The Maiden’s Tower in Istanbul (Turkish: Kiz Kulesi) flaunts like an elegant figurine on the dark velvet of the Bosphorus waters. Throughout its long history, it has managed to visit a customs checkpoint, a watchtower, a lighthouse, a quarantine station, and a restaurant.
Despite its modest size, this landmark of the Turkish capital boasts the tireless attention of forces and ordinary tourists. Today you can dine in a stylized medieval restaurant in the Maiden’s Tower.
Maiden’s Tower History,
The history of the Maiden’s Tower in Istanbul dates back to a small castle located on a rocky island at the entrance of the Bosphorus by the Athenian commander Alcibiades in the 5th century BC. The clock tower was erected here by Emperor Constantine in the 4th century. Chronicles indicate that in the 15th century, the building served as a lighthouse and later as a harbor and a prison.
In the 18th century, the building burned down but was restored by Damat İbrahim Pasha soon after. Authorities did the last significant overhaul in the 1830s, and in 1920 authorities modernized the lighthouse’s light mechanism.
Maiden’s Tower, serving as a traffic control auxiliary unit in the Bosphorus since the 1980s, became a cultural center with exhibitions, photo galleries, and a restaurant in 1992.
A cafe, bar, and restaurant operate here, and art exhibitions and music evenings hold.
What Should You Watch in the Maiden’s Tower?
The Maiden’s Tower rises 23 meters above the Bosphorus and 200 meters from the Uskudar shore. It consists of three layers. The upper layer capsule has a light element that emits flashes of white and red every three seconds, amplified by an octagonal prism. The towering crown with a short tower on which the Turkish flag flies.
It is worth going up to the tower’s observation deck to admire the panorama of the Asian side of Istanbul and watch the ships move on the Bosphorus.
There is a restaurant at the bottom of Maiden’s Tower. Turkish cuisine is served in medieval stone interiors, while the restaurant offers panoramic Bosphorus views. There is live music every day except Monday.
Maiden Tower Legends
Like any exciting landmark, the Maiden’s Tower has legends about its origin. There are two magnificent versions of where the Maiden’s Tower came from on the island.
The first of the tales are as follows. In ancient times, the ruler of these places, whose main treasure was his only daughter, was the great Byzantine emperor. Once, an oracle asked for an audience in the palace and prophesied that the girl would die on the day she turned 18.
The emperor could not let the princess die. So he ordered a strong island tower to be built and imprisoned his heir. The emperor’s daughter was surrounded by the love and affection of her father and didn’t need anything.
He celebrated every birthday in his tower, and nothing was a harbinger of trouble. But something terrible happened on his eighteenth birthday. The emperor went to the island to congratulate his beloved and brought him a large fruit basket.
The girl was pleased with her father’s gift and hurried to open the basket. But it turned out that a poisonous snake was hiding among the ripe fruit. She stung the princess, and her father could never save her.
The second legend will be no less tragic than the first. It tells about the unhappy love of a simple young man Leander and a beauty named Gero, the maid of the temple of Aphrodite. Of course, the priestesses of the temple of love were not required to meet and fall in love with men. But as you know, you cannot give orders to the heart. That’s what happened to the Gero.
At one festivities dedicated to the goddess of love, she meets and falls in love with Leander. The young man fell in love with this beauty with his whole being. Lovers who broke the ban began to meet secretly. To do this, they came up with a special symbol. At the right moment for the meeting, the Gero lit a large bright lantern and placed it in the window at the top of the tower. Waiting for the coveted light, Leandra immediately sailed to his lover on a date.
Unfortunately, one day he revealed their secret. The temple’s high priest learned of the meetings and decided to eliminate the annoying young man. But it had to be done wisely. The priest devised a cunning plan. The day Gero lit the lantern once more, he called the girl to him and ordered his assistants to put out the fire. When Leandro couldn’t find the way to the tower in the dark of night, his boat crashed into the rocks. When the hero learns of the youth’s death, he doesn’t accept the loss and throws himself from the top of the tower into the abyss of sea waters. In memory of this story, Maiden’s Tower has a second name: Leandro’s Tower.
How Do I Get to Maiden’s Tower?
If you are on the European side of Istanbul and in the Sultanahmet area, your journey will start from Kabatas pier. However, boats departing from Kabatas pier operate only on weekends. But first, you have to go with the T1 tram line. The last stop for you will be Kabatas. If you get there, stand facing the Bosphorus. Then on your left, a little further from the pier, you will see the boats going to the Maiden’s Tower. If you are on the Asian side, everything is much simpler. It would be best if you went to the pier in the Uskudar area. Boats depart from here on weekdays and weekends.
Is Maiden’s Tower Closed?
Renovation work has been going on since 2021, so the Maiden’s Tower is closed.
How old is the Maiden’s Tower in Istanbul?
Maiden’s Tower will turn 298 years old in 2023.