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Basilica Cistern, Istanbul

4.6
#3 of 5,239 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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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 4.5
26,255 reviews
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4.6
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  • Thought it would be more impressions. Nothing much. The smell of mold and sewage. A huge water tank. At the end of the mini pool with fish, the smell is unbearable. All why do images with the stone head of Medusa the Gorgon.
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  • The cistern is without water, empty, and only a part you can see because the rest is in restoration. Too expensive the entrance to see so little, makes little sense at this time.
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  • When we visited the Cistern half of the place was being renovated and there was no water inside. It is a great place for interesting pictures (however you will need to be very patient and always wait ...  more »
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  • An extraordinary structure that is built before the Ottoman Empire. Presumably it was the source of water for the numerous sieges that Constantinople had and the nearby palaces. Said to be built around 500AD. Going down to the cistern has to be taken carefully as it is quite dark. It can be slippery as there is water splashing about. The Cistern is impressive and definitively worth a visit when in Istanbul.
  • One of my favorite sights in Istanbul. If there are not too many tourists it has a magical atmosphere. The music, the lighting. And so many different columns. Brought together form the whole region approx 1,500 year ago. Amazing. Thai place breaths history. Thousands of years.
  • The queue to enter was very short although hundreds of local school children were all piling in! The cistern was much larger than I'd expected and much more impressive, especially considering it was built 1500 years ago. Most of the water seemed to have been drained at the moment but it was still very impressive with the lights at the bottom of the pillars. Great value at 10 TL each.
  • This place has a little bit of a mystic atmosphere when there are not many people inside. It's amazing to realize that this place was built so long ago, and has been standing here for over 1500 years. My god, that feeling gave me chills. One of the must sees of the city.
  • Very historic place! This is where they gather their water at their time. Inside is a little bit dark. You can also a photo booth inside where you can clothe yourself with their traditional dresses or turkey attires. Inside you can found also the story of Medusa. At the end is a little fishpond. Many students during Easter Celebration.
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