Galata Tower has dominated Beyoğlu‘s skyline since 1348 and still offers the best panoramic views of the city.
Originally named the Tower of Christ, the 66.9-meter (220-foot)-high tower was the highpoint in the city walls of the Genoese colony called Galata. Most of the walls are long gone, but the great tower , with its 3.75-meter (12-foot)-thick walls remains.
The story is told of how, in 1638, a certain Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi attached wings to his body and flew (more likely coasted) across the Bosphorus to Üsküdar.
Why he did it once, no one says, nor whether he survived…
Until the 1960s it was a fire lookout tower. Now the upper floors hold the panorama balcony.
The panorama balcony, encircling the highest row of windows, is narrow, open to the weather, and not recommended for anyone suffering from acrophobia (fear of heights).
If you want the full effect, be here at the time of a call to prayer, preferably the sunset call.
The balcony is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm (7 pm in summer). There’s an admission fee.
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.
Now you find chic cafés, art galleries, design firms, boutiques, and restaurants in its narrow streets.
—by Tom Brosnahan