Galata Tower, Istanbul

The cylindrical Galata Tower stands sentry over the approach to 'new' ?stanbul. Constructed in 1348, it was the tallest structure in the city for centuries, and it still dominates the skyline north of the Golden Horn. Its vertiginous upper balcony offers 360-degree views of the city, but we're not convinced that the view (though spectacular) justifies the steep admission cost.

The Galata Tower, Galata Kulesi in Turkish, is one of the highest and oldest towers of Istanbul. 63 meter (206 feet) high tower provides a panoramic view of the old town. It was built in the 14th century by the Genoese colony as part of the defense wall surrounding their district at Galata directly opposite ancient Constantinopolis. They called the tower as "Christea Turris", or "Tower of Christ". The Genoese were involved in trade with the Byzantines and the tower was used for the surveillance of the Harbor in the Golden Horn. After the conquest of Constantinople by Mehmet II, it served to detect fires in the city.

Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi was the first flying Turk during the Ottoman Empire of the 17th century. He copied bird wings and studied air flows, than jumping from the Galata Tower he overflew the Bosphorus and landed at Uskudar district on the Asian side, around 6 kilometers in distance.

After the Republic, Galata Tower was restored and opened to the public in 1967. The tower now houses a restaurant and a night club. A couple of elevators will take you up but there are still three more floors to climb by stairs to get on the panoramic terrace which is 52 meters above the ground. A small souvenir shop is located inside the tower just across the ticket office at the entrance level.

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