The Galata Kulesi is and has been a dominating architectural feature of the Old Istanbul district skyline since medieval times when it was built in 1348. After the Fourth Crusade, Istanbul had become a colony of invaders from Genoa, Italy. The tower in Istanbul was originally called Christea Turris (Tower of Christ) by the Genoese. Today, the name Galata is from the district in which it stands, and Kulesi mean tower in Turkish. You will see from many photos of Istanbul that this tower somewhat resembles those found in northern Italy, such as the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa.
The Galata Tower is more than 215 feet high. If you like nightlife and dining with a spectacular view, you’ll find these things located in a restaurant and nightclub on the upper floors. If you’re just going to check out the view, you’ll find a nominal fee will whisk you up one of the elevators to the observation deck. The nightclub boasts a good show with traditional Turkish music and dancing. This tower in Istanbul truly has had many functions over the years.
From the top of Galata Kulesi wonderful views of the Golden Horn show you the strait that divides the continents of Europe and Asia. As a visitor, you can embark on scenic Bosphorus river cruises, as the sultans once did, and enjoy this beautiful landscape from a unique viewpoint. You can also see the Sea of Marmara and the Princes Islands, popular spots for tours and excursions during cruises. You will often see large ocean liners in the Bosphorus and in the harbor, as this is a regular stop on the itinerary of ships cruising the Mediterranean and making other stops in places like Greece, Italy, and Egypt.
The observation platform on the Galata Tower will also show you the spectacular panoramic cityscape of the Golden Horn, with the majestic silhouettes of Topkapi Palace, the Yeni Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the ethereal Blue Mosque.
The Galata Kulesi was, for the first several Ottoman Empire centuries, used as the headquarters for the Janissaries, the elite troops and bodyguards of the sultan’s household. These soldiers were made up of the kidnapped sons of conquered Christian territories. This elite force was similar to today’s Swiss Guards of the Vatican in Rome and the Household Guards of Buckingham Palace in London. It also served variously as a prison, an astronomical observatory, and a fire lookout point until 1964 when it was refurbished to be opened to visitors as one of the city’s tourist attractions.
This tower in Istanbul was damaged several times during its history, both by fire and storms. The Galata Tower has been restored to much of its original Genoese appearance, so that today it looks much the same way it looked during the long history of the Ottoman Empire.