2 Best Sights in Galata and Karakoy, Istanbul

Galata Kulesi


The Galata area was a thriving Italian settlement both before and after the fall of Constantinople, and the Genoese rebuilt this tower as part of their fortifications in 1348 (the original structure dates back to the Byzantium Emperor Justinian in 527 AD), when they controlled the northern shore of the Golden Horn. The hillside location provided good defense, as well as a perch from which to monitor the comings and goings of vessels in the sea lanes below. The 220-foot tower later served at times as a jail and at other times as a fire tower and now houses a restaurant at the top. The viewing gallery, which offers fabulous panoramas of the city and across the Golden Horn and Sea of Marmara, is accessible by elevator and open during the day for a rather steep fee—it bears noting that similar views can be had at rooftop cafés and restaurants around the area.

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Jewish Museum of Turkey


The history of the Jews in Turkey is much more extensive and colorful than the size of this small museum might suggest. Nevertheless, the museum provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives of Turkish Jews, whose presence in Anatolia is traced back to as early as the 4th century BC. In 1492, the Spanish Inquisition drove Sephardic Jews from Spain and Portugal, and Sultan Beyazıt II welcomed the refugees to the Ottoman Empire. A large Jewish population thrived here for centuries, and some older Turkish Jews still speak a dialect of medieval Spanish called Ladino, or Judeo-Spanish. Today, Turkey's Jewish community numbers about 23,000. Most of them live in Istanbul, which has 18 active synagogues (three of which are on the Princes' Islands). The museum exhibits, most of them based on items donated by local Jewish families, include photographs, documents, and an ethnographic section with changing exhibits on subjects such as marriage traditions. There are also religious items brought from some very old (no longer active) synagogues in other parts of Turkey.