Get skip-the-line admission with your talented guide and visit the famous underground cistern.
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Duration 30 Minute
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The Basilica Cistern was built by Justinian I. It is a huge space of 9,800 square metres and can store about 100,000 tons of water. It is sometimes called the "Underground Palace" or "Cistern Palace" due to its beauty and numerous columns. It's hard to believe this wonderful place was built just to store water! After the conquest of Constantinople, water from the cistern was used to water the gardens of Topkapı Palace.
One of the strangest things about the cistern is the unusual Medusa head pillar base you can see there. According to Greek myth, the head of Medusa protects the place where it's located. Find out more legends, theories and history about this fascinating place from your expert guide.
The meeting point for the Basilica Cistern guided tour is the main bus stop for the Busforus Bus Tour Company at Sultanahmet Square. Look out for the dark red double-decker buses. It's about 20 metres (65 ft) in front of the Hagia Sophia Museum.
This tour ticket does not allow you to enter the museums alone. You need to meet with the guide at scheduled time.
Istanbul is one of those places that contains hundreds of ancient places hidden inside or underneath it. One of those hidden places that are open to the public is the Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıcı). It is a very unusual place to visit, and it attracts a lot of tourists. Basilica Cistern is located close to the Hagia Sofia Mosque. So, you could actually visit these two landmarks in one day!
You could access the cistern by a 52-step staircase. Inside the Basilica Cistern are 336 columns, and each of these columns is 9 meters high. The walls of the cistern consist of thick layers that could bear the water tightness. The water storage capacity of the Basilica Cistern is 100,000 tons. It does sound unbelievable until you see it for yourself!
The majority of the columns of the Basilica Cistern are shaped like cylinders. Medusa heads were used to support the columns. What attracts the tourists the most is actually the Medusa heads. The Medusa heads are great examples of the artistic features of the Roman period.
During the period of Byzantium rule, the Basilica Cistern was used to meet the water needs of the palace and its surroundings, where the emperor lived. After the conquest of Istanbul by Fatih Sultan Mehmet in 1453, it was still used as a water supply for a while. After a while, the Ottoman government decided to establish water facilities inside the city. The Basilica Cistern, then, was kind of forgotten after this decision. After some foreigners were analyzing the Hagia Sophia, they rediscovered the Basilica Cistern and analyzed it thoroughly. The researchers found that this structure was a really important symbolic and historical landmark. The Basilica Cistern had gone through numerous renovations throughout the time. After being cleaned and renovated thoroughly in 1987 by the Municipality of Istanbul, it was finally opened for visits. Again, in 1994, certain renovations were made to keep the establishment strong and clean. Now, you could visit the Basilica Cistern and discover the work of art that overlapped with a huge history under the ground!
After the cleaning and restoration, the Basilica Cistern became open to visits in 1987. If you are wondering about this historical and mysterious place, you could discover it after taking the staircase under the ground, and enjoy the cool temperature inside! During your visit, make sure you walk all the way to the corners of the cistern to see the magnificent Medusa heads! You could book guided Basilica Cistern tours if you are not sure how to plan your visit. By booking a guided tour, you will not need to waste time in the ticket lines and make the best of your time in Istanbul.
You could also buy an Istanbul Tourist Pass that will cover your expenses during your visit to Istanbul. With the Istanbul tourist pass, you will have access to more than 60 places that are must-sees in Istanbul. You could enjoy your time without having to stress about queues or tour hours.
The mysterious underground venue in Istanbul called the Basilica Cistern is a huge part of the cultural and historical character of the city. It is very fortunate that it is open to visiting because, with its hidden structure, it is a joy to discover the establishment. It might be overwhelming, though, to plan a trip to Istanbul. There is never enough time to see all the beauties in Istanbul. However, by booking guided Basilica Cistern Tours, you will be able to lose no time waiting in lines and learn more essential information that you need to know about the establishment. You will have more time to wander around or see other attractions in Istanbul and have a trip filled with countless memories and information about Istanbul and Turkish culture and history.