors, the synagogues request pre-arranged appointment for a specific date and hour. For security reasons, it is required to apply with the passport copies beforehand. Please email scanned copies of the passports of all those individuals taking this tour at the time of booking. Email to email@example.com.
- You need to carry your passport with you on this tour.
- ShoreTrips and our partners do our best to ensure that every stop described is available for your visit. There are some times when a site or building is closed at the last moment with little to no warning. We assume that those in charge make those decisions based on external information and we apologize when this causes inconvenience and disappointment.
Days offered: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday