Geographically, the Maiden Tower is located on a small, natural island two hundred meters from the coast of the Uskudar region and rises 23 meters above the Bosphorus.
Today the tower is a three-tiered building – at its base there is a pavilion, then the central floor and an open gallery with a balcony at its top, from which a magnificent view opens.
You can get to Kyz Kulesi by boat from Salacak pier, which is about 20 minutes walk from Uskudar pier.
Maiden Tower (Kız Kulesi): history
Opposite Scutari, right at the confluence of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn, rises a stunning snow-white tower. This area has been talked about since ancient times. On this territory, the Athenian Hares spent his last journey on his wife, who accompanied him for many years in all military campaigns.
During the existence of the Byzantine Empire, a tower, built on the initiative of the Emperor Manuel, stood on this place. This tower was part of the fortress. During periods of hostilities, the tower was connected to the European coast by a huge metal chain, the other end of which stretched to the Seraisky Cape. If this chain was pulled, then the Bosphorus was blocked, and the movement of ships along it became impossible.
The history of this unique building has no exact data – neither the year of the beginning, nor the completion of the construction of this mysterious monument. This place has witnessed everything that the magnificent city of Istanbul has faced during its history. The first reliable information about the tower appeared around 400 BC.
Having become a witness of the ancient era and restored during the Byzantine and then the Ottoman Empire, it appeared before us in the unique form that we can observe.
In the period before our era, the island on which the Maiden’s Tower is now located was part of the Asian coast, over time, having separated from it, it entrenched itself where it is now.
Until today, the Maiden’s Tower had two other names: Damalis and Leandros. Damalis she was named after the wife of the ruler of Athens, Kharis. When his wife Damalis died, she was buried on the shore, and it was in her honor that the Tower was named. During the Byzantine period, it was also called “arkla” which meant “little castle”.
After the conquest of Istanbul by the Ottoman Empire, the tower was demolished and a wooden structure was made in its place, which was destroyed by fire in 1719.
It was built in stone under the direction of the architect Damat Ibrahim Pasha (Nevşehirli Damat İbrahim Paşa). The cone-shaped part of the tower was removed and a pavilion with glass was built in its place. Later, a leaded dome was added to the pavilion.
The renowned calligrapher, Rakım Efendi, added an inscription on the marble painted by Sultan Mahmut II, which was located above the entrance door to the tower.
In 1857 a light source – a lantern was added to the tower, and by 1920, the tower and its surroundings were provided with an automatic lighting system.
Throughout its history, the Maiden Tower has been used for completely different purposes – as a tax collection point for merchant ships, as a defensive tower and as a lighthouse.
During the cholera epidemic in 1830, the tower was used as a quarantine area and hospital, as well as a radio station. Then, for several years, it was used again as a lighthouse.
The tower was transferred to the Department of Defense in 1964, and in 1982 to the maritime industry. The building and grounds have been restored. After 1995, the place was rented from the Ministry of Tourism by Hamoğlu Holding for a period of 49 years and currently the Maiden Tower is open to the public as a restaurant.
Interesting fact: The Maiden’s Tower was captured in one of the scenes of the James Bond film, released in 1999 – The World is Not Enough.
Legends of the Maiden’s Tower
Like any interesting attraction, the Maiden Tower has its own legends about its origins.
There are two fairy-tale versions about where the maiden tower came from on the island.
The first of the legends says: in ancient times, the ruler of these places was a formidable Byzantine emperor, whose main treasure was his only daughter. Once a clairvoyant asked for an audience in the palace, who prophesied that the girl would die on the day she turned 18. The emperor could not allow the death of the princess, so he ordered to build a strong island tower, and after that he imprisoned his own heiress in it. The daughter of the emperor was surrounded by the love and affection of her father and did not need anything. She met every birthday in her tower, and nothing foreshadowed trouble. But on the day of her eighteenth birthday, a terrible thing happened: the emperor sailed to the island to congratulate his beloved, and brought her a huge basket of fruit. The girl was delighted with her father’s gift and hurried to open the basket. But it turned out, that among the ripe fruits a poisonous snake was hiding. She stung the princess, and her father was never able to save her.
The second legend is no less tragic than the first. It tells about the unhappy love of a simple youth Leandre and a servant of the temple of Aphrodite, a beauty named Gero. Of course, the priestesses of the temple of love were not supposed to meet and fall in love with men themselves. But the heart, as you know, cannot be ordered. This is what happened with Gero. At one of the festivities dedicated to the goddess of love, she met Leander and fell in love with him. The young man also fell in love with the beauty with all his heart. Violating the prohibitions, the lovers began to meet in secret. For this they came up with a special symbol. At a suitable time for the meeting, Hero would light a large, bright lantern and place it in the window opening at the very top of the tower. Leandra, having waited for the cherished light, immediately sailed to his beloved on a date.
Unfortunately, one day their secret was revealed. The high priest of the temple found out about the meetings and decided to get rid of the annoying young man. But it had to be done cunningly. And the priest came up with an insidious plan. On the day when Hero once again lit the lantern, he called the girl to him, and ordered his assistants to extinguish the fire. Leandro was unable to find his way to the tower in the darkness of the night, and his boat crashed on the rocks. Upon learning of the death of the young man, Gero did not accept the loss and threw herself from the top of the tower into the abyss of sea waters. In memory of this story, the Maiden Tower has a second name – Leandro Tower.
How to get to the Maiden’s Tower
If you are on the European side of Istanbul, in the Sultanahmet area, your journey will start from the Kabataş pier. However, boats from Kabatash dock run only on weekends. But first you need to take the T1 tram. For you, Kabatash will be your final stop.
If you got to it, face the Bosphorus – then on the left, a little further from the pier, you will see boats that go to the Maiden Tower.
If you are on the Asian side, then everything is much easier – you need to get to the Salacak pier, which is located in the Uskudar area. Boats run from here on weekdays and weekends. You can get to the Salajak pier from Uskudar by buses 6, 11C, 11D, 11K, 11M, 11T, 11ST and 12C to the Kız Kulesi stop. Or walk to it (15 minutes).
The price of a boat ticket is included in the price of visiting the tower (40 liras).
Schedule of boats to the Maiden Tower on weekdays:
- Salajak – Maiden’s Tower – Salajak from 9:00 to 18:30, closing at 19:00.
Schedule of boats to the Maiden Tower on weekends:
- Kabatas – Maiden’s Tower from 10:00 to 18:00 every hour.
- Maiden Tower – Kabatas departs for Kabatas 15 minutes before every hour.
- Salajak – Maiden’s Tower – Salajak from 10:00 to 18:30 every 15 minutes.
- Closing at 19:00.
Maiden’s Tower: visit and cost in 2021
The Maiden’s Tower is open to the public as a museum from 9:00 to 19:00.
The cost of visiting the museum in 2021 is 40 Turkish liras, for children, students and people over 60 years old – 20 Turkish liras.
You can get to the island to visit the Maiden Tower on weekdays from the Salajak pier, from which from 9:00 to 18:30 small boats run every 15 minutes. The visit to the museum ends at 19:00.
On weekends, boats start sailing from the Salajak pier from 10:00 to 18:00, also every 15 minutes.
You can visit the tower not only as a historical object, but also as a restaurant, the interior of which is made of stone medieval walls, and from the windows you can admire a panoramic view of the Bosphorus. The menu in the restaurant is Turkish and European.
The restaurant is open throughout the day and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
For those who want to enjoy not only a beautiful view, but also to find out what a Turkish breakfast is like, it is suggested to visit the restaurant between 09:00 and 13:00. Before visiting, be sure to book a table, you can do this on the website (in English):
The cost of breakfast, together with the entrance to the museum (serpme kahvaltı), is 90 Turkish liras, on weekends – 110 liras.
For those who visit the Maiden Tower during the day, there is a cafeteria in the premises on the ground floor from 12:00.
In the evening, live music is played in the restaurant on all days except Mondays. The romantic calm atmosphere is conducive to a leisurely dinner and pleasant conversation. There are two menus to choose from 250 and 300 Turkish liras (drinks are paid separately).
In the evening, the restaurant does not accept visitors with children under 7 years old, as well as customers who do not comply with the dress code (shorts, capri pants, sportswear are not welcome).