The Basilica Cistern, also known as the “Sunken Palace” is one of the most unusual and mysterious places in Istanbul and one that definitely needs to be included in your Turkey itinerary.
Cisterns are ancient underground water reservoirs, there are several of them in Istanbul. However, the most famous is the Yerebatan Cistern, popularly known as the Basilica Cistern, as it was built where a basilica once stood.
The Cistern was built by Justinian I between 527 and 565 to supply the Byzantine Palace during invasions and periods of drought when Istanbul was Constantinople.
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A system of aqueducts brought water from the Belgrade Woods outside Constantinople to the reservoir. Part of these aqueducts still exist.
The Basilica Cistern is immense, 140 meters long and 70 meters wide. Located under the streets of Istanbul by 336 columns 9 meters high. At the end of the cistern there are two immense columns with Medusa’s head upside down. That mythological being that terrified the ancient warriors by turning anyone who looked at her to stone.
And nobody knows exactly what those two columns do there and where they came from. But the simplest theory is that, like the other columns, they came from old temples that were demolished and had their columns used in the construction of the Basilica Cistern.
How to visit the Basilica Cistern
The Basilica Cistern is in Sultanahmet, next to the Hagia Sophia. You can combine the visit with the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Basilica Cistern on the same day.
Entry costs 20 Turkish Lira (about R$14) and can be purchased at the entrance ticket office. There are two queues, one for Turkish citizens and one for foreigners. Before entering, everyone goes through a search and a metal detector, as in practically all tourist places in Istanbul.
Inside, the tour is made by wooden walkways, in the past they were made by boats. Today the Basilica Cistern is practically without water, but it is a very damp and dark place.
I visited the cistern twice and I liked it a lot, it is a very interesting place to visit and with an air of mystery that cannot be left out of your itinerary in Istanbul.
If you are looking for where to stay in Istanbul, here on the blog is a very complete post explaining the best neighborhoods and where to avoid. Look here.
Also see where to stay near Istanbul New Airport.
On my last visit to Istanbul I stayed at Dosso Dossi Hotels Old City. The Hotel is located in Sultanahmet, next to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia. The hotel has a fantastic breakfast, plus some complimentary treats like afternoon tea and late-night soup.
On my first trip I stayed in Yenikapi, and this region is full of good accommodation options and I chose the Marmara Place Old City Hotel and I really liked this hotel. The location was perfect, just a few meters from the subway and only 2 short blocks from the point where the trams towards the historic center.
Close to it, and even closer to the point of tramsthere is the Eskar Hotel, which was very well spoken of for me and is also a great option for accommodation in Istanbul.
Another hotel in this region that was among my favorites was the Eternity Hotel, with super clean decor and incredible views from the breakfast room.
Do you want to stay in a hotel in the best Victorian palace style and paying little? The tip is the Deluxe Golden Horn Sultanahmet Hotel and as the name says, it is located in the Sultanahmet, right next to the great attractions of Istanbul.
Now, if you don’t want to risk and prefer to be conservative when choosing where to stay in Istanbul, the tip is the Eurostars Hotel Old City. It is close to the Galata Bridge and the Sultanahment.
Other options in Sultanahmet, check out the Optimist Hotel, which has a beautiful view of the Blue Mosque, Istanbul’s main tourist spot. Another beautiful hotel is the Coliseum, which is practically inside the Hippodrome and with a perfect view of the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia and the Bosphorus.
Tips from Turkey to organize your trip
How to get from Istanbul’s new airport to the city
How to get from Sabiha Gökçen airport to central Istanbul
How to use Istanbul’s metro and tram network
Immigration in Istanbul
Scams in Turkey
What to do in Istanbul
How to visit the Blue Mosque
Boat trip across the Bosphorus Strait
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