The Maiden’s Tower, also known as Leander’s Tower, is a lighthouse from the late 18th century, which is situated on a fortified, small island off the Asian coast of Üsküdar and is one of Istanbul’s classic landmarks.
Its European name “Leander’s Tower” goes back to an ancient legend that allegedly played in the Dardanelles and not at the entrance of the Bosphorus. Tradition has it that Leander swam every night across the Hellespont to his lover, the priestess Hero until one night the torch that guided him the way went out. He lost his way and drowned. When Hero found her dead lover on the shore, she threw herself into the water, too.
The Turkish name “Kız Kulesi”, which literally means “Girl Tower”, comes from a popular legend about a princess, in which a prophetess predicted that she would die from a snake bite. As a result, the sultan immediately had a tower built in the middle of the waters of the Bosphorus to save his daughter from her fate. However, a fruit basket in which a snake was hidden reached her. The princess died, just as the oracle had predicted.
According to Byzantine chroniclers, the Maiden’s Tower historically holds a very important position: Here is allegedly the place where one end of the big chain has been anchored, which was stretched during attacks on Constantinople over the Bosphorus. However, it is known that the Maiden’s Tower has served as a quarantine station, customs house, lighthouse and as a retirement home for maritime officers over time.
It was not for nothing that in 1999 it became the location of the James Bond movie “The World Is Not Enough” and was the hiding place of Bond’s opponent Elektra King.
If you would like to see the Maiden’s Tower from the inside, you can take the shuttle boats from the Asian coast from Üsküdar-Salacak, which runs every 15 minutes to the island just 200 meters away, or on the weekends from the European coast from Kabataş between 1pm and 6pm every hour. The ride is included in the entrance fee.
The tower’s restaurant offers breakfast, lunch, a la carte (at the evening), or with a drink at the bar, an incomparable 360 degree view of the city right in the middle of the Bosphorus. Upon request, the management also arranges a candlelit dinner for you and your loved one.