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Preplanned City Guides and Travel Itineraries

Basilica Cistern

On this page you find practical information, photos and videos about Basilica Cistern.

Basilica Cistern features in these preplanned City Guides:

3-day Istanbul City Guide5-day Istanbul City Guide

Why visit / Interesting facts:

  • Istanbul's most unusual tourist attraction
  • Relaxing atmosphere

Time required: 60 minutes

Phone: +90 212 522 1259

Opening hours:

Time period Opening hours
Daily: 9am - 6:30pm


Ticket type Charge
General: 10 TL

Public transport:

  • Tram Line T1: Sultanahmet stop

Address: 13 Yerebatan Caddesi, Sultanahmet

Things you need to know:

  • Basilica Cistern used to be the city's largest underground water reservoir in Byzantine times. It was built in the 6th century by Byzantine Emperor Justinian
  • Its purpose was to ensure the city's water supply even in time of droughts and sieges. Water came here via clay pipes and aqueducts from Belgrade forest (12 km away)
  • The cistern covers 9,800 m2 (11,720 sq yards), more than 2 football fields, and has a capacity of 80 million liters (18 million gallons)
  • The cistern was built on the site of a former Basilica, hence its name. Turks call it: Yerebatan Sarayı meaning 'Sunken Palace'
  • 336 pillars (8 m (26 ft) high each) that were reused from earlier Roman ruins, hold up the roof. This explains why the tops of the columns are so different
  • The "palace" features two Medusa (terrifying female creature in Greek mythology) heads at the far end
  • Before the walking platforms were built visitors had to rent boats to traverse it

What to do there:

  • Walk along the designated walkways lit with glowing red lights and enjoy the ethereal atmosphere and the breathtaking atmosphere
  • Listen to the nice classical music accompanying the sound of endlessly dripping water nad enjoy the relaxing atmosphere
  • Make sure to walk the decks to see the Medusa Heads

Basilica Cistern features in these preplanned City Guides: