Many tourists visiting Istanbul plan their routes through the city so that they can see all the main sights of this ancient metropolis. Typically, this list includes the amazing Basilica Cistern, a huge underground water tank transformed into an unusual museum space. But what about those who have already visited all the popular places in the city or simply do not want to spend 300 lira on a visit to the Basilica? Such travelers can head to the nearby Nakkaş cistern, which can easily be considered one of Istanbul's unknown attractions.
A bit of history
The cistern Basilica mentioned above is undoubtedly the most famous, but by no means the only such structure in Istanbul. The city has over 40 ancient underground reservoirs. As far as I know, only some of them are open to tourists: for instance, the Cistern of Philoxenos is located nearby, although I haven't been able to figure out its working hours yet.
The size of the cisterns in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) varied, and not all of them were as huge as Basilica. These unfamiliar structures were intended to store large water reserves, which helped the city's inhabitants, for example, in the event of an enemy's destruction of the aqueducts leading here.
Despite the purely utilitarian purpose of the cisterns, today we can explore not only their history but also their architecture, as the columns supporting the high vaults of the underground structures are often decorated with various ornate capitals.
Nakkaş Cistern was built in the 6th century and is now used as a small exhibition space. Visitors to the attraction can learn about the history of this ancient area, see models of the once-standing buildings here, or simply take a few unusual photos.
How to get there
The Nakkaş Cistern is located beneath the carpet shop of the same name. Tourists on a tight budget will appreciate that visiting the attraction is free.
If you are using public transportation, the easiest way to get there is by tram T1 to the Sultanahmet station. To reach the cistern from the tram, head towards the Blue Mosque, walk through the former Hippodrome area, and after the Walled Obelisk, take the street that goes slightly to the left. You can use the Nakkaş shop as a landmark on online maps.
Have a nice trip!