Basilica Cistern: the most unusual sight of Istanbul

On the territory of the amazing Istanbul, the most populated city in Turkey, there are many ancient sights. Among all the places I have seen during my trips to Istanbul, I can single out without hesitation one unique museum space that everyone should see. This is the Basilica Cistern, an underground reservoir transformed into a huge art object.

Basilica Cistern
Basilica Cistern

Today this underground reservoir transformed into a huge art object
Today this underground reservoir transformed into a huge art object

In the Cistern hall you can see several art objects and sculptural images
In the Cistern hall you can see several art objects and sculptural images

How to visit the Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern is located in the historical center of Istanbul. Not far from here are the most famous sights of the city — Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque. If you are going here by public transport it will be most convenient to get to the Sultanahmet tram station. The entrance to the Cistern is in three-minute walk from it.

The cost of visit the museum complex — 190 Turkish lira. You can pay by cash or by bank card here.

There are 336 columns in the huge hall of the Cistern
There are 336 columns in the huge hall of the Cistern

The head of Medusa
The head of Medusa

Vaults of the building
Vaults of the building

History of the place

This year the Basilica Cistern turns 1490 years old. It was built in 532 during the reign Byzantine emperor Justinian I. The construction was intended to supply water to the Great Palace. The reservoir was refilled with water from a sourse in the Belgrade Forest a couple of dozen kilometers away. The Basilica Cistern is far from the only such structure that has survived in Istanbul till this day. In total there are more than 40 cisterns in the city.

Another Medusa`s head
Another Medusa`s head

Here the heroine of myth can be seen in full growth. Interestingly, when walking, tourists first meet the frightening shadow of the statue
Here the heroine of myth can be seen in full growth. Interestingly, when walking, tourists first meet the frightening shadow of the statue

This year the Basilica Cistern turns 1490 years old
This year the Basilica Cistern turns 1490 years old

The name of the sight reminds us of the Roman basilica under which, presumably, there was a reservoir. There are 336 columns in the huge hall of the Cistern. Most of them reach a height of 9 meters. Interesting that the decor of the columns is different. On some of them you can find patterns in the form of drops, others, for example, are decorated with images in the form of roosters feathers. Full capacity of the underground reservoir — 80 million liters of water.

Coins at the bottom of the reservoir
Coins at the bottom of the reservoir

Full capacity of the underground reservoir — 80 million liters of water
Full capacity of the underground reservoir — 80 million liters of water

The illumination of the hall permanently changed
The illumination of the hall permanently changed

I visited the Cistern for the first time in 2018, after that, access to the museum was closed here for a long time. Today the exhibition complex is reopened, but it has many new features. If earlier the lighting of the main hall was static and monotonous, now you can see a real show here. The space of the huge reservoir filled with laser beams; the illumination of the hall permanently changed. Even if the guests are photographed at one point in the hall, due to the change in the background color, everyone has different photos.

In addition to the forest of columns in the Cistern hall you can see several art objects and sculptural images. The most interesting and unusual of them are two giant heads of the Gorgon Medusa.

Tree projection
Tree projection

Column capital
Column capital

Here you can take a lot of unusual photos
Here you can take a lot of unusual photos

As always, at the end of my story I will leave a link to the nearest interesting place, which you can visit on the day of a walk around the Cistern. In our case, it`s the Hagia Sophia is the closest from here. This famous building is one of the first places that many people visit when coming to beautiful Istanbul.

Have a nice trip!

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