Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul, Turkey. The cistern, located 150 meters southwest of the Hagia Sophia on the historical peninsula of Sarayburnu, was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I.

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Top sights in Istanbul

Bosphorus Strait

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Hagia Sophia

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Topkapi Palace

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Bosphorus Bridge

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Sultanahmet District

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Sirkeci

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Sultan Ahmed Mosque

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Basilica Cistern

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Top things to do in Istanbul

Istanbul’s strategic location between Europe and Asia on the ancient Silk Road has made it one of history’s most important cities. A list of its points of interest would be long enough to bridge the Bosphorus, so here’s a top 6 to make your itinerary more manageable!

Hagia Sophia
In Hagia Sophia, the immense dome crowning this church turned mosque turned museum was an architectural miracle in its time, although it took a lot of trial and error to get to that point: it collapsed twice!

Sultan Ahmed Mosque
Also commonly known as the Blue Mosque, the fine İznik tiles adorning this magnificent structure may make it appear bluer than it actually is!

Dolmabahçe Palace
The glorious Dolmabahçe Palace dominates the European shoreline of the Bosphorus where it served as the key administrative center in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire.

Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace, the one-time home of many Sultans, not only offers spectacular views of the city but also houses treasures that make the Crown Jewels look like Claire’s Accessories!

Planning Your Istanbul Visit

How many days?

Istanbul is a cartographical labyrinth with sights and experiences awaiting you round every corner. How long to stay depends on how immersed you want to get, but a week should be enough to cover the most famous attractions.

How to get from the airport to the city?

Havataş Shuttle Buses are available from outside the terminal and leave every half an hour for Taksim between 4:00AM and 1:00AM. Taking a taxi is, however, the most convenient way, and shouldn’t be more expensive than the shuttle service between a group of four. Be sure to ignore the hustlers inside the airport and take an official vehicle from the taxi rank at the terminal exit.

Where to stay?

The key touristic areas are Fatih and Taksim, and which to stay in depends on the nature of your stay. Fatih is the old town and home to many of Istanbul’s historic landmarks. Taksim, on the other hand, is modern and appeals more to those visiting the city to shop, dine, and party. Traveling between the two is simple, so don’t worry if you fancy hitting the dancefloors after the Hagia Sophia!

Good to know

Language

Turkish

Currency

Turkish Lira (₺)

Country Code

+90

Time Zone

UTC (+02:00)

Best time to visit

The weather is good at all times of the year, but it may be a good idea to avoid the summer if you do not like extreme heat.

What people are saying about Basilica Cistern

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ A very interesting and unusual experience.
The guide took us underground to see the cistern which is no longer in use but was used as a water reservoir for Istanbul for many centuries. We can only marvel at the ability of people all those centuries ago to bring water to Istanbul from outlying areas and provide the city with a water supply. We saw the Medusa heads and heard the legends about Medusa.

Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Skip-the-Line Guided Tour reviewed by Marilyn

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Good value for your money and a must in Istanbul.
Cards delivered to our hotel as promised. The tour guides were excellent with the Museum Pass and very knowledgeable and friendly. The Istanbul card easy to use on public transport all over the city. I recommend to everybody to get these cards, they make your life a lot easier. 10/10 Thank you!

İstanbul Welcome Card reviewed by Timo

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Tour hit all the highlights I wanted to see.
I did the one day tour. I would highly recommend it if you have a short time in Istanbul. My guide tailored the tour to include something extra that was recommended to me by me cutting short my Grand Bazaar visit. Tip – wear your walking shoes.

Istanbul: 1 or 2-Day Private Guided Tour reviewed by Debra

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Interesting tour by a knowledgeable guide.
It’s only a brief tour, with not a lot to see. However the guide knew all about the history of the basilica, and it was very interesting. Shame that so much of it is under renovation and no water is in it. But still worthwhile seeing.

Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Skip-the-Line Guided Tour reviewed by Michael

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