The Basilica Cistern is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbull. The cistern, located 500 feet (150 m) southwest of the Hagia Sophia on the historical peninsula of Sarayburnu, was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian.
The Turks call it “Yerebatan Sarayi” which means underground palace It is one of the most popular tourist attractions and the largest surviving Byzantine cistern in Istanbul. It’s a great place to pass the time 30-45 minutes, especially during hot summer when its cavernous depths stay wonderfully cool. The underground Cistern’s symmetry and sheer grandeur of conception are quite extraordinary. It is located near the Hagia Sophia Church in the Sultanahmet district.
It was built in 532 century, during the reign of Justinian to supply water to the Great Palace complex nearby and surrounding buildings and during the Ottoman Period. The water was again used for Topkapi Palace and watering the gardens of it. Water was delivered via 20km of aqueduct from a reservoir near the Black Sea. There are many pipes at different levels in the eastern wall and water used to be distributed through these pipes. The cistern is cleaned and renovated in 1985 a wooden walkway between the columns was built and opened to visit in 1987. It is 140 meters long and 70 meters wide and supported by 336 beautiful columns. Don’t miss the 2 beautiful columns which no one knows where these columns came from, in the cistern supported by blocks carved into Medusa heads and the one towards the centre featuring a teardrop design.
There is 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. It is also hosting many Classical Music Concerts. Scenes from the James Bond movie 'From Russia with Love' were filmed here.