Start your small-group tour with a pickup from your centrally located Istanbul hotel and hop inside your air-conditioned minivan. Meet your guide and as you travel, get a flavor of Istanbul’s rich Jewish heritage and culture as a prelude to your explorations on foot.
Hear how after the 1453 Ottoman conquest, Istanbul welcomed thousands of Jewish immigrants from Spain, Portugal and other parts of Europe, most of whom settled in Galata, a district on the northern banks of the Golden Horn.
Fittingly, many of the attractions on your tour lie in Karaköy, the modern name for ancient Galata. Head into these colorful districts and pay a visit to the fascinating Jewish Museum, housed in the ornate Zülfaris synagogue.
Chart the tangled history of Istanbul’s Jewish community over the last 500 years through the documents and artifacts, and then continue to the Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue — Istanbul’s only functioning synagogue for Ashkenazi Jewish worshippers. As you soak up the hushed atmosphere and ornate interior, hear from your guide how the synagogue was constructed in 1900 by Jewish immigrants from Austria and was known as the Austrian Temple.
Continue your wanders to view the exteriors of the Georgian and Italian synagogues, the 1950s-built Neve Shalom, and the Schneidertemple, whose name means ‘Tailor’s Temple.’
See other historic sites and admire the Camondo Buildings, constructed by the Ottoman-Venetian-Jewish Camondo family, who became bankers to the Ottoman Empire in the early 1800s. Listen fascinated as your guide tells you about their patriarch Abraham Camondo, who played a key role in modernizing Istanbul’s Jewish community during the 19th century.
After around three hours, say goodbye to your guide in Karaköy, where your tour ends. Continue exploring as you wish or make your own way back to your hotel.