Galata Tower

According to some, the most beautiful city in Turkey is Istanbul, and Galata Tower is one of the most important constructs in İstanbul with its history, story, and dazzling features. Besides its legends, Galata Tower is known to be built for fire observation purposes and later was used as a place to hold prisoners. Additionally, you can see a wide view of Istanbul’s beautiful scenery from the Galata Tower. 

In time, Galata Tower has become a significant symbol, an icon for İstanbul. It inspired so many people with its legends, history, and beauty. It serves as a meeting point in Istanbul, Beyoğlu. Today, when individuals imagine a picture of İstanbul, Galata Tower is one of the first items that would come to mind. In a list of what to do in İstanbul, visiting Galata Tower would definitely be there. It has witnessed lots of things in history, and even today important occurrences still take place in Galata Tower. On important days (like October 29 Republic Day), a relevant picture that would remind you of the day is projected to the Galata Tower and it looks absolutely wonderful. 

Visiting Galata Tower

Aerial View of Galata Tower
Aerial View of Galata Tower

An Istanbul visitation without seeing the Galata Tower would be very deficient. Visiting Galata Tower must be on your to-do list in Istanbul, in your bucket list, and even on your list of places to visit before you die. As you plan your trip to Istanbul, do not forget to put visiting Galata Tower in your agenda according to your preferences, you need to arrange the time, make your reservations and learn how to get there in the right way.

How do you get to the Galata Tower?

Galata Tower is located in a quite central spot. You can go there from various locations with various means easily. It is in the Beyoğlu district. The ways to get to the Galata Tower differs according to your starting point.

From Taksim square to the Galata Tower, the distance is quite short, and you can go on foot. It is only 2 kilometers, and it will take around 10 or 15 minutes to walk. You can follow the signboards directed to the Galata Tower and find your way easily.

If you are going to the Galata Tower from Kadıköy, you can use the steamboat to Karaköy. As you get off from the steamboat, you will see the Galata Tower, and you can walk there.

From Sultanahmet, you can use the tram and stop at the Karaköy station. Again, as you get off the tram you will see the Galata Tower and you can walk there.

From Beşiktaş, you may prefer to take one of the buses that go to Taksim and then walk from there. And if you want, you may take the Eminönü or Karaköy steamboat. If you take the Eminönü steamboat, you need to walk over the Galata Bridge.

If you take any bus that goes to Taksim from any place, you can walk to the Galata Tower.

If you are going to the Galata Tower in your car, the address is Bereketzade, Galata Kulesi Street, 34421, Beyoğlu/Istanbul. But it is not a good idea to go there by car since parking options are extremely limited.

Visiting hours of the Galata Tower

Galata Tower is open to visitations every day. Visitation hours differ in summertime and wintertime. In the summertime (April 1 – November 1) it is open to visitations between 10 AM and 10 PM. In wintertime (November 1 – April 1) it is open to visitations between 10 AM and 7 PM.

Entrance fee of the Galata Tower

The entrance fee for the Galata Tower is 50 Turkish liras.

Best time to visit the Galata Tower

Due to its magnificence, Galata Tower attracts so many visitors every day. And it is usually quite crowded, most people prefer to go there around 3 PM on weekends. You may want to visit in the early morning if you want more of a calm experience in the Galata Tower. But I must add that sunsets in the Galata tower are worth watching.

Additionally, at nighttime, the lightning of the Galata Tower is just another level. I must say, Galata Tower has its unique beauty in every hour of the day. My recommendation is, if you have enough time, go and see the Galata Tower as the sun rises, as the sun sets, and as the sky turns completely black.

How long to spend in the Galata Tower?

Besides waiting in the queue, the time spent there is totally up to you. You might want to enjoy the view as long as or as little as you want, you might want to take pictures, or you may even want to visit the restaurant in the Galata Tower.

Besides the time spent in the Galata Tower, you might want to know how long to spend in the Galata Tower area. That area is a quite rich area in terms of historical landmarks and everyday life, so it would not be exaggerating if I say you can explore the Galata area in a full day. Of course, it is based on an unplanned and very detailed trip to Galata. If you do not have enough time, you just can make a list of the places you want to visit and go see those places

Why is the Galata Tower famous?

Galata Tower is famous for the wonderful panoramic view of Istanbul, in which you can see even the Prince Islands. Legends and stories add a soul to the Galata Tower, and you feel like you are in a novel. Additionally, its historical value cannot be overlooked, it has witnessed a lot of historically important events, a lot of symbolic values have been assigned to it, even the Beyoğlu municipality’s logo composes of the Galata Tower.

View of the Old Town, Haliç and Galata Bridge from the top of the Galata Tower
View of the Old Town, Haliç and Galata Bridge from the top of the Galata Tower

The most important contributors to Galata Tower’s fame could be the legends and its view, both from the Galata Tower and as you look to the Galata Tower outside. Even only looking at the Galata Tower from a far distance gives you pleasure. As I mentioned before, Galata Tower is the most important component of the Istanbul silhouette. As you imagine Istanbul and if you have any sort of information about Istanbul, Galata Tower will come to your mind. It is one of the most important symbols of Istanbul

Architectural properties of the Galata Tower

Galata Tower carries properties of Romanesque architecture, which consists of a combination of Roman and Byzantine architectures. It is characterized by round shapes, thick walls, big towers, groin vaults, and symmetry.

Galata Tower’s height is 69,90 meters (approximately 229 feet) and it has a total of 11 floors. The tower has an elevator inside which can lift you to the 7th floor, and arrive at the 9th floor, which is the maximum level you can go in the tower, you need to use the stairs. The inner diameter of the circular area is 8,95 meters. The tower weighs approximately 10 thousand tons.

The tower was built in the system of masonry rubble stone mesh. Limestones in dark gray and bluish colors are widely used in the tower. Some bricks have Ottoman-style decorations on them. Nowadays, the lighting style of the Galata Tower is on the agenda and everyone that sees Galata Tower at night time basically falls in love with it. It adds a mystical and mysterious vibe to the power and strengthens its beautiful architectural properties.

History of the Galata Tower

It is not precisely known when the Galata Tower was built, but sources refer to a period around B.C 500s, in the time of Byzantine emperor Justinianus. Galata Tower is one of the many buildings that was built in his period, but Galata Tower always had a special place among them. At that time, Galata Tower was known as “Christea Turris”, or as Christ’s Tower by Genoese. By Byzantines, it was referred to as “Megalos Pyrgos”, which means “Big Tower”.

View of Galata Tower and Golden Horn
View of Galata Tower and Golden Horn

Galata Tower was rebuilt in the 14th century by the Genoese. Galata Tower was raised in height in the 15th century. In an earthquake that occurred in the year 1509, Galata Tower was damaged tremendously. After that earthquake, the tower was restored by Ottoman architect Hayreddin. In the period of Suleiman, the Magnificent, the tower served as a place for keeping prisoners. Skulls and bones were found in pits below the ground. These are from the times when the tower was used as a dungeon. In addition, the Galata tower has witnessed some suicide cases.

 In the 18th century, due to its ability to see Istanbul comprehensively, it was used as an observation spot, for observing fires. Yet in the year 1794, the tower got damaged in a fire and subsequently restored by Selim III. Unfortunately, the tower was witnessed and damaged in another fire in the year 1831 and restored again by Sultan Mahmud. In the restoration that was done by Sultan Mahmud, the conical tip of today’s Galata Tower was added. The most recent restoration was conducted in the year 1967. Today, Galata Tower is used for nothing but tourism purposes. 

What does “Galata” mean?

At different points of time, Galata Tower referred to different names, such as “Megalos Pyrgos”, and “Christtea Turris”. Even though it is now only known as Galata Tower, there is no specific information about why they named it as Galata.

One theory about the name Galata is that Galata was originally rooted in the word “gala”, referring to the milk derived from the Byzantine Palace’s goats. Another theory is that the word comes from the Italian word “cala” (small gulf) or “calat” (Genoa stairs). Other than that, the most possibly right theory is that the name Galata comes from the name of the district it was built in, which is also called Galata.

Legends of Galata Tower

View of the Old Town and Galata Bridge from the top of the Galata Tower at night
View of the Old Town and Galata Bridge from the top of the Galata Tower at night

Of course, there has to be some legends and stories assigned to this beautiful building. There are different legends and stories about Galata Tower that adds more beauty to its beauty. Authors, poets, storytellers have always needed to say something about Galata Tower due to its inspirational atmosphere. Galata Tower has always been associated with love, but there are other stories about Galata Tower that do not include love. Additionally, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of pieces in the Turkish literature that includes a description of Galata Tower or dedicated to the Galata Tower.

Your destined person and Galata Tower

According to one legend about the Galata Tower, if you climb to the top of the Galata Tower with your lover, that means you will certainly marry them and you will have a happy life with them. This legend roots back to the Rome period belief, since then, it was believed in this way. The same Roman belief states that climbing to the top of the Galata Tower must be both of your first time climbing to Galata Tower or else it is not valid for you. And if it is not in your destiny to be with that person happily for the rest of your life, somehow you will not be able to climb to the top of the Galata Tower, it will be prevented in some mystic way.

The love of Galata Tower and Maiden’s Tower

In another legend includes Maiden’s Tower as well, and it is also a legend about love. It has been said that Galata Tower and Maiden’s Tower have been in love with each other for so long, yet Bosphorus between them is blocking them to come together. Galata Tower was writing love letters to the Maiden’s Tower all the time, but they cannot arrive at the Maiden’s Tower because of Bosphorus. One day, when Hezarfen Ahmed Çelebi prepared all of his arrangements to jump from Galata Tower and fly above Istanbul, Galata Tower told him about his love to Maiden’s Tower and asked him to deliver the love letters he wrote to Maiden’s Tower. Hezarfen Ahmed Çelebi accepted this and indeed, delivered the love letters to Maiden’s Tower. As Maiden’s Tower reads those letters and realizes that its love was not unrequited, it becomes so happy that the most beautiful view of Istanbul in whole times comes up at that time.

Hezarfen Ahmed Çelebi and Galata Tower

For the first time in the world, an attempt to fly with wings took place in the Galata tower by Hezarfen Ahmed Çelebi. Hezarfen Ahmed Çelebi was a Turkish scientist. For his comprehensive studies about developing wings to fly as a human, and scientific studies, he was assigned the name “Hezarfen” which means “Polymath”. Polymath is a name given to a person who is competent in more than one subject.

In 1632, Hezarfen Ahmed Çelebi built a tool in the shape of an artificial bird wing made from wood. As the southwester was blowing, he jumped from the top of the Galata Tower. It has been said that he flew a distance of 3 thousand 258 meters by passing the Bosphorus, and he arrived at Üsküdar. All of these were described in Evliya Çelebi’s ‘’Book of Travels’’.

A stamp that illustrates the flight of Hezarfen Ahmed Çelebi
A stamp that illustrates the flight of Hezarfen Ahmed Çelebi

After his success of flying over the Bosphorus, Murad IV, who was the sultan of that period, rewarded Hezarfen Ahmed Çelebi with a bag of gold. This event became popular even in Europe. Hezarfen Ahmed Çelebi’s attempt to fly from the Galata Tower is known as the beginning of the flying dreams of human beings.

What is inside Galata Tower currently?

Currently, there is a restaurant inside of the Galata Tower. The restaurant is on the 9th floor of the tower and serves as a breakfast café in the mornings and as a restaurant in the evenings. If you are planning to have breakfast or dinner in this restaurant, make sure to make a reservation since it is quite crowded at all times. This restaurant is highly recommended in terms of the delicious food and the unique panoramic view of Istanbul.

Additionally, there are two elevators for visitors to go upstairs. You can go to the 7th floor with the elevators and you need to climb 2 more stairs to get to the terrace. The elevators will only lift you upstairs, as you come down you need to use the stairs.

Galata Tower in the Turkish literature

It was unthinkable that such an important figure could not be reflected in literature. From classical Turkish poetry to the present day, you can see Galata Tower depiction and poetry. One of the important figures of the Turkish literature, İhsan Oktay Anar, has included the Galata Tower in his most famous book, The Atlas of Misty Continents. In this novel, there is a white seagull that has guided the Genoese for a while. The Genoese followed this white seagull to its nest and then eat it. Later, they build the Galata Tower for the memory of that white seagull.

Additionally, famous Turkish poet Ümit Yaşar Oğuzcan’s son Vedat Oğuzcan committed suicide by jumping from the Galata Tower, and subsequently, Ümit Yaşar Oğuzcan wrote the poem named “Galata Kulesi” (means Galata Tower in Turkish).

Further information and tips

Since Galata Tower is associated with love and marriage this much, proposing at the top of the Galata Tower would be a very romantic move. For this unforgettable memory, Galata Tower is a unique and wonderful place. If you are thinking about proposing to your lover in Istanbul, you should definitely consider Galata Tower.

Galata Tower and Galata Neighborhood
Galata Tower is located in the lovely Galata Neighborhood

Additionally, around Galata Tower, you can find artists who will draw a picture of you in 5 to 10 minutes. If you want to immortalize your trip to Galata Tower uniquely, consider doing this. And it is a great way to support artists. It would be a great gift as a souvenir. Also, there are various souvenir shops around the Galata Tower that you can find miniature Galata Tower figures and other Galata Tower related items.

Since the tower is quite long, the weather will be colder up there. Especially, if you are visiting the Galata Tower in wintertime, make sure that you wear something that will not make you cold. Also, around Galata Tower, there are lots of cute cafes that you can have a cup of Turkish coffee or a drink of your choice while watching outside view of the Galata Tower. In the evenings as the sky turns black, beautiful led lights lighten the Galata Tower and you might want to see that. Additionally, do not forget to visit the following destinations when you are in the Galata region.

Galata Bridge

Fishermen over Galata Bridge, Istanbul
Fishermen over Galata Bridge

This bridge connects Eminönü to Karaköy. It connects the two sides of the estuary. It is among the historical landmarks of İstanbul, with its rich historical background. Also, Galata Bridge is a very important spot for fishing activities. Every day, hundreds of fishermen come here to fishing. It has the feature of being one of the rare bridges over which the tram line passes in the whole world. Like Galata Tower, Galata Bridge has been the subject of songs, poems, and other art-related products. For Istanbul locals, even if they are just going to work on an early Monday morning, passing through the Galata Bridge is always beautiful. Yet in your first time, you might want to walk through the bridge and see everything; the view, the fishes, the fishermen, and so on. In history, Galata Bridge has been constructed in the same place 4 times.

Galata Mevlevihane Museum

Whirling Dervishes in Galata Mevlevihane Museum, Istanbul
Whirling Dervishes in Galata Mevlevihane Museum

Mevlevihane is a place in which music and science come together. It is an important part of Turkish culture. Lots of people who studied in Mevlevihanes became quite successful in the past. Galata Mevlevihane is the oldest mevlevihane of Istanbul. In this museum, you will be able to see different cultural and artistic values of old periods.

Like Galata Tower, this building had been a victim of various fires in history but thanks to the restorations and protections, it preserved its presence in Istanbul. The building is shaped like an octagon and is a typical example of 18th-century Baroque architecture. Galata Mevlevihane is also known as the Kulekapı Mevlahane.

Tofre Begadim Synagogue

Back in history, since the Ottoman period, Galata was a location in which Christians, Jewish, and Europeans live. In the 19th century, there was a peak of a number of Jewish individuals living in Galata. According to the researches, it was revealed that 80% of the population of the Galata region was Christian in the 1600s. There were 70 Greek, 18 Muslim, 3 Frank, 2 Armenian, and 1 Jewish district in the Galata region, which was divided into different settlements within itself. Lots of synagogues were opened in Galata in the 1600s due to their multireligious properties. Tofre Begadim Synagogue is one of them, and today it is used as a culture center. Its architecture and historical importance add a lot of value to this synagogue.

Arab Mosque

Arab Mosque was formerly a church, before the conquest of Istanbul. Its name was San Paolo Church, and as Fatih, the conqueror conquered İstanbul, this church, which was the only gothic style church in Istanbul from the pre-conquer period, turned into a mosque. As it turned into a mosque, most of the gothic architecture traces of the building had been turned into Ottoman style architectural features, yet you can still observe the gothic style architectural properties.

Ottoman Bank Museum

Ottoman Bank Museum is known for its unique formal archive collection. You can find banknotes from the Ottoman period, written orders of the palace officers, and pictures of the bank branches that were taken in the Ottoman period. The museum includes an exhibition with 6000 pictures of the registration files of bank employees. In the museum, you can observe the whole economic process in the Ottoman empire from the foundation period to the collapse period.

Kamondo Stairs

Kamondo Stairs in Karakoy Neighborhood, Istanbul
Kamondo Stairs in Karaköy Neighborhood

Those stairs are the stairs that connect Voyvada avenue and Bankacılar street. The stairs get this name due to an important family at that time, the Kamondo family. It was built for the memory of Abraham Salomon Kamondo. It became a symbol of St. George, who is known for bringing different cultures together.

Galata Tower and popular culture

In addition to literature, Galata Tower inspired so many pop songs, TV series, Turkish and foreign movies. For example, in the movie “Hitman” which was made in the year 2007, there are scenes that were taken in the Galata Tower.

In addition to the movies and TV shows that were taken in the Galata Tower, some movies directly take Galata Tower as a subject, and these are not limited to historical documentary movies. For instance, there is a movie “Galata” which was made in the year 2011 and it was about a tourist couple that was trying to get to the Galata Tower, but they get lost and they realize that they are in the middle of a mystery that needs to be solved.

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

You may also like...