Jewish Heritage

Istanbul is a cosmopolitan city and home to many thriving Jewish quarters with rich cultural and abundant historical heritages. In 1492, the Ottoman Empire opened its borders to Jews escaping from the Spanish Inquisition. Many of them made their home in the Galata Quarter, also home to the famous tower built in the 14th century by the Genovese. The tower dominates an amazing Golden Horn view. The Galata Quarter was almost completely Jewish for more than 400 years.

Other Jewish heritage highlights include the Neve Shalom Synagogue, the central and largest Sephardic synagogue in Istanbul, and the Jewish Museum in Galata, also known also as the Zulfaris Synagogue, where you can see the story of 700 years of friendship between Turks and Jews. The Ashkenazy Synagogue dates back to the 19th Century and is the only active Ashkenazy synagogue open for visiting and for prayer in Istanbul. Originally built by the Austrian Jews, the synagogue is located near Galata Tower. Its rich interior decoration is certainly worth seeing.

The Balat neighborhood along the Golden Horn is another old Jewish district, housing the Ahrida Synagogue, which was built over 500 years ago and is still in use today. Many working-class Jewish immigrants settled here in the 15th century during the reign of Sultan Beyazit II to help repopulate the city. The recently restored synagogue is known for its interesting Ottoman-Baroque style architecture and for being the first synagogue in Istanbul. Today the Star of David can still be seen on many of the façades.

We recommend a walking tour through the Jewish quarters of Balata and Beyoğlu/Pera near the Galata Tower to see the numerous historical buildings and witness the bustling Jewish street life.