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Maidens Tower, an iconic landmark in Istanbul, Turkey, has captivated visitors for centuries with its enigmatic allure. Perched on a tiny islet in the Bosphorus Strait, this medieval stone tower symbolises Istanbul’s rich history and cultural heritage. Shrouded in legends and tales of love, tragedy, and mystery, Maidens Tower has become an integral part of the city’s identity. In this blog, we’ll discover the tower’s captivating past and explore the architectural wonders that have made it a beloved destination for locals and travellers alike.

About Maidens Tower

Aerial view of the Maidens Tower Turkey over the sea.

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The Maidens Tower, also known as Leander’s Tower (or Tower of Leandros), is a captivating structure located on a small islet at the southern entrance of the Bosphorus strait, approximately 200 meters (220 yards) from the coast of the Üsküdar neighbourhood in Istanbul. Its rich history spans over two millennia, and it has become one of the most iconic landmarks in the city.

Initially constructed by the Athenian general Alcibiades in 408 BC, the tower served as a customs station for ships arriving from the Black Sea. During the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the tower was destroyed but later reconstructed by Sultan Mehmed II. Throughout the Ottoman era, it played various roles, including serving as a lighthouse, a quarantine station, and a military base.

Today, the Maiden’s Tower is a monument museum managed by the Culture and Tourism Ministry. Visitors can explore its intriguing history and enjoy the picturesque views. Additionally, there’s a pastry shop within the tower, catering to the tastes of those who visit. Over the centuries, tales of love, tragedy, and mystery have been woven into its stone walls, adding to its allure and mystique.

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Maidens Tower History

The view of the Maiden's Tower Turkey under the clear blue sky.

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Maiden’s Tower is an iconic landmark also known as the Kiz Kuleshi in Turkish. Maiden’s Tower history is well documented. A timeline of it is as follows:

BCE 410

Historical evidence suggests that the tower, believed to have been constructed in 410 BC, was built by the Athenian Commander Alcibiades. At that time, it was used to control and collect taxes from ships passing through the strait.


In the 12th century, Eastern Roman Emperor Manuel Komnenos I built a defence tower on the island. A chain was stretched between this tower and another tower located next to the Mangana Monastery in Sarayburnu, where the sea walls were restored to control the entry and exit of ships through the Bosphorus.

1453 Conquest of Constantinople

After the conquest, Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror (Fatih Sultan Mehmet) built a new castle, where a guard unit was stationed. The Mehter watch would play in the tower every evening after bedtime and at dawn. It became a tradition to fire cannon shots from the Maiden’s Tower during holidays, the sultan’s visits to seaside palaces, and ascensions to the throne.


Sultan Ahmed III’s Grand Vizier, Nevşehirli Damat İbrahim Pasha, placed a lantern on the wooden tower’s northern part to guide ships from the Black Sea and Marmara at night. From this time, the tower ceased being a castle and primarily served as a lighthouse.


Between 1830 and 1831, the tower was converted into a quarantine hospital to prevent the spread of cholera to the city. During the plague epidemic of 1836-1837, which claimed twenty to thirty thousand lives, some patients were isolated in the hospital, and the epidemic was contained through quarantine. Passengers and patients were also quarantined in the Maiden’s Tower during the 1847 cholera outbreak in Trabzon.


A French company added a lantern to the tower and then transferred it to the Lighthouses Administration.


After the lantern was transferred to the İstanbul Port Authority, the tower also functioned as a gas tank.


Maidens Tower served as a radar station for a while. A light was turned on in the evenings for maritime navigation safety, and a foghorn was blown in low-visibility weather. Until 1983, due to the proximity of the Harem and Port guidance stations, only two officers from the Maritime Enterprises managed the 24-hour notification and control of all ships passing through the strait.


The tower was used as a surveillance and radar station under the Ministry of National Defence.


In 1983, the tower was transferred to Türkiye’s Maritime and Port management. It was also used as a cyanide storage facility until 1992, when the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality Council moved it to a storage facility in Tuzla. In May 1992, the tower was briefly used by poets and declared the “Republic of Poetry”.


In 1994, the tower was transferred from the Ministry of Transport to the Naval Forces Command.


The tower was rented to a private facility for tourist purposes after extensive restoration.


The Maiden’s Tower, one of the crown jewels of the Bosporus in İstanbul, has been renovated according to a restoration plan from the reign of Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II approximately 200 years ago. The tower was reopened to visitors on Thursday, May 11th, 2023, after a meticulous 2-year restoration under a Culture and Tourism Ministry project.

Architecture and Structure

The courtyard of the Maiden's Tower Turkey

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The Maiden’s Tower is a historic landmark on the sea and a remarkable example of architectural design. Over the centuries, the tower has undergone several changes and renovations, reflecting its builders’ and users’ various periods and influences. The Athenian general Alcibiades built the original tower in 408 BC, a wooden structure on a small rock. It was later rebuilt and fortified by Byzantine emperors, who added a stone wall and an iron chain to connect it to the Asian shore. This version of the tower had a circular shape with a conical roof and served as a defence tower and a customs station.

Throughout history, the tower was destroyed and rebuilt multiple times due to natural disasters and wars. In 1725, Ottoman Grand Vizier Damad Ibrahim Pasha ordered a reconstruction, giving the tower its current shape and size. The new stone and brick tower had five floors and an octagonal plan decorated with Baroque arches, cornices, and windows. It was also equipped with a lantern and functioned as a lighthouse. In 1833, Sultan Mahmud II ordered another restoration, adding more details and ornaments to the tower’s exterior and interior. The tower was painted white and red and featured wooden balconies and stairs.

The interior was divided into various rooms, including a kitchen, dining room, bedroom, and bathroom. It also had a fireplace, a fountain, and a clock. In 1857, a French company installed a new gas-powered lantern, increasing the tower’s height and visibility. This lantern, with a metal frame and glass panels, continued to serve as a lighthouse until 1926.In 2023, the Maiden’s Tower reopened to the public on May 11th after a major two-year restoration project by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The restoration faithfully returned the tower to its early 19th-century state during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II (1808-1839). The reopening was celebrated with a spectacular light and sound show between the Maiden’s Tower and the nearby Galata Tower.

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How To Reach

A directions to reach Maiden's Tower from various points in Istanbul

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You can visit the Maiden’s Tower. There are two primary boat services to Maiden’s Tower from Üsküdar-Salacak Pier daily and Galataport Pier with specific timings options. Boats depart for the Tower every fifteen minutes from Üsküdar, operating from 9:15 AM to 6:30 PM.

If you’re closer to Kabataş, especially on weekends, you can catch a boat every hour beginning at 10:00 AM with the last boat at 6:00 PM. Verifying the latest timings before your journey is advisable, as they can change based on the season or other factors. Enjoy your visit to this enchanting historical site!

Entrance Fees And Timings Of Maidens Tower

Plan your travel to Istanbul with your friends and family.

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The opening hours of the iconic Maiden’s Tower are from 09:00 to 20:00 every day. The tower invites exploration for a museum entry of 400 TL, with an additional 50 TL for the islet’s boat transfer.

Further Read: Places To Visit In Turkey With Family

Maiden’s Tower, a captivating structure that has stood the test of time, is a testament to Istanbul’s rich history and cultural heritage. Its enigmatic past and breathtaking views make it a must-visit destination for travellers seeking a unique experience.  So, if you want to see this marvel with your own eyes, book your trip to Turkey today. A trip to Turkey will be an exhilarating experience that will take you on a trip to the ancient ruins, beautiful beaches, and vibrant nightlife. So, garb this opportunity today and cherish the memory that will last for a lifetime.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Maiden’s Tower

What is the story behind the Maidens Tower?

One legend behind the Maiden Tower tells of a Byzantine emperor who was trying to prevent a prophecy of his daughter dying from a snake bite. Thus, he isolated her in the tower, but a snake hidden in a fruit basket ultimately killed her. Another tale recounts a tragic love story in which a maiden in the tower and her lover, Leandros, both get drowned in the Bosphorus, leading to a narrative of doomed romance.

When was Maidens tower built?

The Maiden Tower’s origins are a subject of debate, with some accounts suggesting its initial construction by Athenian leader Chares around 341 BC. The structure has witnessed multiple renovations, with the present-day version emerging during the Ottoman period in the 1700s.

Why is Maiden's Tower famous?

Yes, the Maiden Tower is an iconic Istanbul landmark renowned for its historical significance, architectural marvels, and panoramic vistas. It also houses a restaurant, offering visitors a scenic gastronomic journey.

Who built the Maiden Tower?

In the year 1110, the Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus constructed the Maiden Tower. There was a chain attached from the one end of the fortress of the island to the second end of the tower in Mangana.

How to visit Maiden's Tower?

Private boats can take you to the Maiden’s Tower from the piers at Üsküdar-Salacak and Galataport. It is open daily from 09:00 to 20:00 which attracts a large number of tourists worldwide.

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