A BIRD’S-EYE VIEW OF ANCIENT ISTANBUL | Darrin Henry
Wandering the maze of bustling streets around Old Istanbul and the ever thriving Outer Harbour region of the city, the nipple-like Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi in Turkish) was always catching our eye, poking up from the sea of buildings that rolled up the hillside. Eventually the sight inspired a “let’s walk to that tower” moment one day which then turned into a simple but enjoyable little excursion.
One Hot Day In Istanbul
A useful thing we found about Istanbul, especially around the Golden Horn harbour area, everything is a lot closer than it first appeared, so walking turned out to be the best way to explore.
It was a hot day in Turkey, peaking at 30 degrees Celsius. In fact, every day on our 2017 summer visit was a hot day. The narrow streets that zig-zagged up the hill between the buildings provided some shady relief from the heat. The little shop and café scene along the way was so interesting it distracted us from the climbing effort and in no time we were at the top with the chunky Galata Tower, blocking off the alleyway ahead of us, or so it seemed.
History of the Galata Tower, Istanbul
So, the Galata Tower, Istanbul – what’s that all about then?
According to the big posters inside the tower it was originally constructed of wood by the Byzantine emperor Anastasius Oilozus, in 528AD. As a lighthouse.
It was reconstructed using stone in 1348 by the Genoese, as Christea Turris (Christ Tower).
Like many other historic buildings in the city, the Galata Tower, Istanbul, has suffered severe damage from earthquakes over the years.
Its use changed down the centuries from lighthouse to defence to being an astronomical observation point by the Turkish astronomer Takiuddin. The observatory was closed in 1579 and the tower was used to house “forsa” which means Christian prisoners of war.
Today it’s a tourist attraction. An opportunity for a bird’s eye view of the city of Istanbul.
The Way To The Top
We joined the long queue waiting to get in but it moved quickly and soon we were inside purchasing our tickets. Can’t say we weren’t just a teensy bit disappointed when we realised there was a lift to take us up, after we had psyched ourselves for a stairway climb while queuing. Mind you, there must have been an option to use stairs, but we willingly accepted the ride.
The lift deposits you three floors below the observation balcony. There were stairs for that final part of the ascent.
There was only one doorway to access the balcony and it was quite a squeeze as the incoming visitors met the outgoing. There were many apologetic smiles exchanged as we all seemed to be getting in each other’s way.
If you’re claustrophobic don’t go onto the balcony. It’s quite narrow. Everyone is required to keep moving in the one direction – clockwise as it turned out.
Despite hold-ups to the shuffle as people stopped to photograph the views below or pose for selfies, everyone was quite patient waiting for the rotation to get going again.
The View Over The Bosphorus
From a photography standpoint it would have been better doing the tower a lot earlier or much later in the afternoon – the midday sunlight was a bit harsh. Even so, the views were superb. You can easily see why rooftop chase scenes are so popular in films when they have these types of cities for locations. I could just imagine Liam Neeson snarling his way through Taken, somewhere far below.
The 360-degree views include the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn, the Hagia Sophia Museum, the Blue Mosque, Spice Market, the Galata Bridge and across to the Asian side of Istanbul. You can see the constant flow of tour boats coming in and out of the bay.
Just inside the observation balcony there’s a café in case the sight-seeing leaves you in need of refreshments and there’s also a restaurant one floor below. Within the Tower there’s also a helicopter simulation experience for 10TL.
All in all, it was a great experience, visiting the Galata Tower, Istanbul. After traipsing the streets below for a few days it was quite useful to get that overview from above.
Galata Tower, Istanbul – A Few Useful Facts
Galata Tower external diameter at base: 16.45m
Internal diameter at base: 8.95m
Thickness of walls at base: 3.75m
Thickness of walls at top: 20cm
Galata Tower height is 66.9m
The visitor observation terrace is at 52m.
Slits in the Galata Tower between the fourth and uppermost floors were made in the Ottoman age.
Admission fee (June 2017): 25TL (£5.25 GBP or $6.98 USD)