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Kız Kulesi – The Maiden’s Tower

A stone’s throw off the coast of Üsküdar, the Maiden’s Tower is one of Istanbul’s most instantly recognizable landmarks. It’s been a place of intrigue, legend and strategic importance since the city’s earliest days.

Maiden

Historical accounts mention the Kiz Kulesi as a toll station used by the Greeks as far back as the 5th century BC. The Byzantines used it to chain off the Bosphorus, and thus extract a levy on ships entering and leaving the Black Sea. And the Ottomans used it as a watchtower.

All of which is very interesting, but not nearly as compelling as the legends which surround the tower. In the most famous, a sultan had received a prophecy that his daughter would be killed by a snake bite on her 18th birthday. So he tried to trick fate by placing her off shore, in the Maiden’s Tower. As dusk approached and the terrible prophecy remained unfulfilled, the sultan ferried across to celebrate, with a basket of fruit.

But alas! A venomous asp had smuggled itself into the basket. The princess was bit, and died in her tearful father’s arms.

Another legend tells the story of a girl named Hero who lived in the tower, and the young man Leandros who loved her. Every night, Leandros would swim to the tower, guided by a lamp lit in the tower by his fair maiden. One stormy night, though, Hero’s lamp was extinguished and Leandros, unable to find his way, drowned in the choppy water. When she saw his lifeless corpse wash up onto the rocks, Hero threw herself from her window and landed THUD next to her departed lover.

Today, the Maiden’s Tower serves little purpose other than touristic. For 15 Turkish Lira, you can ferry across for a visit. The bottom floor converts into a restaurant at night and, at the top, there’s a nice (and very expensive) cafe, as well as a platform which offers a unique view of the Bosphorus.

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June 15, 2013 at 5:27 pm
4 comments »
  • June 16, 2013 at 4:34 amLeyla Giray

    So THAT’S what it is! I sailed past it a few times on my way back and forth to the Asian side and couldn’t quite figure it out. But it was rainy and foggy so no one was out there enjoying the sunshine…

  • July 16, 2013 at 7:21 amharvey

    This is one place I haven’t yet made it to in Istanbul and must do. One of my favorite viewpoints is sitting at one of the shoreside cafes in Asia between Uskudar to Harem (like the one shown in your photo with the cushions!), where you can look accross at Sultanahmet and the Maiden’s Tower – it’s a beautiful view of Istanbul!

  • August 29, 2014 at 12:13 amGina

    Has anyone had dinner here?  It looks like a great adventure, but is it worth the effort?Thanks, teşekkür ederim

    • August 29, 2014 at 5:22 pmMike Powell

      Going to the Maiden’s Tower is certainly worth the effort… it’s a short boat trip from Üsküdar, and it’s fun to be on this tiny island in the Bosphorus. However, I don’t know if eating there is worth the money. We just had a drink, and it was quite expensive. Maybe the food is really wonderful, but we decided not to test it!

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