Galata Tower is one of the most visited museums in Istanbul. Built in the late Byzantine period, the tower offers 360 degrees of Istanbul view. You can find information about Galata Tower entrance fee and opening hours in this article. In addition, the history of the Galata Tower is also briefly noted.
At the end of the article, there are also useful suggestions about things to do around Galata Tower. Since the tower is very close to the liveliest streets and squares of the city, there are many fun activities around.
The History of the Galata Tower
In order to tell the history of Galata Tower properly, we will have to rewind a little and touch on the history of Istanbul. Istanbul was once the second capital of the Roman Empire as Constantinople.
1. Foundation of Constantinople
It was a huge surprise for everyone when Emperor Constantine decided to move the capital of Roman Empire to a small city, called as Byzantium. However, Constantine’s move of the capital east was based on some realistic observations and had practical reasons.
The first of these was that Rome had lost its former strategic importance. Constantine wanted to be equidistant from the Germanic tribes and the Persians, who were Rome’s two great enemies. Istanbul was located exactly in such a place.
Byzantium, which was a small Ancient Greek colony at that time, had the potential to become the main commercial port of the Eastern Mediterranean in the future. Constantine the Great foresaw this opportunity.
Istanbul, which will be a bridge between the trade extending from Asia to Europe, would feed the empires (Byzantine and Ottoman) for centuries with this wealth.
Constantine moved the capital from Rome to Byzantium in 330 for this purpose. In the early years, the city was called “New Rome”. Later, the city was renamed Constantinople in honor of its founder.
After the foundation of Constantinople, Roman emperors began to live in the east. Emperor Constantine and the emperors who followed him positioned the center of Rome in the Eastern Mediterranean, a promising commercial center.
2. Italian Trade Colonies
As a matter of fact, Istanbul became the most important trade port in the world in a couple of centuries. Silk and spices from Asia were collected in the Port of Constantinople and distributed to Europe from there. Venetians and Genoese were at the head of this commercial system.
Settling of Venetian and Genoese colonies to Istanbul traces back to Byzantine Empire era. When Constantinople was just today’s Historical Peninsula, Italian trade colonies were established on the opposite shore of the Golden Horn (Galata).
Although relations between the Catholic Italian colonies and Orthodox Constantinople have had ups and downs throughout history, this trading system has persisted through the centuries.
As it is shown on the visual, Istanbul was only restricted to modern-day Historical Peninsula. At the opposite shore of the Golden Horn was Galata trade colony standing, surrounded with walls. Those ancient walls surrounding Galata were, unfortunately, torn down due to municipal operations in the late Ottoman period.
3. Sack of Constantinople
However, at a specific time in history, one of the two Italian colonies broke up with Constantinople. During the Fourth Crusade, the Doge of Venice named Enrico Dandolo plundered Constantinople (1204). During the Sack of Constantinople, the local Venetian colony also cooperated with the invaders.
Catholics founded Latin Empire in Constantinople that lasted 57 years. (1204-1261) When the city was recaptured in 1261, Byzantines received a huge support from Genoese colonies. In return, they consigned a harbor district, known as Galata (today’s Karakoy district), to them.
4. Construction of the Galata Tower
The Genoese surrounded the Galata district, which was given to them, with walls. The construction of the Galata Tower was started to protect and monitor the port of Constantinople.
Of course, when the Byzantine Empire was strong, such a military structure would not be allowed in the heart of the capital. However, declining Byzantium needed the military assistance of the Genoese.
The Genoese remained loyal to Byzantium in return for the great privileges given to them. Thus, Yoros Castle and Galata Tower were built to protect the Bosphorus. You can see the castle near the Black Sea coast when you go on a Bosphorus cruise.
5. Fall of Constantinople
Though previous Ottoman rulers attempted to conquer the city multiple times, it was Mehmed II who succeeded in taking the city. Capture of the Galata Tower and the district was delayed due to the defense chain that was placed at the mouth of Golden Horn during the siege.
Byzantines and Genoese defended the city together against the siege because population was very low in the 15th century in Constantinople and the Empire needed every one of its soldiers to hold the city.
Call for aid to the Western Europe by Byzantine Emperor was in vain. Genoese Republic was the only state that came to assist the Byzantine Empire. They sent 700 soldiers under Giovanni Giustiniani’s command.
Giustiniani played a big role in organizing the defense of the city. The fall of the city was delayed because of his strategic genius. After he was injured, he noticed the inevitable ending and left the city.
In his absence, there was nothing to prevent the fall of Constantinople from happening, so the Ottomans conquered the city on May 29th, 1453. The Galata Tower was handed down to the Sultan Mehmed II on the same day.
6. Commercial Privileges to Trading Colonies
Mehmed the Conqueror was a very realist and practical ruler. He was unwilling to damage the trade route that had brought precious goods and great deal of money for centuries. For that reason, he let the traditional trade route continue to perform.
Sultan granted some commercial privileges to Venetian and Genoese trading colonies and they continued to act as a tie between Constantinople and Europe. Of course, the Ottoman Empire made money via high taxes.
Galata Tower Entrance Fee 2023
Galata Tower entrance fee is 175 Turkish Lira as of 2023. Museum Pass Istanbul is valid for entrance to the tower. You can visit the Galata Tower to take a picture of unique Istanbul scene and have a good time at the cafe located on its roof.
Galata Tower Opening Hours 2023
Galata Tower opening hours are between 08:30 in the morning and 23:00 in the late evening. Galata Tower is open to visitors every day throughout the year.
Visiting times of museums in Istanbul may change due to events and renovations. Before going to the museum, I suggest you visit the official website of the museum and review the latest situation.
Things to Do around Galata Tower
You can see hundreds of people around Galata Tower during the day. The square under the tower is called “Kuledibi” in the local language. There are many cafes, restaurants and shopping streets around. We can summarize the things to do around Galata Tower in a few titles.
1. Galata Mevlevi House Museum
Galata Mevlevi House Museum was the spiritual center of whirling dervishes. Whirling Dervish Show, one of the most beautiful theatrical performances in Istanbul, is also performed here.
Galata Mevlevi House Museum is a museum affiliated to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and if you have a Museum Pass, you can enter here for free.
2. Istiklal Street
After visiting the Mevlevi Museum, you can go to Tunnel Square with just a few minutes’ walk. Tunnel Square is the beginning of Istiklal Street, which stretches for 1.5 kilometers.
Istiklal Street is the most enjoyable walking street in Istanbul. It starts with Tunnel Square and continues until Taksim Square. You can see restaurants, cafes and shopping places along the street.
3. Serdar-i Ekrem Street
Serdar-i Ekrem Street is a shopping street whose popularity has increased in recent years. You can find shops selling specially designed items on this street. There are also stylish boutique hotels and cafes.
Galataport is a huge complex serving as Istanbul’s cruise port. There are many options for both shopping and eating here. You can reach Galataport with a 15-minute walk from the tower.
5. Nardis Jazz Club
Nardis Jazz Club is also among the things to do around Galata Tower. Nardis Jazz Club is a popular nightclub that hosts both local and foreign Jazz artists. The club is located a few minutes from the tower.
Galata Tower and its surroundings offer good opportunities for those who like to take pictures. Some buildings painted by street artists can be the background image for your Instagram photos.
If you need a little more inspiration while planning your Istanbul trip, the Best Places to Visit in Istanbul article may offer you new ideas. In this article, you can find up-to-date information about Istanbul’s 10 most popular historical monuments.
In addition, you can review the article Top 15 Things to Do in Istanbul for fun activities you can do in Istanbul. Written through the eyes of a local tour guide, this article offers helpful tips.
Written by Serhat Engul
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