Istanbul’s Basilica Cistern breaks annual visitor record
The cistern, located close to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet area and overseen by the Istanbul Municipality, continued to draw interest from visitors despite undergoing a restoration process.
The museum was visited by just over one million people for a fee and nearly 150,000 people for free, marking an overall increase of around 350,000 from 2016.
The historic cistern is currently undergoing a comprehensive restoration process, a first in 500 years. The restoration is due to end in March.
The Basilica Cistern covers an area of 8,678 square meters, of which 7,648 square meters is open and 1,030 square meters is closed to the public. The cistern, historically used to serve the water needs of Istanbul locals during the Byzantine and Ottoman eras, has a storage capacity of around 100,000 tons of water.
Two upside-down Medusa bases below two columns in the northwestern corner of the cistern are considered to be masterpieces of Roman-era sculpture and are among the most popular parts of the cistern for visitors.