Galata Tower has been one of the landmarks of Istanbul for centuries. Built in the 14th century by Genoese merchants to replace an older Byzantine tower, the tower is around 67 meters tall and has a diameter of 16.5 meters. Galata Tower was originally named “Christea Turris” or Tower of Christ. During the 18th century Ottomans used it as an observation tower, especially for fires which could easily spread in neighbourhoods of traditional wooden houses. Today, Galata Tower is a major tourist attraction offering one of the best views of the old city looking over the entrance of the Golden Horn.
Maiden’s Tower is built on a small rock around 200 meters from the shores of Uskudar (Scutari or ancient Chrysopolis) on the Bosphorus. The first use of the tiny island goes back to 300-400 BC when Byzantion was an ancient Greek colony, used as a customs station for ships passing through the Bosphorus strait. The first tower is believed to be built by the Byzantine emperor Comnenus in the 12th century. Since then the Maiden’s Tower (also known as Leander’s Tower) was restored numerous times and used for many purposes including watch tower, light house, quarantine station, radio station, and more recently as a café and restaurant.
There are several legends about the Maiden’s Tower. The best known is the story of the emperor’s daughter who was prophesized to be killed by a snake on her 18th birthday. To protect his daughter the emperor puts her in a tower on the Bosphorus where no snake could reach her. On her 18th birthday the emperor goes to the tower with a basket of grapes to celebrate, however a snake hidden inside the basket bites the princess and she dies in her father’s arms.