Basilica Cisterns | What to see in Istanbul

Basilica Cisterns

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Phantom-like Experience Beneath Istanbul

Published by Kaelin Priger

Important information for visiting the Basilica Cisterns:

The Basilica Cisterns (Yerebatan Sarnici in Turkish) is open every day from 9:00 - 17:00. 

Price is 20 TL (there may be a student price if you have a University card, so make sure to ask). You cannot use any of the museum cards here.

When I first started walking down the stairs of this little building in Sultanahmet, I didn't know what to expect. What are cisterns anyway? Soon, the air became cooler, and the light started to take on a mystical shade. As my feet started to hit stone steps, I stepped out into a whole new world underneath Istanbul. To my left was a common tourist attraction - a stage for having your pictures taken all dressed as sultans and sultanas. But I couldn't be distracted from the magnificent view. 

Have you seen Phantom of the Opera? The part when the Phantom is taking Christine through his underwater lair in a small boat? I thought as soon as I stepped into the cisterns that I would see them come gliding around a corner, and that singing would fill the air. 

Here are 4 reasons that you should visit the Basilica Cisterns when in Istanbul:

  1. The cisterns used to hold much of Istanbul's water supply, so they are an integral part of this old city's history. The old columns that hold up the cisterns are mix-matched, showing that they were recycled from past structures. Being in the cisterns means that you are inside a crazy-cool part of Istanbul's past (and that you are seeing the city from a very different view).
  2. If you are visiting Istanbul during the summer, you know that it can get very hot. The cisterns are a great site to visit that give you some relief from the heat. 
  3. After fighting the masses in Taksim, the cisterns are a quiet and calm place to rest your mind. The lights glisten off of the shallow water, fish swim underneath the pathways, and the echoes cause people to speak quietly and to take their time. This is a wonderful place to take a deep breath and enjoy Istanbul.
  4. Ever heard of Medusa? The cisterns house some mysterious Medusa-head columns. Everyone has their own theory for why one of them is upside-down, the other on its side. What is your theory?


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