Visiting the bustling city of Istanbul is always an exciting trip as we discover new places and experience eating great food from international cuisines. We met up with our good friends on this trip and spent the day touring the Galata Tower and the many other delightful sites nearby. In my opinion, I find the Galata Tower area one of my favorite landmarks in Turkey.
Galata is a social and cultural hub in Istanbul that boasts an array of monuments, churches, restaurants, shops, cafes, and many sights to make your time in the area exceptional. Walking about the city, consider traveling by foot to the Galata Tower as you will get to see the unique mosques and life of the locals.
The Galata Tower was built in 528 by the Byzantine Emperor Anastasias as a lighthouse tower. The tower is considered one of the oldest towers in the world, standing 69.9 meters tall. Throughout history, Galata Tower endured countless battles and served many different purposes; in addition to a lighthouse, it was a shelter for Christian prisoners of war and a fire tower. During the life of the tower, it has endured many fires and was restored. The last restoration took place in 1967. The imposing Galata Tower has been an important landmark of Istanbul’s city for centuries and continues to impress all visitors of present-day Istanbul.
Inside the Galata Tower
You will need to purchase a ticket to enter the Galata Tower (or present your museum card). You can either climb the stairs (10 stories) to the top or ride the elevator. I recommend riding the elevator up and coming down by way of the stairs to get a better feel of the tower. You can read more of the history inside the tower.
A top is an observation deck offering a panoramic view of the Bosphorous River and the city of Istanbul. Visiting this observation desk at dusk is a great way to see the glittering lights of the city.
Ground Level of Galata Tower
To understand how the merchants and stores came about in this area, you must understand the history. Galata Tower was known initially as Christea Turris, meaning ‘Tower of Christ.’ Galata was given as a gift to the Genoese for helping the Byzantium Empire recapture Istanbul from the Crusaders in the 13th century. Later on the Genoese became the biggest trade partner of the Byzantium people until the Ottomans conquered both Constantinople and Galata. Until the 20th century, this part of the city was densely populated with Christians and Jews. Hence, you can see churches and synagogues everywhere.
The Beyoglu area (near the Galata Tower) was popular as the nightlife of the Istanbul elite. In the 17th century, it was told that Beyoglu was the taverns of Istanbul. During the late Ottoman Empire era, it became the trade center along Istiklal Street throughout Beyoglu. Gradually, this area symbolized the modernity of the West and became the center of the European part of Istanbul.
The view from outside the Galata Tower is just as impressive as it is at the observation deck. To get an Instagram shot, walk away from the tower down a cobblestone street and turn back towards the tower, capturing a rising sky view of the Galata Tower.
Here at the ground level, you will find local artists, coffee shops, murals, restaurants, street food, and musical performances. Enjoy the beauty while eating and tasting Turkish food.
Church of St. Anthony
The Church of St. Anthony of Padua is the largest Roman Catholic church in Istanbul and a tribute to the variety of the city’s religious history. This building was originally commissioned and built by Istanbul’s small Italian community between 1906-1912. Keen historians and architecture enthusiasts can marvel at the church’s Gothic fixtures and serene interior. The church is still fully functional as so all are welcome to attend a service.
Once you go inside the church, you will find various artwork, such as a wooden statue of St Anthony and two beautiful mosaics, one of which is designed to show the Baptism of The Lord. The interior is very intricate and beautifully designed. It would be best if you took your time exploring so you don’t miss one of the smaller, impressive details in the various pieces of artwork on display.
Hours of Operation: Open daily from 8:00 – 19:00, offering mass services. Free to enter.
Make sure to enjoy a stroll down the Oxford Street of Turkey, Istiklal Street. The street will enchant you from one end to the other with restaurants, dessert vendors, familiar Western chains, and independent boutiques. Music entertainers line the street as hundreds of locals and tourists mill about. If you want to experience the nostalgic red tram, this is a great place to jump on and ride the long stretch of the street. This is a fantastic shopping destination and makes a prime place to sit back and people watch!
Location: Istiklal Street
Camondo Stairs (Kamondo Stairs)
They are named after the House of Camondo, an influential family of European Jews who settled in Turkey in the 1940s. These stairs stand out due to the Gothic spires or ottoman geometric design. The stairs have no special significance other than a pedestrian walkway, but one cannot fail to notice their exquisite design.
These stone ribbon stairs are worth a stop and take an Instagram picture of such a gorgeous art deco in Istanbul!
Location: Camondo Stairs
Istanbul Modern Art Museum
The Istanbul Museum of Modern Art is a showcase of local talent and hosts various fascinating and educational workshops and exhibitions. The main goal of the museum is to praise the beauty of Turkish art and culture. This site truly encapsulates the ingenuity and creativity of traditional Turkish art and demonstrates how international influences and the passage of time have influenced the expression of native artists.
Location: Istanbul Museum of Modern Art
Hours of Operation: Closed Sunday-Monday. Open Tuesday – Friday from 11:00 – 16:00
Cost: 35 TL pp or Museum Card
The Jewish Museum of Turkey
The Jewish Museum of Turkey is another example of the various groups that once lived in this predominantly Muslim city. The history of Jews in Istanbul is extensive, and for a time, the two major religions co-inhabited the city. This museum documents that time with documents, photographs, and other antiques. This museum, located inside Neve Shalom Synagogue, is one of many landmarks in the city that has a great deal to offer those who are keen to seek it out and learn!
Location:Bereketzade Mahallesi, Büyük Hendek Caddesi No: 39, Beyoğlu, İstanbul
Hours of Operation: Closed on Saturday. Check the website for a current schedule.
Cost: Anything you can donate
Practical information about Galata Tower
Summer / Winter Between 09:00 – 20:30 Hours (viewing balcony is open till 19:00)
Closed Days: Open Every Day (Open Days & Hours may change by Official & Public Holidays)
Address: Büyük Hendek Caddesi, Galata
Cost: 45TL per person
I suggest walking to the tower as the roads are narrow and parking is tricky. However, you can take a tram, funicular, or metro.
There are a lot of buses coming from all around the city to Şişhane bus station. Getting out at this stop, you will walk about 5 minutes to the tower.
Visiting the Galata Tower and all the other attractions nearby is something you don’t want to miss while in Instabul.
Enjoy your travels! Please read my blogs about other exciting places around the world at Traveling Lens Photography.
Inshallah (God Willing)!