19-11-2021 - Tips & Guides

6 Best Towers And Fortresses To Visit In Istanbul

Istanbul is a city of various historical textures. From countless Ottoman palaces and mansions to historical sites like museums, this city has thousands of years of history behind it, and the best part is, a great portion of that history can still be experienced today. Some of the more underrated historical attractions of the city are its towers and military fortresses. If you want to learn more about these gems, here are the top fortresses and towers in Istanbul.

Rumeli Hisari (Rumeli Fortress)

Built right before Mehmed the Conqueror took Istanbul from the Byzantine Empire, this large fortress has been watching over the Bosphorus for many years. Its initial function was to cut any possible aid that may come to Byzantines from the Bosphorus. Because of this, Rumeli Hisari was also called “Bogazkesen” (Strait-cutter). It is built on the narrowest point of the Bosphorus to make the defense of the strait as easy as possible. It sits on the opposite side of the Anadolu Hisari, in the Sariyer district. It covers a total of 60,000 m2 of area, has 5 gates and 4 towers.

Throughout centuries, Rumeli Hisari was damaged many times due to earthquakes, but was repaired every time. It was abandoned in the 19th century, so many people started living inside the fortress. In 1953, thought, these inhabitants were relocated and the Rumeli Fortress underwent a 3-year restoration period in 1955. In 1960, it was opened as a public museum. Today, you can tour this grand museum’s walls and towers, while also taking part in the many events it hosts during the summer months. It gave its name to countless local businesses because of its importance in Turkish history, and it is easily the most famous one among the historical fortresses in Istanbul.

Anadolu Hisari (Anatolian Fortress)

Anadolu Hisari is the older brother of the Rumeli Hisari. It was built between the years of 1393 and 1394 by Sultan Bayezid I. It was mainly built as a watch fort, so it is much smaller than Rumeli Hisari with a total occupying area of 7,000 m2. It is located on the opposite side of the Bosphorus, in the Beykoz district. Much like Rumeli Hisari, its historical and cultural significance gave its name to the surrounding area as well as many local places around it. Historically, it is also known as the “Guzelce Hisar”, which means “The Beauteous Castle". Together with the Rumelihisari, Anadotian Fortress worked to cut all the naval traffic in the Bosphorus, which helped Ottomans conquer Constantinople immensely.

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After Istanbul was taken, this Anadolu Hisari worked primarily as a prison and customs house. Towards the late Ottoman era, though, it was abandoned, causing it to gradually decay. Between 1991 – 1993, it was restored, but it is still not open to the public. But this doesn’t mean that you cannot watch this glorious fortress during a Bosphorus cruise.

Yedikule Hisari

Located in the Yedikule neighborhood of Fatih, this historic fortress was built by Sultan Mehmed II in the year of 1458. It wasn’t built entirely from scratch; it was built by adding walls and 3 towers to a section of the ancient Walls of Constantinople. Its name translates to “Fortress of Seven Towers”. Before its treasury was transferred to Topkapi Palace, Yedikule Hisari’s towers acted as storage for gold, silver, coins, important documents and goods. After this relocation, Yedikule started to be used as a dungeon. Various important people were imprisoned here, from the ambassadors of states that are at war with the Ottomans to victims of political intrigue. The 16th sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Osman II (also known as Young Osman) was prisoned and executed here by the Janissaries in 1622.

Other than its seven towers and walls, a small masjid and a fountain was built inside its inner courtyard. Yedikule Hisari eventually became a museum in 1895. Today, it is used as a place for festivals and events.

Walls of Constantinople

While Walls of Constantinople do not mean a single tower or a fortress, these walls that surround the historical peninsula of the Fatih district will definitely attract your attention during your Old City Tour. These kilometers of walls and hundreds of towers weren’t built in a single go, instead they were created by the occasional additions made by different emperors. It is thought that the first emperor to start building walls around Constantinople was Constantine the Great. As the city grew, these walls also had to expanded. Examples for such additions would be the Theodosian Walls and Walls of Blachernae.

These walls stopped many enemy sieges, such as the Avar-Persian siege, First and Second Arab sieges, Revolt of Thomas the Slav, Fourth Crusade and the First Ottoman Siege. They ultimately lost to Ottomans in 1453, after which the wall became pointless since Istanbul was on the borders of the Ottoman Empire. While a good portion of these walls were gradually destroyed because of the earthquakes, an effort to restore them is being made. You can get an Istanbul city wall tour and walk on certain portions of these historical walls of Istanbul.

The Maiden’s Tower

Definitely one of the most beautiful historical towers in Istanbul, The Maiden’s Tower is hugely popular among both locals and tourists. While there isn’t any certain data showing a certain date for its construction, a wooden tower is thought to be built on its place in the year of 1110 by the Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus. It was protected by a stone wall and was used as a watchtower. After the conquest of Istanbul, the tower was demolished and rebuilt by the Ottomans. But that tower was destroyed in a fire in 1719, so it was rebuilt in the year of 1725. Today, you can take a small ferry ride to the Maiden’s Tower watch the beautiful strait of Bosphorus, from either its top or in the café on the first floor.

Galata Tower

Galata Tower Istanbul is easily the most popular historic tower in Istanbul. This popular was originally built in 1348 by the Genoese colony of the Constantinople. It is 67 meters high and has a distinct architectural style and a very special location that makes it stand out more than anything in the district. From the top of Galata Tower, you can both watch the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus and the surrounding area of the Beyoglu district. Since it was restored and opened to the public in 1967, this monument has become the symbol of Istanbul.

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