Nakilbent Cistern – Istanbul, Turkey - Atlas Obscura

Nakilbent Cistern

A sixth-century Byzantine cistern hidden below a modern carpet store. 


In Istanbul, a carpet store filled with beautiful goods sits atop a hidden gem. Head below the store, and you’ll discover one of the city’s ancient cisterns. Few people know to even look for this historical treasure.

The Nakilbent cistern isn’t as large as the famous Basilica Cisterns, but it’s still a wonderfully preserved example of a sixth-century Byzantine water tank. Its 18 marble columns support giant brick arches, and the space itself is expansive and cavernous, lending an air of mystery to the atmosphere.

The cistern was built during the reign of Emperor Justinian (527-565 AD). It’s believed the water reservoir may have served as a supply for the Great Palace of Constantinople after the palace was expanded during the reign of Justinian II at the end of the seventh century. Seven of its columns were reinforced with bricks during the Ottoman era.

Nakkaş, the carpet sure, has made sure to protect the cistern. The building was carefully constructed to minimize disturbance to the underlying medieval structure. The store owners now use the cistern as a venue for fostering the local art community and host various exhibitions and even musical concerts in its echoing chambers. They’ve even made sure that everyone can see the cistern—entrance is free!

Know Before You Go

Nakkaş is not far from the Blue Mosque. Visiting the cistern is free! Just pop into the carpet store and they'll point you in the right direction.

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November 2, 2018

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