Going Gaga for the Galata Tower
Alex has a fondness for towers, so we try to find the tallest point or tower in most of the cities we travel to. I’m not sure which building is technically the tallest in Istanbul, but by far one of the coolest tower experiences we’ve had was going up to the top of the Galata Tower at night.
The Galata Tower is a medieval tower built of stone, perched on a hillside in the Galata neighborhood, which sits just north of the Golden Horn. The Tower itself is only about 70 meters tall, but since it’s on a hill, it’s got a great view of the Old City. There are two elevators that carry you up to the top, where there is a cafe and a restaurant.
Interestingly, the tower has an Italian history. It was built in 1348 by the Genoese, who were only one of several Italian city-states that set up trading centers in Istanbul. Most of the other Italian neighborhoods were across the Golden Horn, but the Genoese built their fortifications in Kadakoy. The base of the tower has walls that are nine feet thick – which is perhaps part of the reason why the tower is still standing today!
We heard several stories about the tower, but I haven’t had time to research how many of them are true. We heard that it was briefly a prison for Christian prisoners, that the first man flew with mechanical wings from its peak to a town 6km away, and that it was used to spot fires throughout the city.
The best thing is the view, obviously. You have a great line up the Bosphorus, but you can also see the Aya Sofia and the Blue Mosque on the hillside opposite. We couldn’t get enough of looking out over Istanbul!
What I didn’t care for, however, were the crowds. It’s a very (VERY!) narrow catwalk up there, with minimal safety measures. There is a small, partially obscured sign asking everyone to travel around the tower in a clock-wise direction only, to avoid passing problems, but no one seemed to see the sign except for us. Also, the floor on which you’re walking is angled downward (I assume for drainage?), but there were a few times when I was holding onto the railings firmly!
I know there is some debate between people who prefer to go up in the daytime, vs. the night view. The entrance fee is only 10Lira, so I think it’s not unreasonable to do both, but we really loved the night view. It was quiet and clear up there (except for the idiot’s smoking), and I loved how the moon reflected off the water.
The below is the same shot as the above, but without some “artistic” license (i.e. shaking!) Don’t worry – it wasn’t an earthquake!!!