I read Dan Brown’s Inferno on the flight to Lisbon and finished while I was in Rome, so I was psyched that part of that absurdly ridiculous story was set in Istanbul. I won’t spoil the story, but I will say that the Basilica Cistern featured! Dan Brown’s hacky prose didn’t prepare me for the spectacular experience of walking down into the Basilica Cistern. It was a bit crowded, but despite that, it was stunning enough that the line (maybe 10 minutes?) and the stop-and-go crowding at the base of the stairs didn’t really bother me.
Try, try, try as I (and many others) might, it’s really hard to take a decent photo down there. But it’s insanely atmospheric (and humid), with the pathways through the columns and the drip… drip… drip from the ceilings. We even chose to relax a minute in the cafe there and shockingly we weren’t insanely gauged for our drinks, only a little bit.