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Basilica Cistern, Istanbul

4.5
#3 of 5,262 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. 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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4.5
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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • When undergoing restoration it should state upfront and discount the ticket. This was something I was really excited about, having been depicted so beautifully in pictures and media. However the water was drained totally, which is the main thing which generates the dramatic beautiful reflections and the red color. There is special water brought for this cistern. More than half of it was closed off for restoration work also.
  • Since having seen photos when i was a child, i always dreamt of visiting. I wasn't disappointed. The atmosphere is amazing. If you are up to take an overpriced photo in Turkish outfit as a souvenir you can as well do that. This is however not my go. Go and enjoy what generations before is were capable to pull off.
  • A must-see. The Cisterna Basilica is just breathtaking. Such a beautiful yet spooky scene. The Medusa stone is also very stunning.
  • It's absolutely worth a visit. The Medusa heads were awesome. This sign in the middle which mentions the medusa heads nowhere close to the actual heads is bith confusing and hilarity because we were all. Looking for the heads, and many imagining seeing one of them!
  • Impressive underground structure that was first used as a basilica by the emperors in the 6th century. It is underground and mainly made of marble and stone, and was used to store water for the surroundings. Another building worth visiting if you are in Istanbul. Don't miss it and if you go watch out of the medusa heads.

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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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