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“Best part of my trip to Istanbul” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern
Imran Oktem Cad. No:4 D:5 Sultanahmet, Fatih | Near St. Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
+90-212 522 12 59
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Ranked #8 of 503 Attractions in Istanbul
Type: Ancient Ruins, Cultural
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Attraction details
Fee: Yes
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Owner description: The Basilica Cistern is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns beneath the city that provided a water filtration system for the buildings nearby. This underground chamber measures approximately 138 meters (453 ft) by 64.6 meters (212 ft) and is capable of holding 80,000 cubic meters (2,800,000 cu ft) of water. The ceiling is supported by 336 marble columns.
Sao Paulo, SP
Senior Reviewer
7 reviews 7 reviews
6 attraction reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
“Best part of my trip to Istanbul”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 4, 2013

Firstly, we waited for about 20 minutes to wait in the queue in the boiling heat; go rather early to try and beat this queue, especially in summer months.

Secondly, once we went in we were persuaded to photography in traditional Turkish wear. Not only were the staff extremely polite and hilarious, they also spoke good English and provided me and my family with a photo to treasure forever. At quite a cheap price, this was worth it.

Thirdly, we were simply astonished. Who could believe such great architecture could be hidden from the world, underground? The large pillars with continued on and on contrasted with the lights made an unmissable photo experience.

Fourthly, look down! The fish are huge and very interesting to look at, especially for the little ones!

Fifthly, be careful! The paths, especially towards the end, can get quite slippery, so wear firm shoes and pay attention.

Lastly, the Medusa head's were very interesting. In my opinion, the worst part of the experience. They are interesting and make you think why they are positioned in such ways. However, the beauty of the rest of the Basilica Cistern was what truly astounded me.

Visited August 2013
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Toronto, Canada
Top Contributor
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“The under-water cathedral”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed October 4, 2013

This is an impressive example of the treasures that can sometimes be found under the crust of some of the world's ancient cities, and there are few older than Istanbul. It was one of the many contributions by the Emperor Justinian who ruled the Roman city in the 6th Cent. It is the size of 4 Football Pitches (10,000 sq. meters, and is held up by 336 elegant pillars, many with notable decorations, including the "peacock pillar" and the two with inverted Heads of Medusa in the far left extremity. The water basin is shallow but contains a large shoal of carp. I never received a satisfactory explanation as to how they ever got there. The lay out of the wooden walkways is very intelligent, and there is quite a lot of ground to be covered if one has the desire. There are a lot of steps (75) down, but one exits some distance downhill so that you only have to climb up 35. This is a boon to older tourists who might otherwise be put off.

Visited October 2013
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Seattle, WA
Contributor
18 reviews 18 reviews
8 attraction reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
“Spectacular”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 4, 2013

Try to see it early before the larger tour groups arrive. Almost always a line to get it but worth the wait.

Visited August 2013
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Mountain View, CA
Senior Contributor
37 reviews 37 reviews
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Reviews in 15 cities Reviews in 15 cities
15 helpful votes 15 helpful votes
“Atmospheric”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 4, 2013

And also a great place to momentarily escape a hot day. Beautiful, lit well (enough, but not too much), and big enough not to feel too crowded. Amazing that this place has survived the centuries. A don't-miss stop. Unless you are only in Istanbul for a couple days, in which case I feel really sorry for you! This magnificent city deserves a week at the very least.

Visited September 2013
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Wroclaw, Poland
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“You'd never know it was there”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed October 4, 2013

So we walked up to it, and unless there was a little line - I never would have guessed that was the entrance. It's a little, slightly run down building - you pay a few bucks to go down. It was pretty cool - they have it lit up and a walkway to help with the flow of traffic. It was not crowded when we went (even though there was a little line out front). The cool part was to see the Medusa heads. Worth going down. Note, if anyone is claustrophobic - I think you can still do it - it is wide open down there and no small spaces going into to.

Visited September 2013
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