Fortified since Byzantine times, this little islet off the Asian shore guarded the busy shipping lanes and, now, restored and lit up, it's the star of the lower Bosphorus. The name Leander's Tower, as it was known in antiquity, associates the island with the legend of Leander, who was said to have swum the strait each night guided by the lamp of his lover, Hero—though this myth in fact took place in the Dardanelles to the southwest. The Turkish name "Maiden's Tower"
comes from a legend associated with several offshore castles: as the story goes, a princess is placed on an island after a prophecy that she will die of a snakebite, but it happens anyway, when a snake comes ashore in a basket of fruit. The current tower, which dates to the 18th century, now houses an expensive but not all that impressive café and restaurant. Boats ferry visitors at regular intervals from Kabataş on the European side and Salacak (near Üsküdar) on the Asian shore.