Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Asia

Basilica Cistern

There are plenty of overground attractions in Istanbul that beckon your attention including the Blue Mosque, Sofia Hagia and the Topkapi Palace. But there is a whole underground world that many do not know about. Leave the bustle of the city behind and venture underground to a tranquil chamber known as the Basilica Cistern.

Explore a mysterious underground world

In the Basilica Cistern you can marvel at an underwater world full of delightful architecture and history at every turn. This is about as far away as you can get from the sun and beaches of a traditional holiday in Turkey. The site has been host to important structures since the 3rd century, although it was Emperor Justinian who, in the 6th century, enlarged the underground area to create the spectacular Basilica Cistern that exists today. This underground cathedral-like structure consists of 336 symmetrical columns, each nine meters tall. This cistern is one of many and reaches 140 long by 70 meters wide. The most debated architectural points are the two pillar bases carved with inverted faces of Medusa, with historians still unable to decipher their exact meaning. A viewing platform has been built to allow you to explore the chamber at your own pace, while at the same time keeping your feet dry.

This particular cistern was built to contain 100,000 tons of water. Located just to the southwest of the Hagia Sophia, it was designed to carry water to the Great Palace of Constantinople, but today, instead of water, you can explore these historic passageways.

Practical Information

To access the cistern you descend a 52 step staircase. The museum is open seven days a week (restrictions apply on public holidays) from 09:00-17:30 in the winter and closing time is extended to 18:30 during the summer. The Basilica Cistern is located about 20km from the Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Asia but is easily reached by public transport. Make sure you make time in your vacation itinerary to visit this unique subterranean world.