Kız Kulesi, or Maiden’s Tower, an iconic structure off the coast of İstanbul’s Asian side, has opened its doors again, after the completion of a two-year restoration process that was started by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 2021. The tower, which is situated on the Bosporus Strait, will now function as a monument museum.
As one of the iconic landmarks along İstanbul’s skyline, the Maiden’s Tower requires constant maintenance due to its location in the middle of the sea and weather conditions.
The Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry initiated the restoration project titled “The Maiden’s Tower Opens Its Eyes Again”. As part of the restoration, all concrete additions have been removed from the tower’s main structure, which did not exist in its historical documents. Additionally, the tower and the island it stands on are now supported with stakes and seismic isolators, the roof over the courtyard of the Tower has been removed and replaced with a wooden one to replicate the original form, and the courtyard and the outside floors have also been restored to the original material determined in the historical records.
The Maiden’s Tower was initially constructed in the fifth century B.C. on an islet as a customs checkpoint to collect taxes and manage ships travelling through the Bosporus. On this tiny islet, the Eastern Roman Emperor Manuel Komnenos ordered the construction of a defence structure in the 12th century. An iron chain that extended from the tower to another tower on the Historical Peninsula is what controlled the entry into and departure from the Bosporus.
In 1453, after the invasion of İstanbul by Sultan Mehmed II, a wooden tower was built here and served as a watchtower and lighthouse, and then as a quarantine site in later centuries. In the Republic era, after being used by the city’s port authority for a long time, the tower was handed over to the Turkish Ministry of Defense in 1964 and then to Maritime Enterprises of Türkiye in 1983. Serving as a radar station and storehouse during this period, it later became a restaurant, which was only accessible only via boats from the shores of Üsküdar.
Situated in the middle of the Bosporus, the Maiden’s Tower enhances the beauty of İstanbul’s skyline.
The Tower also has a few legends that add to its fame.
The first tells the story of a king and his daughter. After a soothsayer had predicted that the princess would die from a snake bite, the king built the Maiden’s Tower on the rocks off Salacak to protect his daughter. However, the princess’ fate was written, and she eventually was bitten by a snake that entered the castle in a basket of fruits.
Another legend says that Leandros fell in love with Hero, a nun of Aphrodite, living in a tower. Leandros swam every night to see Hero following the light of the tower. However, the tower’s light was put out by a storm one night. Leandros lost his way and drowned in the Bosporus. Overwhelmed by her grief and loss, Hero also committed suicide.
Locals and visitors of İstanbul can view this elegant structure from multiple locations across the city. Now that it has been reopened as a museum, visitors will also be able to view beautiful İstanbul from the Maiden’s Tower’s point of view.