Explore Basilica Cistern, Istanbul | A Hidden Gem Underground

Built in the 6th century by order of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, the Basilica Cistern once provided water to the Great Palace of Constantinople and its vicinity. Now a popular tourist destination, it draws close to two million visitors annually with its awe-inspiring features such as the Weeping Column and the enigmatic Medusa Heads. Dive deeper into this historic site, learn about Basilica Cistern tickets, visiting hours, and essential tips to enhance your visit.

What to Know Before Visiting the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul?

Constructed in the 6th century by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, the Basilica Cistern was initially built to supply water to Istanbul’s Great Palace. This grand structure replaced an earlier cistern, which was lost to fire. Justinian expanded this new cistern using a network of aqueducts from the Belgrade Forest to transport water across the city.

Today, the cistern is an expansive underground marvel that spans 9,800 square meters. It is supported by 336 columns, neatly arranged in 12 rows, creating an awe-inspiring sight. Known affectionately as the „Sunken Palace,“ the Basilica Cistern is celebrated for its massive scale and the stunning architectural design of its columns.

Powered by GetYourGuide
Powered by GetYourGuide
Powered by GetYourGuide
Powered by GetYourGuide

Which Basilica Cistern Ticket Is Right for You?


Short Visits

Choose: Skip-the-Line Tickets

Duration: About 1 Hour

Includes: Multilingual Audio Guide

Opt for skip-the-line tickets to avoid waiting and spend more time enjoying the underground marvels of the Basilica Cistern. Enhance your visit with an optional multilingual audio guide, or consider a combo ticket for access to both Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

Recommended tours:

History Buffs

Choose: Guided Tours

Duration: Flexible

Guide: Expert English-speaking guide plus audio guides in over 8 languages

Join a guided tour led by a knowledgeable guide who will delve into the Basilica Cistern’s construction and historical importance. Enjoy fast-track entry and a choice of audio guides to experience the museum in your preferred language.

Recommended tours:

Extended Exploration

Choose: Combo Tickets or Istanbul Passes

Duration: Flexible

Guide: Expert guide or audio guide, based on your ticket choice

Explore more with a combo ticket that covers the Basilica Cistern, Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, and Blue Mosque. Benefit from discounts or choose the Headout Saver Pass for three days of skip-the-line access to Istanbul’s key attractions.

Recommended tours:

What Are the Must-See Highlights at the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul?

Marble Columns

The vast roof of the Basilica Cistern rests on 336 towering marble columns, each standing 9 meters tall. Explore the fascinating designs and ancient patterns adorning these pillars, which predate the cistern itself.

Medusa Heads

Within the Basilica Cistern, you’ll find two enigmatic Medusa heads, one lying flat and the other turned upside down. These intriguing sculptures draw visitors with their mysterious charm and unknown origins.


Weeping Column

In memory of the 7,000 slaves who perished during its construction, one column known as the 'Weeping Column' features intricate carvings of trees, branches, and peacocks. It’s also marked by a unique ‘teardrop’ design, adding to its poignant significance.


Water Reflections

Today, the water levels in the Basilica Cistern are quite low, revealing the ancient architecture that was once submerged. The serene waters mirror the softly illuminated surroundings, creating stunning visual reflections.

How Should You Plan Your Visit to the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul?

The Basilica Cistern is centrally located in Sultanahmet Square, opposite the majestic Hagia Sophia and near the Blue Mosque, just next to Topkapı Palace. You can easily walk here from the Grand Bazaar in about 20 minutes.

Local Visitors: 80 TL
International Visitors: 600 TL

Please note that these prices do not include fast-track access or guided tour options.
Free admission for local visitors over 65 years old.
Complimentary entry for disabled visitors and one accompanying person

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

 • On Foot: A leisurely 25-minute walk from the Grand Bazaar.

 • By Marmaray: Disembark at Sirkeci Station, from where it’s a 15-minute walk.

 • By Tram: Get off at the Sultanahmet or Gülhane stations.

 • By Bus: Buses stop within an 18-minute walking distance.

 • By Taxi: It’s advised to avoid taxis due to access difficulties in this bustling area.

 • Nearest Parking: Dalbasti Parking, Ispark 540, Kabasakal Medrese Onu.

Topkapı Palace
Explore the vast history of the Ottoman sultans at this UNESCO World Heritage Site, now a rich museum.

• Grand Bazaar
Dive into one of the world’s oldest and largest covered markets for unique gifts and souvenirs.

Blue Mosque
 Just a short walk from Hagia Sophia, known for its striking blue tiles and six minarets.

• Bosphorus Cruise
Experience Istanbul from the water, viewing its skyline and iconic bridges.

The Basilica Cistern is open daily from 9 AM to 10 PM. A visit typically lasts between 30 minutes to an hour.

A typical visit to the Basilica Cistern lasts between one to one and a half hours. Visitors can enjoy sights like the Medusa Heads, the Weeping Column, and the majestic long colonnades, all showcasing the architectural brilliance of the cistern.

Weekdays over Weekends and Holidays: To avoid the crowds, visiting during weekdays is recommended.

Off-season Months: The months from October to April offer a quieter experience as the tourist crowds are thinner.

Tips while visiting:
• Footwear: Wear slip-resistant, comfortable shoes.
• Clothing: Bring a light cardigan due to the cool, damp conditions underground.
• Stairs: Be cautious when descending the 52 steps to the cistern.
• Arrival: Early mornings are recommended to avoid crowds.
• Tours: Book a guided or audio-guided tour to enhance your experience.

• Accessibility: Elevators and ramps available; personal wheelchairs or strollers should be brought along.

• Photography: Mobile phones and cameras allowed, but no tripods.

• Shopping: Numerous gift shops nearby offering souvenirs and trinkets.

Frequently Asked Questions about Basilica Cistern Tickets

Buy your Basilica Cistern tickets online to save time, secure your spot in advance, and possibly enjoy special online discounts and offers. This ensures you don’t miss out on visiting due to sold-out days.

Basilica Cistern skip-the-line tickets are available for approximately €24, while guided tour tickets are around €26. Both ticket types offer the advantage of bypassing long queues, allowing more time to enjoy the site.

Choose from three main types of tours at the Basilica Cistern: skip-the-line tickets, guided tours, and combo tickets. The guided tours provide a comprehensive exploration of the cistern, whereas combo tickets are ideal for visitors planning a full-day experience including nearby attractions like Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace.

Yes, all our Basilica Cistern tickets come with skip-the-line access to help you avoid the crowds. Depending on your ticket type, you may also access multilingual audio guides.

Indeed, Basilica Cistern guided tours are available. You can select from languages like English and Spanish and enjoy priority access with each ticket.

The Basilica Cistern, located in Istanbul, Turkey, is a historic underground water reservoir built in the 6th century during Emperor Justinian I’s reign. Originally constructed to supply water to the Great Palace of Constantinople and nearby buildings, it now serves as a unique tourist destination offering insights into ancient Byzantine engineering.

Noteworthy highlights within the Basilica Cistern include its atmospheric long colonnades, the mystic Medusa Heads, and the poignant Weeping Column. These elements, combined with the dimly lit ambiance, create a memorable visit steeped in legend and history. Look up whats inside.

The Basilica Cistern, also known as Yerebatan Cistern, is situated at Alemdar, Yerebatan Cd. 1/3, 34110 Fatih, Istanbul, Turkey. Here is further information for the location. 

The Basilica Cistern is open daily from 9:00 to 19:00, allowing visitors ample time to explore its depths throughout the year. Look up the detailed opening hours. 

The site is equipped with ramps and elevators to aid those with limited mobility. It is also stroller-friendly, making it accessible for visitors with young children.

While wheelchair access is provided, caution is advised due to the damp and potentially slippery conditions inside this historical underground site.

Photography is allowed inside the Basilica Cistern. However, please refrain from using tripods or other large equipment that might disrupt the experience for other visitors.

Absolutely. The Basilica Cistern has become a highly popular attraction post-restoration. Pre-booking your tickets ensures you avoid disappointment on busy days and secure your chance to experience this iconic site