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Bascilica Cistern

Photo credit: Clara S. / Foter / CC BY
Bascilica Cistern
  • (worth a trip)
  • NA
  • Easy
  • Average
  • 1 hour or less
  • 3 3

A highly recommended attraction popularly known for its tall carved pillars and Medusa heads

Alemdar Mh., Yerebatan Cd. 1/3, 34410 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
A small Cafe at the exit gate of the Cistern for some snacks and beverages.
1) You have to stand in a queue to buy tickets. Your Museum pass would not cover this attraction.
2) It is pricey than other museums, but it is definitely worth the visit.
3) Visit during the early or late hours of the day to avoid peak crowds.
4) Its pretty dark inside the Cistern, avoid using your camera flash to get better quality photos.
5) Also do take pictures dressed up in royal clothes as this is not a very expensive affair and it might add value to your visit making it memorable.
10 TL

The 143 meters long and 65 meters wide, Basilica Cistern, gets its name from the Ilius Basilica dating back to the 6th century. Out of hundreds of cisterns currently hiding beneath the city of Istanbul, Basilica Cistern, the largest of them all, was opened to public viewing in the year 1987.


The 28 Corinthian styled marble columns, each spaced 4 meters apart, were built to provide a water filtration system to meet the needs of the Topkapi Palace and other properties on the First Hill. Judging by the carved artwork on the pillars, one could imagine the skill level of the workers from the Byzantine Era. It is also claimed that almost 7000 slaves have worked towards establishing this enormous monumental structure.


At its entrance, the flight of stairs leads down the hall way connect the concrete walkways to the beautiful pillars enhanced by subdued lighting which in turn create an intricate pattern of the shadows. With the Turkish music playing in the background, it definitely enhances the historic value of this place. The atmosphere within the four walls of this cistern is surprisingly calm and soothing and this is strikingly contrasting to the outside world.


There is also a small pond besides the walkway with some exotic and playful fish. Their movements create an illusion in the water and this is special in its own way.


Moving further inside the cistern, one could see the casually positioned Medusa heads which are placed so as to support the mighty pillars and are possibly placed upside down to nullify the power of Gorgons Gaze.


Although renovated over the years to keep its history intact, the Cistern’s beauty continues to attract many, given all odds.

Opening hours


How to get there

Get to the Sultanahmet area by a tram or funicular. It is diagonally across the street from Hagia Sophia.