The Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıcı) is Istanbul’s most unexpectedly romantic attraction which offers an insight into the complicated system that once brought drinking water into Istanbul.
The major problem with the site of Byzantium was the lack of fresh water, and so for the city to grow, a great system of aqueducts and cisterns was built, the most famous of which is the Basilica Cistern, whose present form dates to the reign of Justinian in the 6th century.
Constructed in the sixth century and then forgotten for centuries, this ancient underground waterway takes you along sparsely lit walkways that weave around 336 marble columns that rise 26 feet to support Byzantine arches and domes, from which water drips. The ancient cistern has been fitted with lights and classical music which plays softly in the background. The two most famous columns feature upturned Medusa heads.
Don’t miss the upside-down head of Medusa that forms the bottom of one column. The cistern is a particularly relaxing place to get away from the hubbub of the Old City.
Yerebatan C No: 13 34410 Sultanahmet, İstanbul / Tel. (0212) 522 12 59