The Maiden’s Tower Istanbul: A Legendary Landmark

The Maiden’s Tower Istanbul, also known as Kız Kulesi, is an Ottoman tower located on a small islet at the southern entrance of the Bosphorus strait, 200 meters from the coast of Üsküdar neighborhood in Istanbul. It is one of the most iconic landmarks of the city, with a unique history that spans over two millennia. The tower’s location, architecture, and the legends surrounding it make it the subject of fascination for both locals and tourists alike.

The History of Maiden’s Tower Istanbul

BCE 410 – Alcibiades’ Customs Station

The Maiden’s Tower Istanbul has a long and storied history. According to historical evidence, the tower was built in 410 BCE by the Athenian General Alcibiades. At that time, ships passing through the strait were used to control and collect taxes. The tower was used as a customs station for ships coming from the Black Sea.

12th Century – Byzantine Defense Tower

In the 12th century, during the Byzantine era, the tower was rebuilt and used as a defense tower by the Byzantine emperors. The Eastern Roman Emperor, Manuel Komnenos the First, built a defense tower on the island. A chain was stretched between this tower and a tower located next to the Mangana Monastery in Sarayburnu, the section where the sea walls were restored to control the entry and exit of ships through the Bosphorus.

1453 – Ottoman Reconstruction

During the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the tower was destroyed and then reconstructed by Sultan Mehmed II. It served as a lighthouse, a quarantine station, and a military base throughout the Ottoman era.

1763 – Current Tower

The current structure of the Maiden’s Tower Istanbul dates back to 1763. The wooden structure on the island burned down in 1721, after which a new structure was used as a lighthouse tower. The tower was restored in 2023 and is now a museum managed by the culture and tourism ministry.

Legends and Myths Surrounding Maiden’s Tower Istanbul

The Maiden’s Tower Istanbul is not only a historical monument but also a symbol of legends and myths. There are many tales of love, tragedy, and mystery that have been told about the tower over the centuries. Some of the famous legends associated with the tower are:

Legend of the Princess

The most famous legend associated with the Maiden’s Tower Istanbul is the legend of the princess. According to the legend, a Byzantine emperor built the tower to protect his daughter from a prophecy that predicted her death from a snake bite. However, a snake hid in a basket of grapes that the emperor sent to his daughter, and the prophecy came true. The tower was then known as the Maiden’s Tower in honor of the princess.

Legend of Leander

Another famous legend associated with the Maiden’s Tower Istanbul is the legend of Leander. In Greek mythology, Leander would swim across the Hellespont every night to visit his beloved Hero, the priestess of Aphrodite. One night, a storm blew out his light, and he lost his way and drowned. Hero, devastated by his death, threw herself into the sea, and the gods turned them both into rocks. The Maiden’s Tower Istanbul is believed to be the spot where Leander drowned.

Legend of the Snake

According to another legend, the Maiden’s Tower Istanbul was built on the spot where a giant snake lived. The snake would attack passing ships, and the people of Istanbul decided to build a tower to protect the ships. They laid a trap for the snake by leaving a basket of grapes outside the tower. The snake entered the basket, and the people killed it. The tower was then built to honor the victory over the snake.

Visiting Maiden’s Tower Istanbul

Visiting the Maiden’s Tower Istanbul is a must-do for any tourist visiting Istanbul. The tower is open every day from 09:00 to 20:00, and visitors can reach the tower by boat from Üsküdar or Galataport piers. The tower is a monument museum managed by the culture and tourism ministry. The museum exhibits the history of the tower, and visitors can enjoy the panoramic view of Istanbul from the tower. The entrance fee is around 450 TL (around $20) as of writing of this article (2023)


The Maiden’s Tower Istanbul is more than just a tower. It is a symbol of Istanbul’s rich history and culture. The tower’s location at the southern entrance of the Bosphorus Strait has made it a significant place for Istanbul’s defense and customs. The legends and myths surrounding the tower add to its charm and make it a must-visit landmark for tourists. The Maiden’s Tower Istanbul is a testament to the city’s resilience and its ability to preserve its history and culture for generations to come.