At first, Istanbul seems to have a very limited number of attractions. But the longer I stay in the city, or the more I return there, I continuously discover new places, one more exciting than the other. It’s not hard to see why Istanbul has become a favourite for travellers from Europe and the Middle East alike.
ABOUT GALATA TOWER
One of my favourite Istanbul attractions, and among those I photograph the most, is Galata Tower. It was built on a hill in the Beyoglu district, overlooking the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. The tower standing there today is actually the second Galata Tower. The original one, built by the Byzantines, was destroyed by crusaders during the Sack of Constantinople, in the early 13th century. The tower you will see was built by the Genoese in the 14th century, in an attempt to expand their colonial power in Constantinople.
Talking about dates, it is said that, in the 17th century, a guy called Hezarfen Çelebi tied some wings to his body, jumped from the tower and crossed the whole Bosphorus, landing in Üsküdar, on the Asian side. Present-day Galata Tower was initially a defence tower, but not long after construction, became an astronomical observatory. The observatory was closed 400 years ago, and the tower was used as a home for Christian war prisoners used as slaves.
The area where Galata Tower is located is one of the most charming places in the whole of Istanbul. There are many narrow cobbled streets, filled with cafes, restaurants and small art galleries. This is also one of the more bohemian areas of the city and home to an ever-increasing hipster crowd.
BEST TIME TO VISIT GALATA TOWER
It’s possible to visit Galata Tower every day, all day long. However, there is always a large number of tourists queueing up to enjoy the view from up there, understandably. After several visits, I realised the best time to visit Galata Tower, if you want to avoid the long queue, is early morning, when it opens. There’s hardly anyone or just a short line of people. Likewise, later in the evening, there will hardly be anyone waiting to go upstairs.
If you don’t mind queueing up, especially if you’re into photography, a good time to visit Galata Tower is just before sunset – that is, if the sun is out! Arrive about one hour before sunset to see the whole of Istanbul changing colours before your eyes.
The entry fee to visit Galata Tower, at the moment, is 25 Turkish Lira (roughly 9USD, €8, £6) and you take a lift to go to near the top. You’ll still have to climb around 15 steps to get to the restaurant and outside to enjoy the view.
I’ll repeat myself: Istanbul seen from Galata Tower is absolutely impressive – or from any other high point, for that matter! From the top, you can see the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn, the Asian side, the main landmarks in Sultanahmet, as well as the highrises from the business district. Even if you join the long queue, you’ll realise the wait was worthwhile.
As one would expect, the restaurant at the top of Galata Tower is kind of a tourist trap: very overpriced and food is very much average.
VISITING GALATA TOWER IN ISTANBUL
Opening Hours: Daily from 9am to 8pm
Entrance: 25TL(9USD, €8, £6)
Address: Bereketzade, Galata Kulesi, Beyoğlu
Have you ever visited Galata Tower? What did you think?