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 .
Tours to Basilica Cistern
Small-Group Istanbul in One Day Tour Including Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia BOOK WITH VIATOR FROM $90
Duration: 8 hours
Basilica Cistern Reviews
The private guide I had was amazing. He was able to explain and describe all the special features of this amazing place. more »
There are lots of renovation works going on all over Istanbul at the moment. So lots of scaffolding. But this is worth a visit, good value and something different to what you'll see anywhere else. more »
Fantastic attraction that is well worth the visit. This spacious Roman built cistern shows off impressive Roman engineering. There are two large cistern rooms that are accessible through a tastefully lit walk way. The cistern is also lit along each column without the lighting being too strong so you get a great feel for the space. At the end of the second room, there is a massive Medusa embellished column, that's worth going all the way for. Information boards tell you the history and point out details along the way. It's a beautiful space. Note that entry is not covered by the museum card, but there is a flat entry charge.
Besides being one of the filming location of the movies From Russia with love and Inferno...this place has a lot more to offer. Steps are a little steep and be very careful when going down. Very apt of the curators to put the light at dim state and also play some dark music to set the atmospheric scene. Besides the famous Medusa heads plinths don’t miss out on the Tear or crying column on the left before arriving at the Medusa heads. I find that this pillar is more intriguing that the Medusa’s as it represented slaves who have perished during the construction of this 9800 square metres area and it is the only pillar that is wet unlike other columns.
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