The Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi) is the most recognizable landmark of the Golden Horn. The cylindrical tower with its conical cap rises high above all other buildings on the east bank of the Golden Horn and provides a magnificent 360 degree view of Istanbul.
Watchtower, Prison and Observatory
The original tower was built in 1348 and called the Tower of Christ (Christea Turris). As the highest part of the fortifications surrounding the Genoese citadel of Galata, the tower served as a watchtower.
After the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453, the tower became a prison and naval depot. During the 19th century it was a fire lookout post in order to quickly detect frequent fire outbreaks in the city’s mainly wooden houses.
Galata Tower Today
In the 1967, after three years of restoration, the Galata Tower reopened its doors. The present tower has been restored to the appearance it had under the reign of Mehmet II during the Ottoman Empire.
The external diameter of the Galata Tower at its base is 16,45 meters, while the inside diameter is only 8,95 meters. The thickness of the walls at its base is 3,75 meters, diminishing to a mere 20 centimeters at the top floor. The nine-story tower is 66,90 meters tall (62,59 meter without the ornament top) and was the city’s tallest structure at the time of construction.
There are two elevators taking visitors to the 7th floor. From there you have to take two flights of stairs to reach the observation deck. Step outside on the balcony, walk around the tower’s summit and enjoy the spectacular panoramic 360 degree view of the city.
When you’re done, by all means disregard the overpriced and overrated restaurant, but instead go one floor down to the pleasant cafeteria if you want to enjoy the view while having a drink.
The moment you step outside the elevator at the seventh floor, you can read an urban legend that tells the story of Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi. As an early aviator, in 1348 he allegedly flew with his handmade artificial wings from the Galata Tower over the Bosphorus all the way to Üsküdar on the Asian Side, a 3,3 km flight.
Although current scientific findings prove that it was (and still is) virtually impossible to perform such a ‘tour de force’, the then ruling Sultan Murad IV was so impressed by, and at the same time scared of, Çelebi’s capabilities that he sent him to Algeria on exile.