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Basilica Cistern, Istanbul

4.6
#2 of 3,425 in Things to do in Turkey
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. Our Istanbul tour planner makes visiting Basilica Cistern and other Istanbul attractions simple, and helps you make a travel plan personal to you.
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4.6
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  • August 20, 2017
    We had seen the film Inferno. Some parts in the Basilica Cistern were shot. Impressive "concert hall". So there we were. Said than done. It is built as before. We had hoped for more from the cistern. It's a small pool, which was filled with water, where in some fish swimming spectacular not special. The design is great and if it is then finished, there wonderful concerts to take place.
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  • August 20, 2017
    A very mystical place. All write about Meduze but undeservedly forgotten Weeping column or Column of tears. She's always wet, stands out among the other than colon. Decorated with a pattern of curls. It was built in honor of the memory of slaves who died during its construction. Refreshing coolness reigns inside. Places very slippery!
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  • August 19, 2017
    We were very curious to visit them. Rental of audio gua basket was closed during opening hours and tanks in service were without water. It was a little disappointing.
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  • The cistern is dark, which gives it such a great atmosphere, along with the well placed lighting. It was amazing. Some of the unique columns in the cistern are definitely reason to visit, with the weeping columns and the Medusa columns. Right at the end, there is a pool full of fish, pretty interesting, also kind of spooky. This is a very quick place to visit but I would recommend visiting it.
  • Built in Justinian time and rediscovered only around 30 years these are located close to the park. It's a 20 lira entrance fee and audio guide is another 10 if you want it. It was ok. It's a big complex and the size is impressive but there is nothing super special about it. I was there for about 30 minutes and felt like enough time.
  • Stunning! Not much here that can disappoint you. The lighting is beautiful, the music they play throughout is fantastic, there is a photo setup where you pay to get into Byzantine costumes and have a photo taken on set.. Walk slow, admire the craftsmanship, take it all in.
  • What a great piece to experience some ancient history! The restoration efforts are pretty great and there is a fair amount of information for self guiding through the Cisterns. Go early to avoid crowding!! CASH ONLY.
  • The massiveness of the place is covered behind restoration walls, illuminations could be much better, the furthest corner is used to grow fishes for the nearby restaurant. Nevertheless it's absolutely worth visiting!

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Where to stay in Istanbul

The bustling downtown core of old Istanbul is the popular choice among tourists wanting a short walking distance to the city's biggest attractions. Here you'll find hostel-style accommodations and reasonably priced and traditionally decorated hotels, as well as bed and breakfasts and inns with views overlooking the sea. Though often the most affordable, accommodations in the old city can be very overrun with tourists and street solicitors. If you seek a more relaxed stay, consider lodging near Taksim Square. This new, trendy neighborhood is a short 15-20 minute ride from the old city, but puts you closer to restaurants, shopping, and nightlife. Though the newer area of the city is a bit more upscale, you'll also find moderately priced hotels and some hostels. Look for luxury hotels in the western suburbs close to the airport, overlooking the banks of Bosphorus.
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