Along convenient walkways, indirect atmospheric lighting casts dramatic shadowy effects to this amazing cistern. The length is almost as long as two football fields. It possesses twelve rows, each in turn comprised of three hundred thirty six marble, Doric-style columns. The kids will be in daydream heaven with the Medusa Heads and the oriental carp fish silently patrolling the waters. Upon entering, there is a photo shop where the whole family can dress up as Sultans and nobility and have a great memento.
This ancient underground “palace” cistern, was original built in the first ancient town of Byzantium, and was originally used to store water for the great Palace. There is a belief that the early Byzantines raised fish in the cistern. The cistern’s roof is 65m (195’) wide and 143m (429’) long, and is supported by the aforementioned 336 doric columns arranged in 12 rows. It once held 80,000 cubic metres of water, delivered through 20km (12 miles) of aqueducts from a reservoir near the Black Sea. It was closed until 1545, when a scholar, Petrus Gyllius, was told a magical story by locals. They could lower buckets in their basement floor… get water… sometimes even a fish. After it’s rediscovery, the cistern didn’t get the respect it deserved until restorations were undertaken in the 1700’s and again in 1955, and finally, the last, in l985 by the Metropolitan Municipality. Rightfully, it is now being treated with honor and awe.
Because of its magic atmosphere and great acoustics, this cistern is now host to many Classical Music Concerts. The Basilica Cistern is open every day, always cool in it’s cave like depths, and easy to get to on your tour day in Istanbul. You can walk across the street to Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. One should figure a visit can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
If any of you get hungry, try the little café for drinks and/ or snacks at the exit area.