Galata Tower, Istanbul, Turkey
The Galata Tower, one of the most prominent architectural gems, welcomes thousands of visitors every year, offering an extraordinary panoramic view of the entire city of Istanbul. Located in the historic Beyoğlu district, the tower has dominated the skyline since 1348, and never lost its gleaming glory since then.
The Tower is open to visitors from 8:30 am to 11 pm every day of the week.
You can either buy a ticket or buy a Museum Card, which is highly recommended if you are planning to visit various historical sights around Turkey. If you have a Museum Card you don't have to wait in the ticket queue, you can immediately enter the tower by showing your Museum Card. For more information about the current prices of the tickets, you can check the official Galata Tower website.
How to get there
You can either take the Metro, get off at Şişhane Station, and walk down Beyoğlu Street for 10-15 minutes, then you will reach it. Beyoğlu Street is very nice to walk through, filled with tiny authentic shops, and rooftop bars, from which you can have an incredible view of Galata Tower.
Alternatively, you can take the tram, get off at Karaköy, and walk up through Bank Street, Bankalar Caddesi. Follow the Komodo Stairs, Komodo Merdiveni, leading you to the tower through cute alleyways, allowing you to experience the real Old Istanbul.
The Galata Tower is 66.9 meters (220-feet) high. Most of the interior has changed throughout history, but the 3.75-meter (12-foot)-thick walls remain, still passing through the authentic feeling of history. Until the 1960s it was a fire lookout tower. Now the upper floors hold the panorama balcony.
The panorama balcony, encircling the top of the tower, is a real gem. You can observe the entire city down to the smallest detail. On one side you will have the endless beauty of the Golden Horn, uniting with the Bosphorus. The Topkapı Palace, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and the Süleymaniye Mosque, all lined up on the horizon, will give you an incredible panorama. Being surrounded by so many architectural gems, and mosques, you will definitely want to be on top of Galata Tower when it's time for the call to prayers, preferably the sunset call, then you will have the full effect.
Initially the tower was built in 528 by the Byzantines as a lighthouse, to keep an eye on the Marmara Sea and ships, being vigilant against the possible dangers approaching the land. In 1024 the tower was destroyed due to occupation but was rebuilt by the Genoese in 1348.
Originally named the Tower of Christ, the tower was the highpoint in the city walls of the Genoese colony called Galata.
A lot of repairs have been done after the conquest of Istanbul in 1453, under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. Back then the tower was used as a dungeon, later on, it was also used as an observatory, and fire watchtower, as almost every location of the city could be observed from it.
In Evliya Çelebi’s, a famous Ottoman Traveler, Travel Book the story is told of how, in 1638, Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi attached wings to his body and flew across the Bosphorus to Üsküdar. He is considered to be the first person in the world to fly with sail wings.
The neighborhood around the Galata Tower, derelict when I first came to Istanbul in the 1960s, was very much filled with the hüzün (melancholy) so emphasized in Orhan Pamuk's wonderful memoir, Istanbul: Memories and the City.
In the past few years, however, the entire district from the Galata Tower uphill to Tünel Square, with its Swedish Consulate-General, Deutsche Schule (German High School), and other Ottoman-era institutions, has been extraordinarily gentrified.
The Tower of Love
According to certain legends the Galata Tower is believed to be a magical spot where love unravels and binds lovers to one another till eternity. Couples who climb the tower together for the first time will get married, but if one of them already has climbed it the opposite will happen. That is why you better make sure to be the first one with whom your partner climbs the tower, otherwise, it's up to you to consider the consequences, if you believe in the local legend.
Another legend is about the endless love between the Galata Tower and The Maiden’s Tower, which unfortunately has no happy ending. It is believed that the Bosphorus not only divides Istanbul into two, but also separates these two lovers from one another. This separation is thought to be the reason why Hazerfen Ahmet Çelebi flew from the tower to Üsküdar, only to hand on the love letters of the Galata Tower to The Maiden Tower. But unfortunately, a strong wind came by and dispersed all the letters into the Bosphorus.