The tower of two worlds
Leander’s Tower connects both Asia and Europe in the Bosphorus Strait. A lighthouse of tragic legends that nowadays hosts weddings and is one of the most photographed sites in the world.
You have to travel from Europe to reach it. To photograph it, the best location is Asia. That’s the capricious Kiz Kulesi, its name in Turkish, the mystical air of an exotic woman. That’s the character of the Maiden’s Tower, as it’s called by the Turkish or Leander’s Tower, as it’s known by the West. One of the most photographed points of the already photogenic Istanbul, the tower is located around 200 metres from the outskirts of Üsküdar, where the Bosphorus Strait begins, on a small islet between the two continents. Although you’ll have to take your selfie in the evening from the Asian part of Istanbul!
People sit on rugs on the ground to enjoy the views
In the global top 10
Leander’s Tower occupies fifth place on the list of the most photographed places in the world, after tourist locations such as Park Güell in Barcelona or the Moulin Rouge in Paris.
From the quay of Üsküdar you can admire the sun setting behind this imposing building of 1,200 square metres. The tower was built in the 12th century in order to establish a permanent place for the chain that used to close off the passage of boats that wished to cross through the Bosphorus Strait. Throughout its history it has been used as a mausoleum, a lighthouse, a traffic control centre, a customs point, a retreat and a barracks. Its current appearance is the consequence of its latest renovation in the 19th century. However, its appearance is not its only attraction: there are still legends about the tower, from which it takes its two names.
The Turkish legend says that the young Leander fell in love with Hero, a priestess of the goddess Aphrodite. Every night he would swim across the strait to visit her, guided by the light of the lantern that she lit. One stormy night the flame was put out by the rain and Leander drowned. When she found out, Hero threw herself into the waters of the strait and died, giving a tragic and romantic end to the tale.
It’s traditional to have a cup of Turkish tea while enjoying the sunset
According to the European legend, the Emperor Manuel Komnenos ordered the tower to be built in order to protect his daughter from the prophecy of a seer who had predicted that she would die from a snake bite. Her father attempted to cheat destiny by surrounding the house with water, but one day the girl received a basket of fruit…out of which a snake escaped and killed her with its bite.
Unlike Leander, you can reach the tower by ferry
Leander’s Tower is now an elegant restaurant that hosts summer dinners and wedding parties, which is without doubt the best time to appreciate the panoramic views from the top of the tower. As well as the fact that nowadays the groom doesn’t have to swim across the Bosphorus: he can take one of the ferries to get there or he can try swimming, if he wants. Where there’s room for two legends there’ll definitely be space for one more, especially if he’s successful!