This cistern was built in AD 532 and stored 17,596,800 gallons of drinking water for the city. It's a very cool place to visit (literally as well as figuratively) and doesn't take too much time to see. There are 336 columns which make it an interesting sight, as they all come out of the water to hold up the very high ceiling. Spotlights along some columns provide an erie atmosphere as you walk along the stone pathways down the middle.
The Yerbetan (or Basilica) Cistern is a fantastic adventure into the depths of the earth just below your feet while you are in Istanbul. The entrance to this fantastic construction is a small unpretentious building with a small red sign. After paying your entrance fee, you walk down a flight of steps and enter a different world. Water for the ancient city of Istanbul was moved here by an aqueduct, and the sheer SIZE of this Cistern is amazing, 100,000 cubic meters of water. But what is even more fantastic is the columns jutting from the water and the fish swimming among them. They have done an excellent job with projected and subdued lighting that highlights them very well.
There are also two "Medusa Heads" at the bottom of two columns to be found here.
When flicking through any Lonley Planet, I always find the best section is "Things to do when travelling with children". The Basilica Cistern was featured in this chapter of the Istanbul guide and did not disappoint.
The eerie reservoir apparently lay forgotten for many years until locals reported hauling fresh drinking water from holes in the floors of their houses. An investigation was launched and the Cistern rediscovered.
The best things to do in the Basilica Cistern are:
1) See who can spot the biggest fish - there are loads of bloated carp swimming in the artificially glowing water
2) Scare each other telling ghost stories in the dark - perfect in the atmospheric lighting and to the soft background opera music, but only if you manage to miss the big tour groups.
3) Speculate about the origins of the medusa heads and the reason they are inverted - since the Cistern lay forgotten nobody knows for sure how they got there - spooky!
4) Make a wish - in the Cistern's very own version of the Hagia Sofia's Weeping Column
5) Pretend you're James Bond - part of From Russia With Love was filmed here
6) Have a nice glass of Cay - in the strangest cafe in Istanbul!
And another good thing is that you can spend as little or as much time as you like here – so if you only have half an hour, it’s still worth a visit.
This place was a real good way of keeping cool in the sometimes hot and stuffy weather of Istanbul.
The cool underground waterway is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul.
It was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I.
Whilst walking along the walkways you should come across the bases of two columns blocks carved with the face of Medusa. Tradition has it that the blocks are oriented sideways and inverted in order to negate the power of the Gorgons' gaze.
The design of this place is very impressive. It's unimaginable what could lie beneath the surface by the Hippodrome!
You buy a ticket & descend the stairway, to the sight of the softly lit 'canals'.
There are some huge fish in there too, happily swimming around!
Walk down the length to admire the columns, many with different carvings on them, till the see the two Medusas at the base of two columns. There is a board explaining the possible motive behind their presence & positioning. One head is upside down, the other sideways! It's fun reading why this could be so!
There's a cafe on your right as you descend, and as you exit, there are two souvenir shops.
This is a water cistern that supplied water to the Bysantine grand palace.
The Cistern was discovered when a french specialiest for the era observed a family living over the cistern open a trap in the floor, lower a bucket and pull up some fish.
The cistern was then re opened and explored.
There are 2 carvings of Medusa's head there.
Concerts are occaisionally held there.
The place is huge.
This cistern is very close to Sultanahmet square and it has a different ambiance worth visiting. It is an underground chamber approximately 143 metres by 65 metres - about 9,800 square metres in area - capable of holding 80,000 cubic metres of water. The ceiling is supported by 336 marble columns, each 9 metres high, arranged in 12 rows of 28 columns spaced 4.9 metres apart. The medusa sculpture is the main attraction inside. The channels filled with water also host many carp fish which swim around. Many music videos used this unique place as the set. There is not so much time required to make the tour inside so you can squeeze this visit in between Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia and Topkapi Palace tour.
Located in the northwest corner of the cistern, the bases of two columns reuse blocks carved with the visage of Medusa. The origin of the two heads is unknown, though it is thought that the heads were brought to the cistern after being removed from a building of the late Roman period. Tradition has it that the blocks are oriented sideways and inverted in order to negate the power of the Gorgons' gaze.
Open: 9am-5.30pm. Admission: TL10.
One of the magnificent historical constructions of Istanbul is the Basilica Cistern, located to the south-west of the Hagia Sophia. This huge cistern, which was founded by Justinianus I, a Byzantine Empire (527-565), began to be called by the public "the Sinking Palace" and not without reason, seeing the great number of marble columns arising out of the water. In place of the cistern was formerly a great Basilica, which had probably been built in the 3rd or 4th century during the Roman period which was used in commercial and legal affairs and scientific and artistic activities. The basilica was reconstructed by Ilius after it had burned down in a conflagration that broke out in 476.
This cathedral-sized cistern is an underground chamber approximately 143 metres (470 ft) by 65 metres (210 ft) - about 9,800 square metres (105,000 sq ft) in area - capable of holding 80,000 cubic metres (2,800,000 cu ft) of water. The ceiling is supported by a forest of 336 marble columns, each 9 metres (30 ft) high, arranged in 12 rows of 28 columns spaced 4.9 metres (16 ft) apart. The capitals of the columns are mainly Ionic and Corinthian styles, with the exception of a few Doric styles with no engravings.
The cistern is surrounded by a firebrick wall with a thickness of 4 metres (13 ft) and coated with a waterproofing mortar. The cistern's water was provided from the Belgrade Woods which lie 19km (12 miles) north of the city via aqueducts such as the 971m long Valens Aqueduct, which was built by the Emperor Valens in 368 AD and the 115m long Maglova Aqueduct, which was built by the Emperor Justinianus.
The cistern features two column bases that are carved with the visage of Medusa (see next tip). An interesting fact is that the cistern was used as a location for the 1963 James Bond film From Russia with Love.
Open: 9am-5.30pm. Admission: TL10.
This 6th century cistern was originally built under the reign of the Byzantine emperor Justinian, to provice water for the city. But after the Ottoman conquest in 1453, it was covered over and forgotten.
In 1545, the Turks rediscovered it, and used it to provide water for Topkapi Palace, nearby. Today, it's one of Turkey's most unusual attractions, with rows of ancient columns, soft lights shimmering on the surface of the water, and classical music in the background. It has a small cafe where one can soak up the unique ambiance of this place. Look closely, and you can see parts of earlier temples and palaces which were re-used to construct the columns.
This is the old water supply to the palace, located underground opposite Aya Sofya...complete with fish.
It's cool, so cool, so in summer it's worth the entry fee for that alone!
But seriously, it is interesting how sophisticated the Byzantine plumbing can be...
The Yerebatan Sarnici (Basilica Cistern) is an ancient underground waterway that is considered Istanbul’s most unusual tourist attraction. Although it was created in the 4th century, it was expanded in the 6th century to satisfy the needs of the Great Palace.
The 336 marble columns are 26 feet high. The cistern is 210 feet wide and 420 feet long. It is very dark and slightly eerie as you walk along the wooden walkways to the constant drip, drip, drip of the water coming from the Byzantine arches and domes atop of the columns. But it is also peaceful, cool, and somehow beautiful.
In a far corner is a shrine to the water nymphs which is marked by two columns resting on huge Medusa heads. One head is completely upside down and one faces sideways. The myth is that if you look at Medusa directly you would turn to stone, which may explain the positioning of the heads. In any case, they were very cool!
There are also a wish pool where you can throw a coin or two while making your wish and a “tear column” which has very cool tear-drop shaped carvings in it.
It’s a great place to escape the heat or the crowds of the city and is rather interesting. You can spend about 30-60 minutes here depending on the line to see the Medusa heads. There is also a small cafe at the end of the walkway towards the exit.
The cistern is in the Sultanahmet area and within walking distance of Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes along the small park just outside of the cistern in case you need a tea break!
Do be careful as the walkways can be slippery.
Open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission 10 TL
"SUNKEN PALACE".......Is an entirely different tourist attraction.
It is called this by the locals because of the great number of Marble Columns arising out of the water.
You descend 52 stone steps, don't go to the bottom straight away, as 3/4 way down is a great spot for a photo. A mysterious, looking basement awaits you. The lighting makes it look this way. The water is so still that the reflections are lovely. In one spot, there are HUGE FISH waiting to be fed!
The Cistern was expanded in 532, so that it could hold 18 million gallons of water and hopefully Istanbul would not run out of water. The Cistern roof is supported by 336 pillars!
There are also upside down Medesa heads(so people looking at them did not become stones!) here that came from other Greek buildings.
Eerie? Different.....yes,........worth a look at ....Yes
HUNGRY.....There is a Cafe down there
ADMISSION IN 2009 was 7 euros or 10 t/l...you can pay in either.
OPEN 9 - 4pm Daily CLOSED MONDAYS.
Takes about an hour to have a look around.
LOCATION......Near the Hagia Sophia
Entrance fee is 10 TL to the Basilica Cistern, entry is down steps as the Cistern is underground. The place is dark with atmospheric lighting of dozens of pillars standing in water, carp swimming around. There are two Medusa heads. The place was built in Byzantium times. Worth the visit.
Situada a solo dos pasos de Santa Sofía, en la zona de Sultanahmed, esta pequeña maravilla subterránea se ha convertido en una de las mejores sorpresas que puede dar esta ciudad inabarcable. Y eso, tratándose de Estambul, es decir mucho.
Esta cisterna fue construida en uno pocos meses allá por el año 532. Se trata de mayor de las 60 cisternas construidas en la ciudad durante la época bizantina. Como no había agua dulce suficiente dentro de las murallas que rodeaban la ciudad, durante siglos la traían de las fuentes y ríos desde el bosque de Belgrado, a unos 25 Kms. de distancia. Además, los constantes asedios que ha sufrido la ciudad hicieron necesario un sistema que aprovisionara de agua a sus habitantes cuando los enemigos destruían acueductos o envenenaban el agua.
En la cisterna de Yerebatan era depositada el agua traída a través del acueducto de Valente y fue utilizada hasta la mitad del S. XIV. Para construirla lo cierto es que reutilizaron viejas columnas romanas de distintas épocas. Consta de 336 columnas repartidas en 12 hileras de 28 y situadas a 4 metros unas de otras y nos recuerda a un bosque de columnas. Ocupa un área de 10.000 m2, tiene 8 m de altura y aproximadamente su capacidad es de unos 80.000 m3.
Esta Cisterna fue abierta al público en 1987 y, poco a poco, ha ido convirtiéndose en una de las más visitadas.
Lo cierto es que, aparte de la historia, penetrar en el interior de esta cisterna es una experiencia inolvidable. Conforme se va bajando, podemos notar la humedad creciente en nuestro rostro. Al llegar abajo podemos ver la grandiosidad de este monumento. Hileras e hileras de columnas que salen del agua que aún llega hasta este almacén.
La iluminación que le han colocado, con mucho gusto, se refleja en la superficie del agua y, a su vez, ilumina suavemente las columnas. Estás han ido adquiriendo tonalidades diferentes, por lo que hay una especie de puzzle multicolor saliendo del agua.
Las columnas tienen distintos adornos y, entre ellas, en el ángulo izquierdo de la cisterna, se descubrieron dos columnas cuyas bases esculpidas con óvolos clásicos reposan sobre dos extrañas cabezas de Medusa, que causan una extraña sensación al reflejarse en el liquido que las rodea.
Existe una cafetería muy interesante en el interior de la Cisterna. Es un poco cara para los estándares de Estambul, pero vale la pena reposar un rato mientras uno se toma un té en ese ambiente casi fantasmagórico