The Maiden's Tower

Maiden's Tower | Istanbul's Iconic Landmark

The Maiden's Tower is a 12th-century historic landmark located on a small islet at the southern entrance of the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul. The tower houses a museum which showcases exhibits and artifacts that detail its rich history. Over the centuries, it has served as a defensive fortress, a lighthouse, and a quarantine hospital. It served as a watchtower until an earthquake damaged it in 1509. It was rebuilt, but a fire destroyed the wooden structure in 1721. In 1857, a French company installed a gas-powered lantern, increasing the tower’s visibility.


In 2023, the Maiden's Tower reopened after a two-year restoration by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. It was restored to its early 19th-century state during Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II's reign. The tower is also known as Leander's Tower because of its connection to the myth of Hero and Leander. Filled with legends of love and mystery, it's a captivating symbol of Istanbul's cultural heritage. Currently, the Maiden's Tower in Istanbul features a café on its upper level and a restaurant on the first floor. In addition to this, you can find a gift shop on the site. You can enjoy 360 views of Istanbul's skyline and the surrounding waters from the tower.

Why Visit Maiden's Tower?

Historical Significance: Exploring Maiden's Tower unveils its multifaceted history, transitioning from ancient origins to a lighthouse, defensive fortress, and even a quarantine station. Its museum houses artifacts offering glimpses into its rich past.


Breathtaking Views: Delight in breathtaking panoramas of Istanbul's skyline, the Bosphorus Strait, and surrounding waters from this historic edifice, offering a unique perspective for memorable photos.


Architectural Marvel:: As an architectural marvel, Maiden’s Tower blends Byzantine, Ottoman, and modern influences, showcasing distinct designs from various eras through multiple renovations.


Accessible by Boat: Accessible via boat, reaching Maiden’s Tower adds to the adventure, allowing for a close-up view of the Bosphorus River and the charm of the islet.


Cultural Significance: Deeply rooted in Istanbul's cultural fabric, the tower is steeped in legends and stories, serving as a testament to Turkish heritage and inspiring artistic representations.

Highlights of The Maiden's Tower

Sweeping views

Marvel at stunning views of Istanbul's skyline, the Bosphorus Strait, and the bustling cityscape from the Maiden's Tower. Capture the city's beauty in one breathtaking frame, making your visit unforgettable.

Historical significance

Explore the functions performed by the Maiden Tower in Istanbul, including its historical beginnings, use as a lighthouse, a stronghold for defense, and even a place of quarantine. Many exhibits in the museum provide visitors with a glimpse into the place's rich history. 


Maiden’s Tower Museum

Visit the museum to discover the tower's history as a defense tower, a lighthouse, and a tax collection center. Learn everything about the architectural gem's fascinating history and legends.

History of The Maiden's Tower


The Maiden's Tower in Istanbul has a rich history that dates back to the fourth century. According to historical records, the emperor Alexios I Komnenos built a timber tower with a stone wall around it in 1110, and it was connected to a building on the European side of Constantinople by an iron chain. This is the location of the Maiden's Tower today. Additionally, there was a wall that connected this tower to the Asian coast and its remnants are still visible today. The tower was damaged by an earthquake in 1509. After that, it was restored, but in 1721 a fire destroyed this wooden structure and turned it into ashes.


Over the ages, Maiden's Tower fulfilled a variety of roles, such as that of a lighthouse, a military tower, and a hub for merchant tax collection. It was converted into a radio station and quarantine hospital during the cholera epidemic of 1830. The structure was handed over to the Ministry of Defence in 1964 and then to Maritime Enterprises in 1982. The tower last saw repair work done to it in 1998 for the filming of the James Bond movie “The World Is Not Enough”. After several repairs, the tower is now open to the public and features a cafe on its top floor that offers traditional Turkish cuisine and fantastic views of Istanbul. 

Story Behind The Maiden's Tower in Istanbul

Known as one of the most stunning tourist landmarks of Istanbul, the Maiden’s Tower has a hazy early history. The architectural style of the location suggests origins in 340 BCE and is said to have been a small island used as a watch station for ships. It was several centuries later that Byzantine Emperor Alexios Comnenus constructed a wooden tower and a defensive stone wall. While it functioned as a Byzantine garrison during the 1453 Fall of Constantinople, it was later transformed into an Ottoman watch tower.


The modern stone version replaced the remains of the original wooden tower in 1763. It became a quarantine refuge during the cholera outbreak of 1829, and by 1857 had been transformed into a lighthouse. And after such a tumultuous past, it became a part of two Bond movies in the 20th century. Now, the ancient Maiden’s Tower is an unmissable sightseeing attraction for visitors in Istanbul.

Legends of The Maiden's Tower

Numerous legends surround Maiden’s Tower in Istanbul Turkey, which has existed as part of Istanbul for centuries.

Known as Leander’s Tower, the structure was once the home of Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite who was in love with Leander. Leander used to cross the sea every night to meet her, who helped him by lighting a lamp. Unfortunately, on a stormy night, the wind blew off the lamp, so Leander got lost and drowned. In grief, Hero jumped off the tower and committed suicide.


The second legend is about an emperor, who was told by an oracle that his daughter would die of snakebite on her eighteenth birthday. To protect her, he built the tower and kept her here. However, when they were celebrating the non-fulfilment of the prophecy on her 18th birthday, a snake came out of a gift the emperor gave the princess. She was bitten and died in the arms of her father.

Know Before You Visit to The Maiden's Tower

Essential Information
How to reach
Facilities

Location: Maiden’s Tower Istanbul Turkey is located on a small islet on the Bosphorus Strait that can be reached by boat.

Address – Salacak, 34668 Uskudar/Istanbul, Turkiye.

Opening hours: The Tower is open on all days of the week from 9 AM to 6 PM. Plan an hour-long trip to explore the Tower and its museum and witness the stunning views.

Best time to visit: The best time to visit Maiden’s Tower in Istanbul Turkey is in the months of April-May and September-October. These months, which mark the spring and autumn seasons in Istanbul, experience mild temperatures and dry days, ensuring you can comfortably explore the outdoors. This period is also ideal for embarking on the boat ride on the Bosphorus and admiring the views due to better visibility from the Tower. As for visiting the Tower once you are in Istanbul, it is recommended that you visit in the late afternoon. The crowds are fewer at this time and the views of Istanbul in the setting sun are simply spectacular.

The only way to reach the Maiden’s Tower from Istanbul is by ferry ride, which you can easily get from three major points – Kabastas, Uskudar and Galataport.

Boat services from Kabastas:

You can get ferry rides from Kabastas from 9 AM on Mondays to Fridays, while the services start at 10 AM on the weekends. The ferries have a frequency of 45 minutes and take you through the Bosphorus in approximately 10 minutes. The services can be availed of till 7 PM on all days.

Boat services from Uskudar:

Taking a ferry on the Uskudar route, which is also known as the Salacak route, is the quickest way to reach the Maiden’s Tower. If you are on the Asian side of Istanbul, head to Salacak and hop on the ferry. The services start at 9:15 AM every day, and take you to your destination in just a minute.

Boat services from the Galataport:

Ferry rides from Galataport are available only at specific hours throughout the day, although the service is available on all days of the week. These ferries depart from the pier right in front of the Tower ticket counter at 11 AM, 12:30 PM, 2:15 PM, 3:30 PM and 5 PM.

 Wheelchair accessibility: The Maiden’s Tower is accessible for visitors with mobility issues and those using wheelchairs. To ensure the comfort of every visitor, wheelchair ramps and other facilities have been installed on the premises.

Free Wi-Fi: For those worried about mobile connectivity at the Tower, your tickets provide you access to free Wi-Fi facilities when you explore the premises.

Restrooms: Clean and hygienic restrooms have been provided at convenient spaces on the islet where the Tower is located.

Information Desk: If you have any queries or need guidance while exploring the Tower, there is an information desk on the premises. The staff members are knowledgeable and friendly to ensure a comfortable experience.

Restaurants and Café: The ground floor of the Tower has been converted into a delightful restaurant, from where you admire the stunning surroundings. Numerous delicacies, both local and international, are available on the menu here. You can also visit the café on the top floor of the Tower, where you can sit in cosy surroundings and relish light snacks and meals. The café is also perfect for photo opportunities with loved ones and to enjoy mesmerising views of the city skyline and the Bosphorus Strait.

Tips of The Maiden's Tower


  • Check the forecast before visiting the Maiden’s Tower for an enjoyable experience, especially for enjoying the panoramic views.
  • Plan your visit on weekdays as they are less crowded than at weekends, offering a more peaceful and enjoyable visit to the tower.
  • Dedicate enough time to explore the tower, the museum, dining, and admiring the beautiful views from its terrace. 
  • Follow staff guidelines, respect photography restrictions, and be considerate of other visitors to maintain a pleasant atmosphere.
  • Pair your visit with nearby well-known attractions like Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. 
  • Book your Maiden Tower tickets online in advance to secure your spot and skip the queues, while saving time. 

FAQ's

Why is Maiden’s Tower so famous?

Istanbul’s Maiden’s Tower is renowned for its combination of Byzantine and Ottoman architectural elements and numerous legends, two of which are well-known. According to one legend, the tower was built by an emperor to protect his daughter from a prophecy that said she would die of snakebite. The emperor placed the princess in the tower, which gave the structure its name. The tower, which is also known as Leander’s Tower, is also related to the legend of the Greek priestess Hero and her lover Leander.

Where is the Maiden’s Tower located?

If you are curious about where is the Maiden’s Tower, it is located at Salacak, 34668 Uskudar/Istanbul, Turkiye, right off the coast of the city on an islet in the Bosphorus Strait. This landmark structure, accessible only by ferry, provides a one-of-a-kind and spectacular experience. Its strategic location affords panoramic views of Istanbul, making it a must-see for locals and tourists alike.

How do I get to the Maiden’s Tower?

The sole way to reach the Tower is to take a ferry from Kabastas, Salacuk or Galataport piers along the Bosphorus in Istanbul. Regular ferry rides are available at frequent intervals from all stations on all days of the week. Most services start at 9 AM and last until the evening.

What is the best time to visit Maiden’s Tower?

The best time to visit the Tower is during late afternoon hours on weekdays. During this period, the crowds are fewer and you would also get to witness the glorious sunset of Istanbul from a unique vantage point.

Is Maiden Tower worth visiting?

Yes, the Maiden’s Tower is among the must-visit destinations when travelling to Istanbul. The most attractive highlight of the tower is its location in the Bosphorus Strait, which guarantees stunning views of the city’s skyline. You also get to witness a bewitching combination of Byzantine and Ottoman architectural elements in this 900-year-old structure. Relish delicious meals as you listen to fascinating legends about the Tower from locals.

What are the opening hours of Maiden’s Tower?

The Maiden’s Tower is open on all days of the week from 9 AM to 6 PM. During these hours, visitors can explore this ancient landmark, taking in the spectacular vistas of Istanbul and diving into its rich history. It provides a fascinating experience, allowing you to appreciate its beauty and significance within the time constraints.

How old is the Maiden Tower?

The current structure of the Maiden’s Tower was constructed in 1110 CE, which makes it 913 years old. Its history is rooted in Istanbul, and it has evolved through the Byzantine and Ottoman ages, enduring earthquakes and upheavals. This magnificent tower bears witness to centuries of cultural legacy, enthralling visitors with its timeless beauty.

What is the story behind the Maiden Tower in Istanbul?

Dating back to the ancient period, the current structure of the Maiden’s Tower in Istanbul was first constructed in the twelfth century. Initially used as a Byzantine garrison, it went on to become an Ottoman watch station, lighthouse and even a quarantine station over the centuries. It was destroyed quite a few times and was restored under the Ottomans, which made it a unique architectural wonder in the city. Meanwhile, a popular legend about the tower’s origin states that an emperor built it as a safe house to protect his daughter from a prophecy. Another legend narrates how the tower was the setting for the tragic love story of the Greek priestess Hero and her lover Leander.

What is the best view of Maiden’s Tower?

The best views of Maiden’s Tower can be experienced when you cross the distance between the mainland and the islet on a ferry. As you glide along the blue waters and get close to the tower, it simply strikes as magnificent. And when you think of the best views from the tower, they can be indulged in from the observation deck on the top floor.

Who built the Maiden’s Tower in Istanbul?

It was in the twelfth century that the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Comnenus commissioned the construction of the Maiden’s Tower. It was built to be used as a watch tower for the Byzantines in Constantinople.

What is the height of Maiden’s Tower?

The Tower has six floors and stands at a height of 23 metres when the bar is included. All floors are accessible to visitors via a staircase. Visitors are invited to marvel over the city's skyline and absorb the historical and cultural value encased inside its remarkable construction, which has six accessible storeys.

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