If you are on vacation in Istanbul and are thinking where to hide from the scorching sun of Turkey, there is a great option — to visit the Basilica cistern. In July 2022, after a long restoration, it was finally opened to the public. During the reconstruction, the walls were strengthened, the ties that hold the columns together were updated, and the waiting area was redesigned for the convenience of visitors. After the reconstruction, the place began to look more modern due to the beautiful lighting. This unique place will not leave anyone indifferent — due to the combination of ancient architecture and mysterious atmosphere, it will remain in memory for a long time.
History of the tank
The construction of the Cistern began in 306-337 under Emperor Constantine and was completed in 532 under Emperor Justinian.
After the capture of Constantinople, water from the reservoir went to water the gardens of the Topkapi Palace, located near the Basilica. After that, until 1553, the cistern was polluted and abandoned.
Then cleaning and restoration works were carried out, the construction was repaired twice — under Ahmed III in 1723 and under Abdul Hamid in the XIX century.
Since 1987, the Basilica cistern has been a museum.
Architectural features and dimensions of the Cistern
From the outside, the building looks quite simple and it is difficult to imagine how atmospheric the structure is inside. The reservoir itself is located at a depth of 10-12 meters.
The height of its ceiling is impressive — it reaches 8 meters. The vaults of the reservoir are supported by 336 columns arranged in 12 rows. All of them are made of refractory bricks.
Each column has a unique design and size.
The water level in the cistern today is no more than half a meter, and in the “Wish Pool”, located near the columns decorated with the heads of Medusas, there are fish that everyone can feed.
Exhibitions and events in the Cistern
After the reconstruction, an exhibition on the theme “Light” is held in the Basilica Cistern. Besides, on the territory of the Cistern you can see unusual sculptural compositions, various cultural and artistic events are also regularly held, dance performances, theatrical productions are staged. See the announcements on the official website of the Basilica Cistern and on social networks.
It will take you 11 minutes to go from Sirkeci to the Cistern by car or you can walk about a kilometer (takes about 15 minutes). It is also possible to travel two stops by tram T1 from Sirkeci Istasyonu to Sultanahmet.
You can get there from Taksim with transfers via the M2 metro line, then from Laleli — Universite take the T1 tram and go 3 stops to Sultanahmet. From Sultanahmet, walk about 260 meters on foot. By car, the journey will take about 40 minutes along the Kemeralti Street, across the Galata Bridge and further along the streets of Ankara, Nuru Osmaniye, Yerebatan right to the Basilica Cistern.
From Kadikoy the journey by car or by Istanbul taxi will take about 40 minutes along the Eurasia tunnel. It will take about an hour by public transport. You can get there by the Marmaray metro, connecting ground trains, an underwater subway and a tunnel. From Goztepe, you will need to drive 5 stops to Marmaray Sirkeci Istasyonu and walk about 14 minutes to the Cistern.