From the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality:
“Although it is not completely certain as to when the Galata Tower was built, it is claimed that the it was built during the reign of the Byzantian Emperor, Iustinianos in 507 CE.
It was called the Christea Turris (Tower of Christ) by the Genoese and the Megalos Pyrgos (The Great Tower) by the Byzantines. It took its present shape during the Genoese period. The Tower was heavily damaged during an earthquake in 1509, and it was renewed by the architect, Hayrettin, who was very famous during that period. During the reign of Süleiman the Magnificent (1520-66), it was used as a jail for prisoners who were sentenced to work at the Kasımpaşa Naval Dockyard. The head astrologer, Takıyeddin Efendi, established an observatory on the top of the tower at the end of the 16th century and functioned as an observatory for a particular period of time. Later, it was closed and again turned into a prison by Sultan Murat III (1546-1595).
In 1638, Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi flew as an early aviator using artificial wings from this tower across the Bosphorus to the slopes of Üsküdar on the Anatolian side during the reign of Murad V. Towards the 17th century, it was used by the Mehter Band, the janissary band of musicians. After 1717, it was used as a fire-observatory tower, but the tower itself was unfortunately destroyed in a fire in 1794.
After it was repaired, a cumba, a little room made of wood, was added to the tower during the reign of Sultan Selim III (1761-1808). After another fire in 1831, Sultan Mahmut added two more floors to the Tower and covered the top of the tower with a famous cloth in the shape of a conical hat. An inscription written by Pertev Paşa concerning the tower’s repair works was affixedduring that time. After a strong storm in 1875, the framework of the roofwas damaged and was late repaired in 1960. Today, the Galata Tower operates solely as a touristic attraction by a private company. The elevator only goes to the 7th floor, and the last two floors of the tower must be climbed by stairs.
After passing though the restaurant on the top floor, there is a balcony that encircles the tower. The restaurant’s view showcases a scene of Istanbul and the Bosphorus.
The height of the tower is 66.90 meters (62.59 meters non-including the ornament on top), the outer diameter is 16.45 meters, the inner diameter is 8.95 meters, and the thickness of the wall is 3.75 meters.
Galata tower was the place of many stories of which the flight of Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi was one (fictive or not). The Tower is approximately 20 stories tall and quite literally towers over all of the surrounding buildings. It is a beautiful and imposing structure which has been well cared for. The courtyard underneath the tower is usually filled with people, no matter the time of day or night. In the evenings performers and musicians play for the crowd for free and people drink beer and wine from a nearby convenience store (which must be making an absolute killing from the sales of alcohol). Remarkably, the area stays very clean and is completely family friendly.