Basilica Cistern

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Basilica Cistern
tips and insights

History in brief

It was built in 6th century by Byzantine Emperor Justinian and was rediscovered in 1545 after being forgotten for centuries. It was cleaned, restored, and opened to visitors in 1987.


The sound of dripping water and classical music conjure up the Phantom of the Opera underground boat scene. The reflections of the lights off the water create an eerie, fantastical setting.


You explore the space walking on the wooden platforms raised just above the water line. Before they were built, you had to ride a small boat.

Facts and tidbits


The 336 ancient marble columns that support the ceiling were recycled from demolished buildings. They are nearly 9 meters (30 feet) high.

The bases of two columns have sculpted Medusa heads and are popular with camera-toting tourists.

The water is very shallow today but sometimes nearly reached the high ceiling when the system was operational.

James Bond film fans will recognize this wonder. It was used as a location for From Russia With Love.

The site is within walking distance of the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque Hillman Wonders.

Location in Turkey

More turkey tips and insights

In Istanbul

Basilica Cistern
Blue Mosque
Dolmabahce Palace
Grand Bazaar
Hagia Sophia
Topkapi Palace

In other Turkey areas

Ephesus Ruins
Mount Ararat
Nemrut Dagi
Pergamon Acropolis
Ruins of Troy

Home page

Turkey Wonders - Top 10 rankings


Basilica Cistern photo by Chris Ruggles - CC BY 2.0


Turkish Culture and Tourist Office


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