Introduction to Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern, located in Istanbul, is a remarkable historical site offering insights into Byzantine architectural brilliance and engineering. Known as the largest surviving cistern in the world, it serves as a monument to the ingenuity of the Byzantine era.

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Discover the history and architecture of Basilica Cistern

Constructed in the 6th century by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, the Basilica Cistern was primarily built to supply water to the Great Palace and surrounding areas. Following damage due to a fire, Justinian I restored and expanded the original cistern, incorporating advanced features such as a water purification system under each dome.

Istanbul Tours Acitivites_Basilica Cistern

Structure and Interior Design

The cistern spans 140 meters by 70 meters, covering an area of 9,800 square meters. It features 336 columns arranged in 12 rows of 28, supporting the ceiling. This grandiose underground structure, once capable of holding enough water to sustain 100,000 people for a year, was aptly nicknamed „Yerebatan Sarayı“ or „Sunken Palace.“


The Ottoman Period

After centuries of neglect, the Basilica Cistern was only used for garden watering during the Ottoman era, following Islamic law that discouraged the use of stagnant water. Restoration efforts in the 19th century and mid-20th century revived this architectural marvel, leading to its current status as a major tourist attraction.

Brief Overview of Its History

The Basilica Cistern, also celebrated as the „Sunken Palace,“ showcases columns believed to have been sourced from ancient Roman buildings. It played a vital role in firefighting before falling into disrepair post-Ottoman conquest of Constantinople.

Key Informations for Visitors

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.

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.

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.

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.

Quick Facts

Frequently Asked Questions about Basilica Cistern Tickets

Booking your tickets online is the most convenient way to visit the Basilica Cistern. Online ticket purchases often include benefits such as skip-the-line options, which can save time during your visit.

Yes, photography is permitted inside the Basilica Cistern for personal use. However, please refrain from using tripods or other professional photographic equipment, as these may obstruct the pathways and disturb other visitors. Note that photography is restricted in the staircase areas to ensure visitor safety and flow.

The Basilica Cistern features two main entrances for your convenience. One entrance is located near Hagia Sophia, and another is positioned near the southwest corner of the site, close to the Cistern of Serefiye. This allows for easier access from various points around Sultanahmet Square.

The Basilica Cistern is committed to accessibility, though there are some limitations. There is one lift available, which can accommodate wheelchairs. However, please be aware that if multiple wheelchairs arrive simultaneously, there may be a wait of up to 30 minutes. Planning ahead can help ensure a smoother visit.