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Basilica Cistern, Istanbul

#3 of 5,735 in Things to do in Turkey
Must see · Architectural Building · Ruin
Explore the largest of hundreds of ancient cisterns located below the city at Basilica Cistern. This fascinating chamber of the underground water systems, commissioned in 532 by Byzantine Emperor Justinian, is remarkable for its practical and artistic value. After a complete renovation in the 1980s, the cistern became one of the most popular tourist sites in Istanbul's Sultanahmet district. Walk along the wooden platforms beneath the dark, vaulted ceilings of this cathedral-sized cistern and see its famous Medusa-head pillar and Hen's Eye column. Put Basilica Cistern at the forefront of your travel plans using our Istanbul holiday planning website.
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Basilica Cistern reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
31,246 reviews
  • Amazing jewels and architecture. I said if we all want to come back to earth after we pass on, come back as a Sultan.  more »
  • Excellent 15-20 minute stop, but still closed for now and April 29th 2021 will start huge lockdown for 17 days until May 17th. The guard at place doesn't know when openning. CLOSED FOR COVID.  more »
  • I'm glad I took a half hour to visit this wondrous underground cistern. It's a reminder of multiple empires that ruled Instanbul since it was built 1000 years before the Ottomans took over. It's dim.....  more »
  • This is one of my BEST experiences in Istanbul. If i can give it a 10 star i would. The whole atmosphere and interior of the whole space is just beyond your imagination. I would definitely recommend to buy the pictures as they dress you up in the authentic Turkish costumes. I still have it as an amazing souvenir. I loved every minute of this.
  • Cool place! I enjoyed wandering through the columns with the eerie soundtrack they played. The lighting was effective and really added to the experience. It is excellent value for money, but watch your step, it's very slippery down there. The wishing pool is a place to those a coin in and make a wish, only there was no pool, the water was very low. I know this is completely out of their control and my rating does not include this. I just thought it was funny watching people throwing money onto concrete and hoping something magical will happen. Definitely good you're in the area.
  • The cistern was made specially to supply the water demand of Istanbul and the palace. Inside of this mysterious place, the most interesting column is the one with the Medusa head on it. Water, lights and the location of these columns, will make you wonder the meaning of life. Even though it is a museum today, there are still lots of activities are being done inside. And if you are a Hollywood fan, you will remember the James Bond movie, ‘‘From Russian with Love” in which he gets across underground Istanbul on a boat, via the Basilica Cistern.
  • First time visiting an ancient cistern. You can see the wisdom of ancient human being after going to this place. 1. If you don't want to wait too long, remember to visit it at the morning. It might be too many people at noon and you need to wait 20 minutes minimum. 2. As a underground water filtration system that was built in the 6th century during the reign of Justinian I, it is magnificent. The lightnings inside are great, brilliant place to take beautiful pictures. 3. There were fishes in the cistern because it was used to eat insects, prevent insects from laying eggs into the water, and they can also be used to prevent someone from poisoning the city water system. 4. There is a Medusa head inside the Basilica, it is crafted beautifully and with details. It is very cool. 5. Anyway, remember to bring your camera, take more pictures and enjoy :)
  • A must visit! Recall this from the movie Inferno! This is something unique, such a red structure of both religious and infrastructure relevance. Now this is used to host musical concerts, imagine what it would feel like. There’s a small ticket price and a small queue for this place. And yes there’s this Medusa pillar at the end of the hall, which is an intriguing site.

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