Insider Tips for Visiting Basilica Cistern

Explore the Enigmatic Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern, also known as the Yerebatan Sarnıcı in Turkish, is an underground wonder located in Istanbul, Turkey. It was built during the Byzantine era in the 6th century and is the largest surviving cistern in the city. The cistern was used to store water for the Great Palace of Constantinople and the other buildings of the city. It has a capacity of 80,000 cubic meters and can hold up to 100,000 tons of water. The cistern is supported by 336 marble columns, and its walls and floors are made of bricks and waterproof mortar.

Visitors to the Basilica Cistern can explore the underground space, which is dimly lit and filled with the sound of water dripping from the ceiling. The columns in the cistern vary in style, with some featuring Corinthian capitals and others with Doric or Ionic styles. The cistern is also home to two famous Medusa heads, which were likely brought to the site from a previous building. The Basilica Cistern is a popular tourist destination and an architectural wonder that provides a glimpse into Istanbul's rich history.

History Of Basilica Cistern

  • The Basilica Cistern, also known as the "Yerebatan Sarayi" or "Sunken Palace," was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. It was constructed to serve as a water filtration system for the Great Palace of Constantinople and nearby buildings.
  • The cistern is located underground and measures approximately 138 meters long and 64.6 meters wide. It has a capacity of over 80,000 cubic meters of water.
  • The cistern was originally constructed with 336 marble columns, most of which were sourced from ruined Roman temples and feature a variety of ornate designs. The columns support a series of arched brick ceilings.
  • The Basilica Cistern was used for its intended purpose until the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. After this point, it was largely forgotten until being rediscovered and restored in the mid-19th century.
  • Today, the cistern is a popular tourist attraction and has been featured in several movies and TV shows. It is known for its eerie atmosphere, due in part to the dim lighting and the reflection of the columns in the water.

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Insider Tips for Visiting Basilica Cistern

Plan Your Visit in Advance To Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern is a popular attraction, and it can get crowded quickly. To avoid the crowds, it's best to visit early in the morning or late in the evening. You can also book your tickets in advance to avoid the long queues.

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Wear Comfortable Shoes At Basilica Cistern

The underground cistern is dimly lit, and the pathways are uneven. It's essential to wear comfortable shoes, so you don't slip or fall. The temperature inside the cistern is also quite chilly, so dress appropriately.

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Hire a Guide At Basilica Cistern

To fully appreciate the history and architecture of Basilica Cistern, consider hiring a guide. A knowledgeable guide can provide insight into the cistern's history, the significance of its architecture, and the stories behind the Medusa heads.

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Take Your Time At Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern is an awe-inspiring place, and it's easy to get lost in the moment. Take your time to admire the grandeur of the cistern, the light reflecting on the water, and the intricate carvings on the columns.

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Look for the Medusa Heads At Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern is famous for its two Medusa heads that are used as column bases. One is upside down, and the other is on its side. It's believed that the Medusa heads were used to ward off evil spirits. Keep an eye out for them as you walk around the cistern.

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Visit the Cistern at Night

The cistern takes on a whole new atmosphere at night. The lighting is dim, and the sound of the water is soothing. It's a peaceful place to reflect and appreciate the beauty of Istanbul's rich history.

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Enjoy the Local Cuisine At Basilica Cistern

After your visit to the cistern, take a stroll around the surrounding area and indulge in some local cuisine. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes serving traditional Turkish food that will tantalize your taste buds.

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Combine Your Visit with Other Attractions

Basilica Cistern is located in the heart of Istanbul's historic district, and there are many other attractions nearby. You can combine your visit to the cistern with a trip to Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, or the Grand Bazaar.

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Respect the Rules and Regulations At Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern is a protected historical site, and it's important to respect the rules and regulations. You're not allowed to touch the columns or throw coins into the water. Photography is allowed, but the use of flash is prohibited.

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FAQs for Insider Tips To Visit Basilica Cistern

What is the entrance fee for the Basilica Cistern?

As of 2021, the entrance fee for the Basilica Cistern is 30 Turkish Lira per person (about $3.50 USD).

What are the opening hours for the Basilica Cistern?

The Basilica Cistern is open daily from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm.

Are there any restrictions on what I can bring inside the Basilica Cistern?

Visitors cannot bring large backpacks or suitcases inside the Basilica Cistern. Food, drinks, and pets are also not allowed inside.

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Is there a dress code for visiting the Basilica Cistern?

There is no specific dress code for visiting the Basilica Cistern, but visitors are encouraged to dress modestly out of respect for the religious and cultural significance of the site.

Is it necessary to book tickets in advance for the Basilica Cistern?

It is not necessary to book tickets in advance for the Basilica Cistern, but it is recommended to arrive early in the day to avoid long lines.

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Is the Basilica Cistern wheelchair accessible?

The Basilica Cistern is not fully wheelchair accessible, but there is a special entrance and elevator for visitors with disabilities. However, due to the historic nature of the site, some areas may be difficult to navigate.


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