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If you'd like a change from the bazaars, palaces and mosques of the typical Istanbul visit, then the Basilica Cistern offers something very different. Known as the Yerebatan Sarayi in Turkish, it is the most celebrated of the many reservoirs built in Byzantine times, and the most impressive. It's also an excellent place to cool down during a hot summer's day.
Dating from the 6th century and the rule of Emperor Justinian, it was built to provide water for the Great Palace. Over time, it was forgotten and became a dumping ground for local people, until found once again in the 16th century, when it was restored to its former majesty and used to provide water for the Topkapi Palace.
Follow the raised walkways – installed in the 1990s – around 'The Sunken Palace' to best appreciate this enormous structure. The experience is further heightened by the atmospheric lighting and music, perfectly setting the ambience of this subterranean wonder. Keep a sharp lookout for the ancient Medusa heads, which can be found at the back, on the north-western side.
As a feat of engineering, it is hugely impressive. Containing 336 marble columns, and covering almost 1 hectare, the Basilica Cistern held over 80 million litres of water during its heyday, which were sent far and wide through 19 kilometres of aqueducts. When we consider that this was designed and constructed around 1,500 years ago, without the benefits of modern techniques or of the technology we possess today, the scale of this achievement becomes even more astounding.
A visit takes less than one hour, and there is a cafe selling snacks, soft drinks and wonderful Turkish-style tea at the site. The Basilica Cistern is open every day, and there is an entrance fee for foreigners. You can reach it from the nearby Atram stop.
Located in Sultanahmet, this luxury hotel is within a 5-minute walk of German Fountain, Hagia Sophia, and Sultanahmet Square. Grand Bazaar and Topkapi Palace are also within 10 minutes. Sultanahmet Station and Gulhane Station are within a 5-minute walk.
This family-friendly Istanbul hotel is located on the Strip, steps away from Turkish and Islamic Art Museum, Serpentine Column and Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Mosque. Hippodrome of Constantinople and Hagia Sophia are also within 10 minutes. Cemberlitas Station is only a 4-minute walk and Sultanahmet Station is 6 minutes.
Located in Istanbul City Center, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Grand Bazaar, Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet Square. Basilica Cistern and Spice Bazaar are also within 10 minutes. Sultanahmet Station is 6 minutes by foot and Cemberlitas Station is 8 minutes.
Located in Sultanahmet, this hotel is steps away from Blue Mosque and Sultanahmet Square. Hagia Sophia and Hippodrome of Constantinople are also within 5 minutes. Sultanahmet Station is only a 5-minute walk and Cemberlitas Station is 9 minutes.
This family-friendly Istanbul hotel is located in the historical district, within a 10-minute walk of Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Eminonu Pier. Grand Bazaar and Istanbul Cevahir Shopping and Entertainment Centre are also within 6 mi (10 km). Gulhane Station is only a 2-minute walk and Sirkeci Station is 7 minutes.
Located in Sultanahmet, this hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Cemberlitas Bath and Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Mosque. Hippodrome of Constantinople and Hagia Sophia are also within 10 minutes. Cemberlitas Station is only a 3-minute walk and Sultanahmet Station is 6 minutes.
This family-friendly Istanbul hotel is located on the Strip, within a 5-minute walk of Ataturk Cultural Center and Taksim Square. Dolmabahce Palace and Istiklal Avenue are also within 1 mile (2 km). Taksim Station is only a 3-minute walk and Findikli Station is 7 minutes.
Located in Sultanahmet, this apartment building is steps away from Basilica Cistern, Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet Square. Grand Bazaar and Topkapi Palace are also within 10 minutes. Sultanahmet Station is only a 3-minute walk and Gulhane Station is 6 minutes.
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