Address: Yerebatan Caddesi 13, Sultanahmet Fatih
Phone: (0212) 522 1259
Web Site: yerebatan.com
Working Hours: Every day: 9:00-17:30
The largest and most famous of the many underground cisterns in Istanbul, the Basilica Cistern was built in the 6th century under the Byzantine Emperor Justinian the Great’s rule.
As the number of inhabitants grew in Constantinople, water shortages occurred and this cistern was used to store water for the Great Palace and other buildings in the area during Justinian's reign. After the conquest of the city by the Ottomans, the water was used to supply water to the garden at Topkapi Palace.
The Cistern is one of Istanbul's most popular tourist attractions and is the size of a cathedral, and is reached by descending 52 stairs. There are 336 columns lined into 28 rows of 12; most of the columns are topped with Corinthian and Doric capitals. The most remarkable features are the two giant Medusa heads, which serve as column bases. One of the heads is upside down and the other is rotated on its side (some believe that this was meant to negate the power of the Medusa’s deadly stare).
You can see carp and goldfish swimming around in the water. The Cistern also periodically hosts music concerts.