No one is certain of when Galata Tower was built; however, most historians believe it was during Byzantine Emperor Justinian's reign in 507 CE. The Genoese called it the Tower of Christ, while the Byzantines named the structure; Great Tower. Galata Tower has had many uses throughout history, but today it is one of Istanbul's most popular tourist attractions, standing tall, proud, and majestic against Istanbul's skyline. Often appearing in mainstream travel brochures, if you happen to be in Istanbul's Galata area, the building that stands nearly 67 metres in height is a must-see.
Guide to Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi)
The history of the tower is anything but simple. After an earthquake in 1509, Ottoman architect Hayrettin rebuilt the badly damaged Genoese Galata tower. However, the building was a prison during Ottoman Suleiman's reign; and prisoners worked at the Bosphorus naval yard. After this, astrologer Takiyeddin Efendi used it as an observatory, then it closed, and in the late 16th century, Ottoman Sultan Murat III turned it back into a prison.
1638 saw aviator Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi fly using artificial wings from Galata Tower across the Bosphorus to Uskudar. Towards the 17th century, the Ottoman Mehter Band played at the tower, and after 1717, it was a watchtower for fires because, in those days, Istanbul locals used wood to build houses, but this was a fire hazard. Ironically, in 1794, a fire occurred at the tower.
During renovations, Sultan Selim III included an additional room; alas, yet another fire occurred in 1831. Sultan Mahmut commissioned rebuilding and added two floors and a conical shaped roof. A strong storm in 1875 caused much damage, but it was not until 1960 that much-needed repairs took place. In 1990, more renovations happened, and Galata tower opened to the public as a tourist attraction.
Now run by a private tour company, the nine-floor tower has an elevator to reach seven floors and stairs to reach the last two and the top viewing platform. Views from the observation balcony memorise all those brave enough to conquer their fear of heights. Stretching far into the distance, they are especially prominent at sunset, when mosques turn into silhouettes against the bright orange sky.
About Visiting Galata Tower
Galata tower opens seven days from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., but if you visit mid-day, expect long queues to get in since the building only accommodates limited people at one time. Many people visit during the day to see amazing panoramic views from the observation platform and buy souvenirs from the shop. They then purchase tickets to the night Turkish show with belly dancers, folklore dances and Turkish musicians. To get to Galata Tower, either cross Galata bridge from the Eminonu district of Istanbul or head down from Istiklal avenue in Taksim into Karakoy.
About Karakoy District of Istanbul
Galata tower is in the Karakoy district of Beyoglu, Istanbul city. During the 19th century, this banking site of Istanbul was a desirable place to live, with much prestigious status. The district was also multicultural in every way, with large numbers of Turks, Greeks and Jews living side by side, and then during the Russian revolution, many Russians also set up homes. These days, Karakoy's somewhat chic reputation includes street-side cafes and wine boutiques.
Karakoy is also a major ferry port to other areas in Istanbul city. Since this is a favourite form of travel for many Istanbul locals, the area sees a fair amount of traffic during peak times. Additionally, the cruise ship port hosts many international ships. Although visitors need approval and prior tickets to enter, the nearby Quincentennial Foundation Museum of Turkish Jews near Galata tower is an exciting journey into local Jews' lives over 500 years.
Also Of Interest
Galata Bridge: Sitting nearby, another worthy tourist attraction of Istanbul city is the Galata bridge, connecting both sides of European Istanbul via the Golden Horn. From anglers lining both sides to ferries crossing underneath to seafood and fish restaurants on the bottom half, walking along Galata bridge gives excellent insight into daily life in Istanbul.
Taksim Area: Also including the famous Istiklal Avenue, explore the Taksim area near Galata tower. From favourite places to dine to the best historical landmarks, museums, and trendy must-see places, tag these landmarks to your itinerary and head there after Galata Tower for a perfect sightseeing day in Istanbul.