Stay cool below ground with a visit to the Basilica Cistern and stick around for a nice cup of Turkish coffee in the underground cafe.


A Medusa found in the Basilica Cistern to ward off evil spirits. #Istanbul #Turkey #Travel

A photo posted by Monica Wong (@_monicawong) on

The Basilica Cistern is a cool place to hide out from Istanbul’s blazing afternoon sun. The entrance often gets bottlenecked since the flight of stairs begins inches away from the ticket booth. It quickly descend into the cistern and everyone clutters at the foot to take pictures of the dome ceilings and the Corinthian columns.

The Basilica Cistern lies beneath the Sultanahmet Square, also known as the Hippodrome, near The Hagia Sophia and The Blue Mosque. It served as a water reservoir for the Great Palace of Constantinople and the Topkapi Palace during the Ottoman Empire.

Two large Medusa heads are in the back right corner of the cistern. One of them is placed sideways and the other is upside down. No one really knows exactly why they were placed that way but some say it’s to ward off evil spirits.

Everything can be seen in half an our, but many visitors linger around to escape the heat. To the right of the bottom of the stairs is a small café, where Turkish coffee is served and sipped by candlelight and classical music, which echos through the air and paired with the sound of water dripping from the ceiling.

Monica reflects on her travels by sharing her thoughts on A Cup of Moca. She writes about her journey as she experiences the destination to encourage others to marinate in the moment instead of just checking things off a bucket list.