BASILICA CISTERN

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How to Get to Basilica Cistern (Sultanahmet Map)


HISTORICAL-PENINSULA-SULTANAHMET Map - Basilica Cistern Map

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Getting to the Basilica Cistern is pretty easy; it's centrally located on the Historical Peninsula, in the Old City of Istanbul. That’s why it is easily accessible by public transport.

The best way to get to Basilica Cistern is by taking the tram; it's the cheapest and easiest way, and you'll get to see some of the city as you ride. The nearest tram stations are
Sultanahmet and Gülhane stations. Both are a 7-minute walk away.

From Taksim Square, you can take the funicular F1 to Kabataş. At Kabataş Station, take the tram T1 and go 7 stops to Sultanahmet Station. From there, it is just a couple of minutes to Basilica Cistern.

>> More information about how to get there

Visitor Information for Basilica Cistern Istanbul

Visitor Information For Basilica Cistern Istanbul

Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (527–565) constructed the Basilica Cistern to supply water to the Great Palace, the imperial residence, and other locations in the region. In fact, Constantine I had constructed a cistern in the same location as him. However, this cistern was seriously devastated when a fire burst out in the area.

 
Justinian I repaired and enlarged the damaged cistern, and he constructed the cistern we have today. The water for the cistern was transported through the Bozdoğan Arch and other aqueducts from the Belgrade Forest.

The cistern, measuring 140 x 70 and covering 9800 square metres, is comprised of 336 columns, with 12 colonnades of 28 in each row. The interior of the cistern, which has a water storage capacity of approximately 100,000 tonnes, is quite grandiose, expansive, and adorned with numerous columns; consequently, the cistern acquired the name "Yerebatan Palace" over time.

Basilica Cistern Highlights

Columns of Basilica Cistern

Columns

Wander through the 1500-year-old site and take a trip back in time. The first thing you will surely notice are the marble columns. Bathed in an atmospheric light, they rise out of the water and support the 6th-century construction.

Arranged in twelve rows, there are a total of 336 well-preserved columns. Each of the 9-metre-long columns is unique, but most of them have a cylindrical shape and have Corinthian and early Byzantine features.

The Basilica Cistern columns, elegant and structurally vital, carry the vaulted roof and large water storage, absorbing earthquake vibrations. Today, they showcase Byzantine builders' skill and represent Istanbul's rich past.

Highlights water Basilica Cistern

Water

The reflections of the columns in the water are also breathtaking. The spotlights cast an almost magical light on the scenery, creating the impression of being in a completely different universe. While walking on the platform, you can hear water dripping from the ceiling's masonry vault.

There were numerous fish in the water prior to the last restoration; you could see them if you looked into the water.

Fish have been relocated due to changing water levels, and the quality of life after restoration is insufficient.

Medusa Heads in Basilica Cistern

Medusa Heads

The cistern includes two sculptures of Byzantine-era Medusa heads of significant interest. In 1985, restoration brought to light for the first time two ancient columns carrying the serpent-haired Medusa, a legendary figure from Greek mythology, at their bases. You can discover both mysterious heads on the north-west side of the cistern on your way to the exit. 

Pay attention to the fact that the Medusa heads are situated sideways and reversed.
It is believed that the Medusa heads were placed for protection against evil spirits and strangers, as was a common belief in ancient Greece and Rome.

Column of Tears

Column of Tears

In the Basilica Palace, a column different from the others attracts attention. It is believed that other slaves made this column specifically in honour of the slaves who worked for the palace and died here. Considering that more than 7 thousand pagan slaves worked in the construction of the Basilica Cistern, most of the workers died here.
There are shapes similar to tears on the column, and it gives the feeling that it is "crying" with the water constantly flowing over it. According to a rumour, after the palace was closed to visitors, the sounds of these slaves crying echoed against the columns. Some visitors make a wish by throwing money into the water where this column is located.

The Sculpture Exhibition in Basilica Cistern

The Sculpture Exhibition

The Basilica Cistern is a place where universal cultural consciousness and collective social memory intersect from different layers of history to the present day. After extensive and meticulous restoration works, it opened its doors to its visitors with its first exhibition"Deeper (Daha Derine)," prepared with a contemporary museum approach.

The history of the Basilica Cistern also influences future art. Art inspires this exhibition as the source of life, vigour, healing, and cleansing, like "Water". Visitors are invited to go "deeper" into the Basilica Cistern's contents, hidden treasures, visible and invisible vibrations, thoughts, imagination, creativity, and reflections.

Light Shows in Basilica Cistern

Light Shows

The cistern's entrance hall was updated with new flooring and lighting as part of the renovation project. Nevertheless, the new exhibition with the central theme of "light" ought to be the most interesting thing for guests to see. The remarkable structure will unquestionably offer a more immersive experience and become an even more impressive spectacle beginning today, when there will be light shows on certain important occasions.

Basilica created by Turkish artists An important event that takes place in Istanbul is the Cistern lightning and light performance. The columns of the cistern gleam enchantedly to the sound of classical music, Turkish folk music, and pop music. The performance was crafted with skill and attention to detail.

Should I Buy my Basilica Cistern Ticket on-site or online?

If you do not have an Istanbul Welcome Card or any Istanbul City Pass Card, visiting the Basilica Cistern can be challenging, as it's one of the most crowded tourist destinations in the world.
Here are a few reasons why you should buy your ticket online:

- Provide Exclusive Discounts: Buying tickets online at Basilica Cistern saves time and money during peak season. Booking your tickets online can provide you with exclusive discounts. Its true splendour remains hidden without an expert guide; booking a guided tour online ensures you won't miss out on the rich history, extraordinary architecture, and intriguing stories of this immersive structure.

- Enjoy Flexibility: Online tickets offer more flexibility, allowing for easy cancellation or change if plans change, unlike door-to-door options.

- Save Precious Time: You'll get a guaranteed entry time. When you buy your ticket online, you can choose your desired entry time. This is a great way to avoid having to wait in line if you arrive at the cistern during peak hours. Enjoy fast access to this incredible landmark and maximize every moment of your visit.

Plan Your Visit to Basilica Cistern Istanbul

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Summer season: can be visited between 09.00 and 22.00 The last entrance to the cistern is at 21.00.

Winter season: Basilica Cistern can be visited between 09.00 and 17.30, with the last entrance to the church being 16.00.

Basilica Cistern hosts Night Shift Events between 22.00-00.00 on certain days.

On average, it is enough to spend 1 hour visiting and seeing the entire place.

You can check out Night Shift events via this link.

>> Click here for more information about visiting hours

Basilica Cistern Opening Hours

Things to Know Before Visiting the Basilica Cistern

  • Wear Comfortable Shoes: The cistern's floor is quite slippery, so wear your most comfortable, closed shoes when exploring the chambers.
  • Consider the steps: To reach the colonnades in the cistern, you must descend approximately 52 stairs. When descending them, watch your step.
  • Bring a sweater: the Basilica Cistern lies below ground, where it is chilly, wet, and musty. When visiting the cistern, it is advised to bring a light sweater.
  • Follow these photographic tips: Avoid taking photographs in the staircase area and avoid using tripods or other professional photographic equipment since they may disrupt other guests.
  • Unofficial Guides: Beware of unofficial guides inside the structure. It is best to buy tickets for guided tours online in advance from official operators. Guides should wear an official guide badge.
  • Arrive Early: The Basilica Cistern is a renowned tourist site that receives a large number of tourists throughout the year.
  • Book your tickets online in advance to reserve your place. Make sure you arrive early in the morning or in the evening to avoid crowded lines or to be able to visit in comfort.
  • Explore during the winter months: Plan your visit during the winter months to explore  Basilica Cistern in comfort and avoid crowds and large groups of tourists.
Do I Need a Guided Tour to Visit Basilica Cistern?

Do I Need a Guided Tour to Visit Basilica Cistern? 

A guided tour of Basilica Cistern offers several benefits, including understanding its historypointing out hidden details, and answering questions about the history and construction of the cistern.

  • A qualified guide can give you significant information and insights on the cistern and can also tell you about the myths and legends that surround the cistern, such as the story of the Medusa heads and Crying column.
  • Most important, a guide can help you navigate the cistern. It can be easy to get lost in the dark and maze-like corridors of the cistern. A guide can show you the way to the most important parts of the cistern and make sure you don't miss anything.
  • Get answers to your questions and a deeper appreciation of the architecture and cultural significance.

There are two main types of tours available: Audioguides and Guided tours. Audioguides allow visitors to explore the building at their own pace. Qualified guided tours inform you about the history and myths of the building and navigate you through the cisternRegardless of the choice, an unforgettable experience at the Basilica Cistern is guaranteed.

Frequently Asked Questions About Basilica Cistern

What was the Basilica Cistern used for?

Cisterns were widely used in the Byzantine times as water supply and filtration systems. Basilica Cistern is the city’s oldest water reservoir.

How do I Book Tickets to the Basilica Cistern?

To save time and money, we recommend booking your Basilica Cistern tickets online. Moreover, online tickets can allow you to skip the line and provide more advantages. Online ticket booking is also convenient, as you can do it with a single click.

>> Book your tickets here in advance 

How do you skip the line at Basilica Cistern in Istanbul

You can buy skip-the-line tickets online. If you buy your tickets online, you will be given a certain time to go. You can skip the line and get into the cistern at the time you were given.

>> Buy your skip-the-line tickets here online

Why is the Basilica Cistern called "Underground Palace" (Yerebatan Sarayı)?

The Basilica Cistern in Istanbul is large and impressive enough to be compared to a palace. The columns form a colonnaded corridor reminiscent of a palace's halls. The water in the cistern is also unusually still, creating a mirrored surface that adds to the palace image.

How old is the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul?

The Mesmerising Basilica Cistern was built by Emperor Justinian in 532 A.C. So now it is more than 1400 years old!

How much is the entry price for the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul for tourists?

The cost of visiting the Basilica Cistern
Foreign Visitor: 450 TL
Local Visitors: 80 

This price is for only entrance; it does not cover skip-the-line tickets or a guided tour.

  >> For more additional information 

On which days of the week is the Basilica Cistern open to visitors?

The Basilica Cistern is open 7 days a week between 09.00 and 22.00 for visits. Every day of the week, you can visit the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul.

>> Check for additional visitor information

What is the best season to visit Basilica Cistern?

The Basilica Cistern is best visited during the months of March and May, and September and October. The weather is nice and comfortable, making it ideal for walking through Istanbul's streets. However, these months attract the most people to the city, so make sure that you book your online Basilica Cistern tickets far in advance. 

Where is the Basilica Cistern located?

The Basilica Cistern is located on Sultanahmet's Historic Peninsula, a few steps before Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet Square. 

>> Find best way to get Basilica Cistern of Istanbul

How much time does it take to visit Basilica Cistern?

Take in the architectural splendour of the Basilica Cistern within around 1 hour to 1.5 hours. You can stroll around the long colonnades, look at the Medusa Heads, and observe the Weeping Column.

Are you allowed to take photos inside the Basilica Cistern?

Yes, you are allowed to take photographs inside the Basilica Cistern, with the exception of the staircase area and with tripods and other professional photographic equipment, which may cause disturbance to other visitors.

Is the Basilica Cistern wheelchair accessible?

Wheelchairs are accessible at the Basilica Cistern, although getting there is difficult because there is only one lift. If there are two wheelchairs arriving at the same time, the process can take up to 30 minutes.

Are strollers allowed in the Basilica Cistern?

Yes, strollers are allowed in the Basilica Cistern.

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WhaT OUR VISITORS SAY

About Basilica Cistern

It was worth the extra $ to avoid the hour long wait. We were in the basilica within 10 minutes with our guide who was excellent. There was no waste of time and frustration from standing outside in a seemingly unending line in the hot sun. Also the tour guide was very thorough and extremely friendly

G. Salem—USA

Amazing piece of historic engineering and architecture and very photogenic. Host guide was very knowledgeable and friendly. Clear directions for meeting point and excellent value for money.

Maurice Thomas- Wales(UK)

Amazing Basilica Cistern with a great guide! Definetely deserves a visit ! We really had an enjoyable time in there

THOR / NORWAY

The sights were great and I was happy to see parts of the area without spending too much time. The guide was very patient with us and took great initiative in explaining things. I highly recommend it these guys.

Jelena - Serbia

Basilica Cistern Visitor Numbers

Customers served! + 100 MILLION VISITORS PER YEAR
Customers served! + 100 k MONTHLY VISITORS
Customers served! + 100 k MONTHLY GUIDED TOURS
Travelers from all around the world come to discover the majestic
Basilica Cistern! This magnificent palace is one of the most visited tourist attractions of Istanbul, and of the world.