The Maiden’s Tower – A Glowing Landmark of Istanbul
Istanbul features prominently in most travel plans. It wears its culture and history well, blending them into an exciting city with much to offer to travelers. In addition, it is a historical heritage site through its mosques, basilicas, and ancient bazaars.
Istanbul includes many splendid places to visit, but the one that enhances its historical beauty is the Maiden’s Tower. Maiden’s Tower or Kizkulesi Tower is set on the tiny islet on the southern side of the Bosphorus. It is almost 180 meters away from the shore of the district of Salacak in Üsküdar.
This monument is rich in history and has an intriguing background. Moreover, some legends are also connected with it, so it’s worth exploring.
All About the Old Maiden’s Tower
History and Construction
Even though nobody knows the exact date, it can be estimated from the sources that the Maiden’s Tower was built sometime around 340 BCE. Thus, it is a 2500 years old historic tower that stands proudly on a small island in Istanbul.
When the reign of the Ottoman Empire began in Turkey, the old tower was replaced with a new wooden tower. It was then used as a watchtower until an earthquake damaged it in 1509. Then again, in 1721, the wooden tower suffered a disaster when it turned into ashes due to an incident.
Then Nevşehirli Damat İbrahim Paşa, the head architect of the city, rebuilt the tower with stones. Later, the dome made of lead was added to the tower in addition to the glass kiosk.
In 1857, a lantern was added to it. Then, in 1920, the automatic lighting system in the tower was established, which gave this tower more popularity as a lighthouse.
From 1964 to 1982, the Maiden’s Tower remained in the hands of the Defence Ministry before becoming the property of Maritime Enterprises. The tower was turned into many things throughout the centuries, such as an observation terrace, a tax collection area for merchants, a hospital during cholera, a radio station, etc.
The final repair was completed in 1998 when the Istanbul tower was turned into a restaurant after investing 3 million dollars. Nowadays, the Maiden’s Tower acts as a sophisticated restaurant and cafe for visitors. Read more about Today’s Maiden’s Tower below.
Fun Fact: The tower was featured in the 1999 James Bond film “The world is not enough,” in which terrorists planted a nuclear submarine beneath the tower to be exploded in the heart of the city.
Stories and Legends
Many stories and legends are associated with The Maiden’s Tower of Istanbul, which is why it is also called by many other names. Mostly, people know it by the name of Leander’s Tower (Tower of Leandros). Damalis was the other name given to it. The name Maiden’s Tower was also given to it because of an old legend.
Let us learn about the Maiden’s Tower legends to understand the story behind its different names.
● Legend of Leandros
It is the love story of Leandros and a beautiful lady whose name was “Hero.” However, there was a big obstacle standing in front of their love. It was forbidden for Hero to marry Leandros because she was a nun and a devotee of Aphrodite. But great love wouldn’t stop at any cost. Hero used to live in the Maiden’s Tower. She burnt a fire every night to let Leandros find his way from the sea to her. Unfortunately, a night came when the storm put out Hero’s fire. That night Leandros lost his way in the sea and died. Hero stared at the waves and waited for him all night long. Finally, the sea calmed down, the sun rose, and the body of Leandros was found. The young lady couldn’t bear this pain, and she let herself fall from the tower into the sea. Since then, the Tower has become popular as Leander’s Tower.
● Legend of Damalis
Another story is about an Athenian general who buried his wife Damalis in the tower. For this reason, the tower was called Damalis Tower as well.
● Legend of The Maiden’s Tower
Once upon a time, the Byzantine emperor had a beautiful daughter. An oracle told him that his daughter was destined to die at 18, bitten by the snake. The emperor got furious, and to protect her daughter, he built a tower in the sea and locked her in this tower. No one was allowed to visit her daughter.
But unfortunately, no one can run away from fate. On his daughter’s 18th birthday, the emperor thinks that he has dodged the oracle, so he comes to meet her with a basket of fruit. Sadly, inside the basket of grapes, a snake was hiding, and it bit the girl as soon as she opened the basket. The girl died in her father’s arms. Thus, the Maiden’s Tower is named after the young maiden princess.
About Today’s Maiden’s Tower
The modern Maiden’s Tower is one of Istanbul’s most famous and refined dine-in. Here, you can enjoy fine Turkish dining and get a 360-degree view of Istanbul. This spot is also famous for summer weddings.
The Maiden’s Tower Restaurant Istanbul
On the top of the tower with its balcony, the Kuledebar cafe is built. When you visit the Maiden’s Tower inside, unique historical artwork will welcome you, located on the stairwell landings up to the tower’s summit.
The ground and the first floor of the tower house a restaurant. You will enjoy the food as Maiden’s Tower restaurant menu offers international cuisines, in addition, to Turkish food.
The restaurant offers fixed-rate menus that cost around 250-300 TL for each individual, with all beverages being extra.
You can visit Maiden’s Tower every day from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM. You can also enjoy a romantic dinner with your spouse or family; to make a wonderful memory with the mystical atmosphere and romantic music.
Maiden’s Tower Istanbul How to Get There?
As it is in the middle of the sea, you will take a ferry from Üsküdar and Kabataş for less than 5 dollars to reach there. From 09.15 to 18.30, tower services from Üsküdar arrive every 15 minutes. It only takes almost 5 minutes of a ride from the Asian side of Istanbul. On weekends, Kabataş-Tower Maiden’s trips run every hour from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Maiden’s Tower Istanbul Entrance Fee
Every beautiful thing requires you to pay something in return. So, in this way, the Maiden’s Tower also has some entrance fees. However, the tower requires only 30 TL fees to enter.
The historical edifice Maiden’s Tower is located on Salacak’s tiny island. The Maiden’s Tower Kuledebar and restaurants are open to local and foreign tourists every day of the week.
You can take your loved ones to see this majestic Tower. You can also take a journey to the Tower to experience the pleasures of life in a bygone era.
The best time to visit the Maiden’s Tower is sunset and at night. That’s when the place illuminates and brightens the sea.