About Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern is a unique and fascinating site to visit. It provides a window into the hidden world beneath Istanbul and is a monument to the Byzantines' brilliance in engineering and architecture. It is the biggest surviving cistern in the world.

Discover everything about Basilica Cistern on this page!

HISTORY / ARCHITECTURE

About Basilica Cistern

Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century (532) constructed the Basilica Cistern to supply water to the Great Palace, the imperial residence, and other locations in the region. Before the current cistern was constructed, there was another cistern built there by Constantine I.

However, this cistern was severely damaged while a fire broke out in the region. Justinian I reconstructed and enlarged the ruined cistern and constructed the current cistern. 

The water for the cistern was transported through the Bozdoan Arch and other aqueducts from the Belgrade Forest. There is also a water purification system inside each dome on the ceiling, designed with the special technology of the era.

Interior

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 cistern was once known as "Yerebatan Sarayı" (Sunken Palace) because of its grandiose interior, which was large and adorned with numerous columns and could hold enough water for a population of 100,000 people for a year.

During the Ottoman Period

The cistern was sealed and left abandoned for centuries. On top of it, people constructed houses. Later, the Ottomans only used the cistern for watering the garden of Topkapi Palace, as the water was stagnant (streaming water was allowed in Islam). During the rule of Ahmet III and Abdülhamit II, the Basilica Cistern was renovated. Homes constructed on top of the cistern were removed in the 1940s, and a 3-year refreshing and restoration project began in 1955.

Brief History of Basilica Cistern in Istanbul

Here is a quick review of Basilica Cisterns history.
  • The cistern is also known as the "Sunken Palace".
  • The columns in the cistern are thought to have been taken from ancient Roman buildings.
  • The Basilica cistern was also used as a reservoir for firefighting.
  • The cistern was kept in good condition for centuries, but it fell into disrepair after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
  • In the 19th century, the Basilica Cistern was rediscovered and restored.
  • Since 1987, it has been a very popular tourist attraction in Istanbul.

Quick Facts About Basilica Cistern

  • Original Name: Yerebatan Sarnıcı (Sunken Palace)
  • Built: From 532
  • MissionWater purification and water supply for the Great Palace of Constantinople
  • Architectural Style: Byzantine Architecture
  • Size: Approximately 10,000 m2; length 140 metres, width 70 metres
  • Visitors: Over 1.5 Million visitors every year
  • Address: Sultanahmet Square Alemdar, Yerebatan Cd. 1/3, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul

Must Know About Basilica Cistern

Here you can find frequently asked questions about the Basilica Cistern and everything you need to know before visiting.

Let's get to know these masterpieces of human ingenuity more closely!

Where is it Located?

The Basilica Cistern is located in Istanbul, at Sultanahmet Square, next to Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace and the Blue Mosque.

Adress: Alemdar, Yerebatan Cd. 1/3, 34110 Fatih/Istanbul

How Much are the Ticket Prices?

Entry Price of Basilica Cistern Istanbul:

  • Local Visitor: 80 TL
  • Foreign visitor: 600 TL

This price does not include skip-the-line tickets or a guided tour.

How Long Does a Visit Take?

The long colonnades, the Medusa Heads, the Weeping Column, and the architectural grandeur of the Basilica Cistern can all be seen in approximately one to one and a half hours if you simply meander around the colonnades.


When is The Best Time to Visit?

Visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Although the cistern is open from 9 AM to 10 PM, it is busiest during the day. Morning and late afternoon visits are better for exploring the cistern without crowds.
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Plan Your Visit to the Basilica Cistern

Plan Your Visit to the Basilica Cistern

Location

Basilica Cistern is located in Sultanahmet Square, in front of Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, next to Topkapı Palace.


You can walk from the Grand Bazaar in 20 minutes.


Adress: Sultan Ahmet, Ayasofya Meydanı No:1, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul


 >> For more information

Getting to Basilica Cistern

 - Walk: Located in Sultanahmet Square, you can walk from the Grand Bazaar in 25 minutes.

 - Marmaray: Sirkeci Station, just a 15-minute walk away

 - Tram: Sultanahmet and Gülhane

station.

 - Bus: 18-minute walk away 

 - Taxi: transportation to cistern is not recommended due to the difficulty


 >> For more information

Opening Hours of Basilica Cistern

 - Open: every day of the year
 - Hours: 9 AM to 10 PM
 - Duration of Visit: 30 mins to 1 hour

Avoid visiting on weekends and holidays: Weekends and holidays are most crowded times, If possible, try to visit during the week.
Visit during the off-season: Between October and April, the cistern is less crowded.

 >> For more information

* Basilica Cistern is open 7 days a week between 09:00 and 22:00.
Local visitors over 65 years of age are free of charge.
Entrance is FREE of charge for disabled visitors, including one companion.


Bestseller Basilica Cistern Ticket

Visit the Basilica Cistern, one of the largest ancient water cisterns in Turkey. It is the perfect model of Byzantine architecture and is home to interesting attractions such as Hen’s Eye Column and Medusa Pillar Bases. Book Basilica Cistern tickets here to enjoy skip-the-line entry and guided tours. + more details

Most Selling Basilica Cistern Guided Tours

Hidden beneath the streets of Istanbul lies the ancient Basilica Cistern. Enjoy a guided tour of this sunken filming location. Upgrade to include a tour of Hagia Sophia & Blue Mosque! + more details

Most Preferred Combo Tour

See 3 of Istanbul's most famous landmarks with this combination tour. Go inside the iconic Blue Mosque, explore the mysterious Basilica Cistern, and see the grand Hagia Sophia mosque from outside. + more details

Best Value Combo Pass

The MegaPass is covering all top museums in Istanbul like Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace & Harem, Basilica Cistern, Dolmabahce Palace. Besides these top attractions you enjoy a Bosphorus Cruise, Blue Mosque tour and you can benefit of the Hop On Hop Off Bus, Asian Side walking tour. + more details

Frequently Asked Questions About Basilica Cistern

How do I Book Tickets to the Basilica Cistern?

To save time and moneywe 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.

 >> Check best guided tour tickets here

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.

How many entrances are there at the Basilica Cistern?

The Basilica Cistern has two entrances: one near the Hagia Sophia and one near the southwest corner of the space, near the Cistern of Serefiye.

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.

Is there a dress code at Basilica Cistern?

There is no dress code while visiting the Basilica Cistern, although the cistern lies below ground, where it is chilly, wet, and humid. When visiting the cistern, it is advised to bring a light sweater. The steel pathway can be challenging, so wear your most comfortable, closed shoes when exploring this unique place.