In Istanbul, Turkey, 200 meters (220 yards) from the coast of Üsküdar is a tower called the Maiden’s Tower (Turkish: Kiz Kulesi), which has also been called Leander’s Tower (the Tower of Leandros) since the Middle Ages.
On a small rock in front of Chrysopolis (modern-day Üsküdar), the ancient Athenian general Alcibiades may have set up a customs station for ships coming from the Black Sea after the naval victory at Cyzicus. Alexius Comnenus, Emperor of the Byzantine Empire, constructed a wooden tower surrounded by a stone wall in 1110. A link in an iron chain ran from the tower to a second tower built on the European side of the water, in the Constantinople neighborhood of Mangana. The island was later linked to the Asian coast by a defensive wall, remnants of which can be seen today in the water. The tower housed a Byzantine garrison commanded by the Venetian Gabriele Trevisano during the 1453 Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (Istanbul). Once the Ottoman Turks took over during the reign of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, the tower was put to use as a lookout point.
The tower was destroyed in the earthquake of 1509 and burned in 1721; its name, Leander’s Tower, is a reference to the legend of Hero and Leander, which is said to have taken place in the Dardanelles strait, which was formerly known as the Hellespont in antiquity. Since then, it has served as a lighthouse, with subsequent stone construction occurring in 1763 after the original wooden structure was repaired in 1731 and 1734. When Sultan Mahmud II restored the tower in 1832, it had been in use since 1829 as a quarantine station. The harbor authority restored it in 1945, and the most recent restoration began in 1998 for the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough. Steel supports were added as a precaution after the August 17, 1999, earthquake.
The tower’s interior is now a bustling cafe and restaurant with breathtaking views of the city’s storied past as the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman capitals. Multiple times a day, private boats travel to the tower to drop off and pick up passengers.
The Legend of the Maidens’ Tower
Stories abound concerning who built the tower and where it is situated. The most well-known Turkish myth tells of an emperor who had a beloved daughter who, on her 18th birthday, was fated to die at the hands of a poisonous snake. To prevent his daughter’s untimely demise, the emperor had the tower constructed in the middle of the Bosphorus, far from any land where poisonous snakes might lurk. The princess was locked up in a tower, where she would only see her father regularly.
The emperor, overjoyed that he had been able to thwart the prophecy, celebrated the princess’s 18th birthday by bringing her a basket of exotic, sumptuous fruits. The oracle’s prophecy came true when the princess reached into the basket and was bitten by an asp that had been hiding among the fruit. This is why it is called the Maiden’s Tower.
The ancient Greek myth of Hero and Leander is the inspiration for the older name, Leander’s Tower. Aphrodite’s high priestess, the Hero, kept watch over the waters of the Hellespont from her tower in Sestos (Dardanelles). A young man named Leander (Leandros) from Abydos, on the other side of the Hellespont, fell in love with her and began swimming across the strait every night to be with her. Each night, Hero would light a lamp atop her tower to help the hero find his way home.
Hero gave in to Leander’s persuasiveness and lets him have sex with her, believing that Aphrodite, the goddess of love, would disapprove of the worship of a virgin. The routine continued throughout the summer months. One stormy winter’s night, however, the waves tossed Leander into the sea, and the breezes blew out Hero’s light, and Leander became disoriented, eventually leading to his death. In her despair, Hero committed suicide by jumping off the tower. Possibly this old tale is also the source of the name “Maiden’s Tower.”
Because the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles are close to each other and look alike, the tower was wrongly linked to Leander’s story.
Maidens’ Tower Today
Both the ground-floor restaurant and the tower’s observation deck are now open to the public.
From 1966 to 1981, the tower appeared on the back of Turkish 10-lira banknotes.
Cafe at the Maiden’s Tower
Tower’s Kuledebar Cafe is a great place to relax and eat. Located at the very pinnacle of the tower, its balcony affords breathtaking vistas of the surrounding area.
To enjoy the tower and cafe, reservations are not required (except for dinners).
Breakfast in the Maidens’ Tower
It’s possible to have a delicious breakfast while taking in the best seaside view of Istanbul from atop one of the city’s towers.
The hours for breakfast are between 9:00 and 12:30 (or 10:00 and 13:00 on weekends).
Lunch in the Maidens’ Tower
You don’t need a reservation, so feel free to drop in anytime.
The kitchen opens at noon for lunch.
Dinner in the Maidens’ Tower
The Maiden’s Tower has an excellent restaurant where you can have a nice evening with your special someone. An unforgettable evening with an orchestra playing love songs in a mystical setting
The restaurant opens at 20:15 for dinner.
Q: What is the Maidens’ Tower?
A: The Maidens’ Tower is a historic tower located on a small island in the Bosphorus Strait, near Istanbul, Turkey.
Q: Where is the Maidens’ Tower located?
A: The Maidens’ Tower is located in the Bosphorus Strait, near Istanbul, Turkey.
Q: How old is the Maidens’ Tower?
A: The exact age of the Maidens’ Tower is not known, but it is estimated to be over 2,500 years old.
Q: What is the history of the Maidens’ Tower?
A: The Maidens’ Tower has a rich history and has been mentioned in various legends and myths throughout the centuries. It has served as a lighthouse, a fortification, and a quarantine station, among other uses.
Q: What is the significance of the Maidens’ Tower?
A: The Maidens’ Tower holds historical, cultural, and architectural significance and is considered one of the iconic landmarks of Istanbul.
Q: What can I see at the Maidens’ Tower?
A: Visitors to the Maidens’ Tower can see the tower itself as well as the Bosphorus Strait and the city of Istanbul from the top.
Q: How do I get to the Maidens’ Tower?
A: The Maidens’ Tower can be reached by boat from Istanbul.
Q: Is there an entrance fee to visit the Maidens’ Tower?
A: Yes, there is an entrance fee to visit the Maidens’ Tower.
Q: Are there any restrictions for visiting the Maidens’ Tower?
A: There may be restrictions for visiting the Maidens’ Tower, such as seasonal closures or limited hours; it is best to check ahead of time.
Q: Are there any facilities at the Maidens’ Tower?
A: There are limited facilities at the Maidens’ Tower, but there is a small café and souvenir shop on the premises.
Food from all over the world can be found at this eatery.
There are two basic kinds of set-price menus.
Please be aware that the tower has a strict dress code for dinner and that children under the age of 7 and men wearing shorts or flip-flops are not permitted.
When to Go and How Much It Costs
Instructions & Opening Times
Unfortunately, restoration work has necessitated the closure of Maiden’s Tower. After its repairs are completed, Maiden’s Tower is slated to become a museum.
Directions to the Maiden’s Tower: Location
The Maiden’s Tower in the Salacak region at the entrance to the Bosphorus is about 150-200 meters across the sea from the Uskudar coasts.
Transportation to the Maidens’ Tower
The most convenient places to get to the landmark are Kabatas Pier and Uskudar Salacak Pier, where the Maiden’s Tower Boat Service leaves from.
-Take the tram from Sultanahmet to get to Kabatas.
-Ride the funicular from Taksim to Kabatas (from Taksim Square).
-It is possible to take public ferries or boats from Besiktas to Uskudar.
-Take the Bagcilar-Kabatas tram (T1 line) from Sultanahmet and Eminonu to Sirkeci.
And then take the Marmaray from Sirkeci or the public ferries from Eminonu to Uskudar.
-You can catch a bus, or a taxi, or walk the 1.8 km along the coast from Uskudar to Salacak Pier in under 5 minutes.
You can book an Istanbul city tour with our licensed tour guides. The links are below:
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Map of Maiden’s Tower