Historical Towers of Istanbul and Their Stories

For sure, the towers stand out as the most significant architectural items that signify the fascinating silhouette of Istanbul. Such romantic figures, which become more evident in particular when the sunset comes up, attribute a poetic meaning to Istanbul. 





Rising with all their majesty at different spots in the city, those towers with fascinating beauty arouse interest with their stories as well. What about looking over the historical towers of Istanbul, which have become the subject of songs and poems, and their stories in more detail now? So, let's get started. If you wish to explore Istanbul with its many historical sites and magnificent architecture in addition to its towers, you can also take a look at our article, titled “Must-See Historical Sites in Istanbul”, as well. 



The Maiden's Tower / Uskudar

Being one of the most ancient and special symbols of the Bosphorus, the Maiden's Tower is located in the middle of the sea off the Uskudar Salacak coast. We can also say that it is a little it lonely and sorrowful since it is just in the middle of the sea. The history of the Maiden's Tower is quite ancient. It's erection goes back to the 5th century. Having built in the 12th century for defensive purposes by Manuel Komnenons I, the Eastern Roman Emperor, the tower has been used as an exile point, customs station and even a lighthouse throughout history. 



The Maiden's Tower, also known as a point where taxes were collected from the ships passing through the Bosphorus once upon a time, suffered damage due to the earthquake in 1509, and it has been repaired afterwards. However, the Maiden's Tower, which has experienced another misfortune in 1721, survived a fire on that date. The Maiden's Tower, which was renovated and repaired for many times in the following years, experienced another restoration in 2021. 




During the day, it is possible to reach the Maiden's Tower by private boats departing from the shore. The oldest known legend about the Maiden's Tower is as follows: A king learns from a fortune teller that his daughter will die to snakebite, and he has the tower built in the middle of the sea to protect his daughter. However, the king cannot escape the prophecy because the snake, coming out of one of the fruit baskets sent to the tower, bites the princess,and the princess dies. 




The Maiden's Tower is also associated often to the Galata Tower on the opposite shore. The two towers, namely the Maiden's Tower and the Galata Tower, separated by the Bosporus, symbolize the lovers who could never meet, as well. Bedri Rahmi Eyuboglu, the famous poet, emphasizes such love in his poem titled the Istanbul Epic with the lines “But if the Maiden's Tower was smart, it would reach the Galata Tower and they would have many children”. 




Galata Tower / Beyoglu

Galata Tower is one of the most romantic, famous and most popular towers in Istanbul. Considered as one of the oldest towers not only within the borders of Istanbul but also worldwide, Galata Tower is located within the borders of Beyoğlu district. From its location, it sends greetings both to the Maiden's Tower on the opposite shore and also to the Historical Peninsula.




Having built as a watchtower between 1335 and 1349 by the Genoese, Galata Tower has been used for many different purposes. The tower, which was used as a warehouse when Istanbul was conquered, has also been used as a fire watchtower and a place where prisoners of war were kept over the years. Just like the Maiden's Tower, Galata Tower has been repaired and renovated for many times over the years.    




Having suffered a major earthquake in 1509 and a fire in 1831, Galata Tower has passed through some changes in terms of architecture. The tower, which became a touristic structure upon the performance of the restoration works between 1965 and 1967, has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in 2013.  




The most well-known legend about Galata Tower, which makes itself noticeable even from a distance with its cone-like roof and brick structure, is as follows: Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi wears wooden wings and tries to fly from Galata Tower to the Maiden's Tower. His aim is to take the love letters that Galata Tower wrote to the Maiden's Tower. However, all the letters are buried in the waters of the Bosphorus just because of the wind. There is also a belief that you will marry whoever you climb this tower with for the first time. In fact, it is rumored that if you are destined to be unable to marry the person you went up to the tower with, you will encounter obstacles while climbing the tower. 



Beyazit Tower / Fatih

Beyazit Tower is one of the ancient and famous towers in Istanbul, which was built in 1749 in the Beyazit district with wooden materials. This tower was built for the purpose to monitor and report the fires that occur frequently in Istanbul.





There is an inscription with the tughra of Mahmut II on the section facing to the Beyazit Square of the Beyazıt Tower, which has suffered fire for several times just like the other tower. For many years, this tower has served as a center for informing the people of Istanbul about what the weather would be like. When the tower is illuminated in blue, it meant that the weather would be clear the next day, and when it is illuminated in green, it meant that it would be rainy, and when it is illuminated in yellow, it meant that it would be foggy, and when it is illuminated in red, it meant that it would be snowy.    



Marble Tower / Fatih

Marble Tower is another ancient tower in Istanbul. The tower, which has a central courtyard, was built in a four-storey form using marble blocks. Existence of the walls, battlements and ramps in the tower, which have been used for different purposes throughout history, evidences that those were used for military purposes, and the cisterns, which were later included in the interior, indicate that they were used as residences.



Dolmabahce Clock Tower / Besiktas

Dolmabahce Clock Tower is another tower that ranks first among the architectural riches of Istanbul. Dolmabahçe Clock Tower, which is located between the Bezmialem Valide Sultan Mosque and the Dolmabahçe Palace Sultanate Gate, was built between 1890 and 1895 by Abulhamid II.  




Having an extremely stylish and eye-catching architecture, Dolmabahce Clock Tower also attracts the attention of foreign tourists. The 27-meter-high clock tower was built by Sarkis, the architect, in a neo-baroque and empirical style. Dolmabahçe Clock Tower, one of the most valuable structures of Besiktas district, adds a distinct value to Istanbul.   




Yildiz Clock Tower / Besiktas

Located within the Yıldız Palace complex in Besiktas district of Istanbul, Yildiz Clock Tower is located in the southwestern part of the courtyard of the Yildiz Mosque. There is a barometer and a clock on the outer surface of the tower, which was built in an orientalist style. Impressing everyone with its elegant and eye-catching architecture, Yildiz Clock Tower is, indeed, worth seeing among the towers in Istanbul.


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  • Danielle S. Wyatt
  • 14-04-2023

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