Basilica Cistern, Istanbul

Basilica Cistern, Istanbul

At ground level, Istanbul is a magical wonderland filled with architecture and attractions that are steep in history and culture. Underneath it, however, is another world that you should explore.

Beneath the city is several hundred of ancient cisterns, the largest of which is the 6th-century Basilica Cistern that was built during Emperor Justinian I's reign. It is called as such because of the basilica that used to stand where the cistern is located.

It is home to 336 columns, 98 of which bears the Corinthian style while some reflect the Dorian style. It can also store water of 100,000 tons. In the past, it used to be a source of water for a wide area, including where the emperor lived. But it stopped being the primary supplier when the Ottomans established their own facilities that provide running water.

Among the cistern's notable features are the two Medusa Heads which origins are unknown. Many believed they were simply used as supports during construction but have now become an integral part of the magnificent underground attraction.

Want to see this underground wonder with your own eyes? Buy a private half-day tour with La Vacanza today. We'll throw in Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar with it too.

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