Lighthouse, dungeon, flying club

The cylindrical Galata Tower stands guard over the approach to 'new' Istanbul. Constructed in 1348, the tower was the highpoint in the city walls of the Genoese colony, named Galata. It was the tallest structure in the city for centuries, and still dominates the skyline.

A multi-purpose tower

Galata Tower has had many uses. Originally built as a lighthouse by the Byzantines, it became a dungeon when the Ottomans conquered Istanbul. From the 16th century until the 1960s, it was a fire tower. The conical tip was rebuilt in stone in the late 1960s, giving the building its final shape.

Witness to a crazy birdman

An alternative name for the Galata Tower, is the Hezarfen Tower, because of an unusual and daring event. It’s said that in 1638, Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi attached wings to his arms and flew from the tower over the Bosphorus, all the way to Uskudar. (Please don’t try this if you go there)

If you have a head for heights, climb to the panorama balcony. It’s narrow, open to the weather and genuinely scary. The best time to do it is at the time of a call to prayer, preferably at sunset - the combined effect will send shivers down your spine.

Other interesting facts about Galata Tower, Istanbul

  • The walls of the Galata Tower are 12 feet (3.75 metres) thick in places
  • It was the tallest building in Istanbul at 219½ft (66.9m) when it was built
  • The Galata Tower was originally named the Tower of Christ
  • The Genoese used to light fires on top to send messages great distances