The Maiden’s Tower, a historical tower located on the Bosphorus off Üsküdar, greets you with its deep history that has been the subject of many legends. This tower, which welcomes especially those who take a Bosphorus tour and travel by ferry, has become one of the most important symbols of Istanbul with all its majesty and historical structure. The Maiden’s Tower, located close to the Marmara Sea, is a very aesthetic tower that carries the effects of Byzantine architecture and then blended with Ottoman architecture with additions. It was built on a small islet in the past. In fact, although it is home to many legends in respect to the reason for its construction, it is estimated that the Maiden’s Tower was built as a small customs station for ships coming from the Black Sea.
Disclaimer: Restoration of the Maiden’s Tower until March 2023
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism started working on restoring the tower in September 2021, due to its lack of earthquake resistance. The restoration work carried out by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism on the Maiden’s Tower has been ongoing since September 2021 and is predicted to be finished in March 2023. Until then the tower is covered and visitors can’t visit or see the Maiden’s Tower.
The impressive history of the Maiden’s Tower
It is estimated that it was built in May or June BC by the Athenian General Alkibiadis after the Naval Battle of Cyzicus, which took place in 410 BC, as a stopover for ships coming from the Black Sea. Although this is the scientific history, it has also been the subject of many legends over the years. In addition, the fact that it is the only remaining Byzantine artifact in the vicinity of Üsküdar makes the tower a very important cultural value. At this point, the tower, which has become the symbol of Üsküdar, has gained its current appearance with the changes it has undergone over the years.
The Maiden’s Tower and its history to date
When the Maiden’s Tower was first built, it did not have a tower, as it was built as a station. Years later, the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I had a wooden tower built in 1110, secured by stone walls. Thus, a defensive wall was built between it and a tower in the Mangana district, a neighborhood in the historical peninsula of Istanbul. The remains of this defense wall are still hidden in the depths of the Bosphorus as a cultural heritage.
It was used as a watchtower for years after Fatih’s conquest of Istanbul. In fact, the Maiden’s Tower, which has duly fulfilled many duties in every era, has served many civilizations as a woman in love with her duty in the Bosphorus. Throughout its history, it has been loaded with many tasks from tombs to customs stations, from customs stations to exiles, from exiles to quarantine rooms. Apart from that, since its construction, it has been fulfilling its duty as a lighthouse guiding the ships, like a shining star of the Bosphorus.
A real disaster survivor: Maiden’s Tower
The Maiden’s Tower was destroyed during the earthquake in Istanbul in 1509. Although it was rebuilt by the Ottomans after that, it was rendered unusable by a fire in 1721. It was then rebuilt by Damat Ibrahim Pasha and used as a lighthouse. Later, after the Istanbul earthquake in 1999, steel supports were added to strengthen it. In this sense, the Maiden’s Tower, which has survived many hardships, shines like the star of the Bosphorus with all its majesty.
Different stories and legends about the Maiden Tower
Apart from its historical features, the Maiden’s Tower has been the subject of many stories and legends as a cultural heritage. In this sense, there are many stories about it that we have come across in the sources, some of which are indeed legendary, while others are realistic stories. The Maiden’s Tower, which caresses your soul with its aesthetic appearance, has a side that touches your soul with these stories.
Towers in Love
The first story is about the Galata Tower and the Maiden’s Tower who fall in love. Galata, one of the rare symbols of the Beyoğlu neighborhood, is deeply in love with the Maiden’s Tower. The only obstacle to this love is the Bosphorus in the middle of the two towers. Although Galata writes many letters to the Maiden’s Tower and declares his love for years, he is unable to meet his beloved. According to the story, when Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi was going to fly from the Galata Tower, Galata gave him love letters to give to the Maiden’s Tower. Ahmet Çelebi delivers the letters to his beloved. In this way, the towers, realizing that their love was not unrequited, found the strength to stand for years.
Princess and the Maiden Tower
This story is one of the most well-known of the legends. According to this story, a king is told by soothsayers that when his daughter turns 18, she will be bitten by a snake and die. The king loves his daughter deeply. To prevent her death, he builds a tower in the middle of the Bosphorus and places his daughter there. Meanwhile, the young princess, who is one step closer to her 18th birthday every year, is bitten to death by a snake that comes out of a grape basket sent to the tower. The king, who was very saddened by this, had an iron coffin made for his daughter. It is said that this coffin was the one on the entrance door of Hagia Sophia and that after the death of the princess, the snake would not leave her alone and haunted the coffin. It is even said that the holes on this coffin are the teeth marks of the snake.
It is often said that Battal Gazi was in love with the daughter of a Byzantine tekfur in his time. The tekfur, who was very afraid of this situation, locked his daughter in the Maiden’s Tower with her treasures. But Battal Gazi waited on the shore of Üsküdar for 7 years and then somehow managed to smuggle the girl and the treasure out of the tower and away from Istanbul. In fact, it is said that the Turkish saying “He who took the horse passed Üsküdar” was said because of this story.
The Legend of Leandros
According to this legend, two young people named Leandros and Hero are in love. But the Bosporus between them prevents them from meeting. One day, Leandros sees the lights of the tower on and jumps into the sea, thinking that his beloved Hero is calling him and starts swimming. But those who light the lights of the tower are those who do not want them to meet. They then turn off the lights of the tower. Meanwhile, Leandros, left in the dark, drowns before reaching the tower. Unable to bear the pain of this, Hero commits suicide by jumping from the tower after Leandros. According to legend, a lighthouse was built on the Maiden’s Tower in memory of the lovers.
What is inside the Maiden’s Tower?
The Maiden’s Tower rises in the Bosphorus as a historical place serving with a museum, cafeteria and restaurant. In this sense, the Maiden’s Tower, which does not only include a touristic visit, will also offer you a nice breakfast, lunch and dinner. For detailed information about these, you can take a look at the rest of our article. Apart from all these, it also serves you with a section where you can buy souvenirs.
Is the Maidens Tower worth seeing?
The Maiden’s Tower is a very special historical place for you to enjoy an unforgettable Bosphorus view, including a cafe where you can have a really pleasant time. Coming to Istanbul and leaving without seeing the Maiden’s Tower, one of the symbols of Istanbul, will definitely be one of the biggest regrets you will experience in your lifetime. To see how this unique beauty turns into a spiritual place accompanied by the Bosphorus, you can visit it, especially in the evening by making a reservation.
Is it possible to visit the Maiden’s Tower?
The Maiden’s Tower serves as a historical and touristic place that can be visited as well as receiving service from the cafe inside. At this point, it is possible to reach the tower by sea transportation departing from certain regions. You can find the necessary directions for the visit in the rest of the article.
Where is the Maiden Tower and how to go there?
The Maiden’s Tower, which stands on an islet off the coast of Salacak in the Üsküdar district of Istanbul, greets you in the region of the Bosphorus towards the Marmara Sea.
You can use Üsküdar Salacak and Kabataş ferry services to reach the Maiden’s Tower. The Salacak boat service runs every 15 minutes between 9:00 and 19:00. On the Kabataş side, ferries are available only on weekends and run every hour from 10.00 am to 18.00 pm. You can easily reach the Maiden’s Tower using these two routes.
There are also services for dinner reservations. From Kabataş to the Maiden’s Tower, there are daily departures at 20.00, 20.45 and 21.30 in the evening and return departures from the Maiden’s Tower at 23.00 and 23.45. From Salacak, shuttle services start at 20.15 every day.
You need to have an Istanbulkart to benefit from the services. You can also benefit from many public transportation facilities while traveling around Istanbul with Istanbulkart. Don’t forget to visit our Istanbulkart article for detailed information on how and where to get an Istanbulkart.
Maiden’s Tower Entrance Fees and Tickets
Apart from the restaurant and cafe service inside the Maiden’s Tower, you need to buy a ticket to visit. This ticket is only given to you to visit the Maiden’s Tower. A separate fee is charged for other services. Ticket prices are as follows: 60 TL for adults & 40 TL for students.
You can buy tickets from the box offices on the shore.
Note: Do not forget to visit the Maiden’s Tower Website for detailed information about the current entrance fees.
Opening times and visiting hours for Maiden’s Tower
Since the Maiden’s Tower contains multiple services, it provides service at different hours. At this point, Kuledebar service hour details are as follows:
- Breakfast: Weekdays 9.00-13.00, Weekends 10.00-13.00
- Lunch: Service starts at 12.00
- Dinner: Starts at 20.15 but is only available by reservation.
For other touristic visits, the Maiden’s Tower welcomes visitors between 9.00 and 19.00. If you prefer to visit during sunset hours, you will have the opportunity to watch the unique dance of the Bosphorus and the sun and take magnificent photographs.
Kuledebar: A Restaurant on the Maiden’s Tower
Kuledebar is an upstairs restaurant with a unique Maiden’s Tower spirit. At this point, there is also a cafe downstairs serving breakfast and lunch. However, the upstairs restaurant only serves dinner upon reservation. Especially if you want to catch the Bosphorus air with unique music and accompany a spiritual dance, this restaurant has the qualities that will fully meet your expectations. For a pleasant and quiet time, you may prefer the quieter weekdays. If you are interested in Turkish cuisine you can also watch out for street food stalls that sell local authentic food on every corner or the most luxurious restaurants in Istanbul.
Restaurant and Menu Prices at Maiden’s Tower
Although the meal and menu prices in the Maiden’s Tower vary, it generally has a pricing that varies between 1300 TL and 1800 TL. In this sense, prices vary according to the qualities of the meals and drinks. There is also alcohol sales.
Things to do at the Maiden’s Tower
In addition to being a historical place, the Maiden’s Tower also contains services where you can do various things. In this sense, it serves as a museum, cafe and restaurant. On the ground floor, there is a more cafe-like place, while you can enjoy a dinner at Kuledebar Cafe on the upper floor, accompanied by that unique view of the Bosphorus view. While you do not need to make a reservation for morning and lunch, you need to make a reservation for dinner. Whilst Üsküdar is well known for Kiz Kulesi, the district at the Bosphorus has much more to offer:
Üsküdar is one of the most central districts and pleases visitors not only with the Maiden’s Tower but also with many other places to see. With its deep-rooted history, there are many historical monuments and buildings to be seen in the region. With its neighborhood to the Bosphorus, its history, architecture, narrow streets and Maiden’s Tower, Üsküdar is one the most popular and preferred districts in every season. Üsküdar is a district that has been home to many civilizations such as Phoenicians, Romans, Megarans, Spartans and Athenians. It is the district of Istanbul that hosts the most popular places to visit both culturally and historically and architecturally.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Maiden’s Tower
Although it was first built in 408 BC, it took its tower form in 1110 during the Byzantine period.
Although the Maiden’s Tower was first built by the Athenian General Alkibiadis, it was the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I who had it built in the form of a tower.
You can reach the Maiden’s Tower by boat services in Üsküdar Salacak and Kabataş.
According to the statement made by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the restoration of the Maiden’s Tower will be completed at the end of the year. However, it can be said that it will start serving visitors in January and February 2023.