Ayvansaray, Balat & Fener -- When Fatih Mehmet the Conqueror proclaimed freedom to all despite race or religion, many of the Greeks who had fled the city under siege, plus others, settled in this neighborhood. These Greeks were known as "Phanariots" and were an integral part of Ottoman life. Many of the stately homes, schools, monasteries, and churches date to this period of prosperity. Built on one of the city's seven central hills, this neighborhood was called Petrion (rock) by the Byzantines, and it was primarily inhabited by Rum. To the north, bordering the Fener neighborhood, a community of predominantly Balat Jews was represented by its share of influential politicians, physicians, and diplomats. But in spite of the relative prosperity of the neighborhood, Balat never quite rose to the level of neighboring Fener and still maintains the stigma of being Fener's poorer cousin.

Workshops in Ottoman Arts

No visit to the epicenter of Ottoman arts would be complete without trying your hand at the classic art of ebru, or paper marbling, calligraphy, or on a soulful saz. Seeking to promote Turkey's rich and vibrant cultural goods, Les Arts Turcs, Incili Çavus Sok. 37, 3rd floor, Sultanahmet (tel. 0212/520-7743; www.lesartsturcs.org), organizes private or group lessons in all three and then some. Interested in Byzantine mosaic art? Check. Want to learn how to apply a henna tattoo? Check. Willing to accept a dare to show off your belly-dancing prowess? You can do it all here. Les Arts Turcs also organizes private language lessons. Some of their group workshops are organized in conjunction with the Caferaga Medresesi , a project of the Turkish Cultural Foundation Service (www.tkhv.org). The restored medrese now serves as a handicrafts center offering multiday workshops in ebru, calligraphy, illumination, miniature painting, jewelry, and decorative ornamentation of wood, fabric, or glass, among others.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.