"Yerebatan Sarnici: the Basilica Cistern" Basilica Cistern Tip by leics

Basilica Cistern, Istanbul: 5 reviews and 11 photos

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Briliant place this...hugely atmospheric and really rather weird (because it was patently never intended to be looked at). Unfortunately, its presentation is a bit cheesy and visitor-focused...but that does not detract from the sheer archaeological and architectural interest.

This was the first of Sultanahmet's ancient cisterns to be fully excavated and it is a truly magnificent piece of architecture.

It is simply enormous, probably dating from the 4th century AD and perhaps enlarged in the 6th century).

It was properly rediscovered in the 1500s. The people who lived above it had sunk wells into it, and were even fishing in it! But the cistern wasn't fully cleared and made safe until 1987.

The water is full of fish , including some truly massive ones. The most interesting architectural bits and pieces are spotlit......and when I visited there was a continual dripping of water from the arched ceiling (which was a bit odd, and slightly disturbing).

There are 336 columns, many of which are recycled from other Roman sites. Make sure you see the two superb Medusa heads, one of which is used sideways, the other upside-down. I wonder if that was deliberate?

This place is well worth a visit, and well worth its entrance fee. it's a unique place and...if possible..one which is best visited with as few others as you can manage. Perhaps go early in the morning, so you are here at opening time?

You'll find the Basilica cistern very near Hagia Sophia, the Hippodrome and Topkapi. The entrance is on Imran Oktem Caddesi.

Website: http://www.yerebatan.com/

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Oct 12, 2014
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Comments (4)

  • lucyguajardo's Profile Photo
    Sep 5, 2016 at 4:31 PM

    How much time do you think this activity will take..I'm a fast walker, I do stop to "smell" the roses but I'm also practical if an area looks the same for a while I just go fast :)

    • leics's Profile Photo
      Sep 6, 2016 at 10:43 AM

      You'll have trouble with that selfie...Medusa is sideways on, under water and below the level of the platform on which you'll be standing! :-) Enjoy!

    • lucyguajardo's Profile Photo
      Sep 6, 2016 at 3:31 PM


  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Oct 26, 2015 at 12:59 AM

    Oh, I remember this. Mr. Brown has used it for the final plot in his last novel.
    But I would like to see it because of your description, not because of the book :-)

  • roamer61's Profile Photo
    Jun 3, 2015 at 12:17 PM

    Ahh, so you visited the cistern. Apart from St. Sophia, its supposed to be the best remnant of ancient Constantinople.

    • leics's Profile Photo
      Jun 3, 2015 at 12:19 PM

      Yes, of course I visited the cistern. I visited as much as I possibly could, given the time i had and how I felt. :-)

  • angiebabe's Profile Photo
    May 22, 2013 at 5:41 AM

    impressive! so are the fish!

    • angiebabe's Profile Photo
      Jun 10, 2013 at 11:48 PM

      hi it was quite late last night and I then got waylaid but I actually came back to your page last night initially to say we looked for your Hafat restaurant 2 days in a row and it seems to not be there....we did really enjoy visiting this cistern - hopefully will visit the other one (1001 columns) today on way to Grand Bazzar....just great being here independently since the tour years ago and having time - day 6 already today! (absolutely loved the Archeology museum!!...was wowing quite a few times actually!)

    • leics's Profile Photo
      Jun 11, 2013 at 11:14 AM

      Such a pity about the restaurant. Perhaps it has closed. :-( I didn't manage the other cistern and the arch museum was stuffed to the rafters (almost literally) with boxes and crates of finds from the massive excavation which was going on at the time, all waiting to be processed. Are they still there or have they managed to clear the backlog?.


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