Basilica Cistern (Tickets with Insider Advice Guide 2020)

Last Updated on September 26, 2020

The Basilica Cistern (“Yerebatan” in Turkish, which means “sinking to the ground”), serving a museum now, is one of the most impressive and mystical buildings, as well as one of the most visited sights in Istanbul.


Basilica Cistern Facts

Aside from being a cistern that were used for water needs, this is a very unusual place in Istanbul. So what exactly is it?

  • An underground water reservoir that was built for the Byzantium Emperor Justinianus I  in the the 6th century (532).
  • 140 meters long and 70 meters wide cistern covers a giant rectangular area of 9,800 m2 and has a capacity to store 100,000 tons of water.
  • The name “Basilica” comes from the former religious structure on the site where the cistern was built.
  • The cistern is accessed by 52-step staircase and shelters 336 columns, each of which is 9 meters high and within a 4,8 meters distance from each other.
  • Famous for its two unique Medusa Heads.

History of the Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern was built with the order of Emperor Justinianus I and it was used to meet the water needs of the Great Palace, during Byzantium period. The water were coming from the Belgrad Forests region, 19 km. away from the cistern via two aqueducts on the water transfer centers.

Ottoman Empire’s conquest of Istanbul in 1453, by Fatih Sultan Mehmed, the cistern was used for a little while to meet the water need of the gardens of the Topkapi Palace.

However, Ottomans established their own water facilities or it was believed that it is against the Islamic rules and the cistern was not used thereafter and forgotten.

The cistern than rediscovered in the years 1544-1550 by P. Gyllius, a Dutch traveler who has came to Istanbul for making researches on Byzantium ruins. And after this rediscovery, the cistern has become very famous within the Western countries.


Nowadays, the Basilica Cistern is one of the most visited sights in Istanbul.

What to See at Basilica Cistern

The cistern is a very quiet and peaceful place conveyed by the columns through impressive arches.

The columns, including the legendary Medusa Heads, were compiled from the ancient structures and sculpted of several kinds of marbles.

The Medusa Heads

The two Medusa Heads, which are used as supports under the two columns at the northwest edge of the cistern, take the most interest and attracts the visitors in the Basilica Cistern.

It is also not known yet that how did those Medusa Head come to the cistern. And so there has been many myths for the Medusa heads.

Basilica Cistern (Tickets with Insider Advice Guide 2020)

The most known one is that; Medusa was one of the most beautiful girls in the ancient times, famous for her black eyes, long hair and beautiful body. She has fallen in love with Perseus, the semi-god son of Zeus.


On the contrary, the jealous Athena was also in love with Perseus and so Athena cursed Medusa and converted her hair into snakes and her beauty went away. Her glance also started to gorgonise the men looking at her. And after, Perseus headed off Medusa and beat the enemies by using her power.

According to another myth; Medusa was one of the three Gorgonas (female monster of the underworld in Greek mythology) with snake-head.

She has the power of gorgonising the ones that look at her. And so putting the Medusa Head in the cistern was for protecting purposes.

Visiting Hours & Admissions

Opening Hours

Open every day between 09:00-18:30

Hours of Ticket Sale

Counters close one hour before the museum closing time

Special Days

The cistern is open at 13.00 on the first day of religious holidays (Ramadan and Sacrifice feast). See Turkey’s public holidays

Ticket Price

* 30 TL at ticket window on location

* Guided tour regular price is about €12

Where to Buy Basilica Cistern Tickets

You can buy them at ticket windows but it will cost you about at least 30 minutes waiting in the line. And this will effect your future sightseeing calendar.

We recommend you buy your tickets online. This is by far the easiest and cheapest way to get tickets to Basilica Cistern.

We put the links to the official buying channels below. Just pick your date and time and skip the lines.

Basilica Cistern Ticket Options and Prices

There are several options:

  • Buy directly at the ticket window on location.
  • Buy Basilica Cistern only guided tours.
  • Buy Basilica Cistern included combo tickets.
  • Buy one of Basilica Cistern included Istanbul discount passes.

Ticket Window on location

Basilica Cistern entrance fee on your own is 30 TL (about €3,4).

The skip the line access tickets with a guide (see below) seems to be about €6,5 expensive.

You should consider on your own would it worth to pay that amount to save yourself from 30 minutes queue, and have a guide. We guess it would!

Guided Tours

This is the best option we recommend especially for first time visitors.

Basilica Cistern VIP Guided Tour

Basilica Cistern (Tickets with Insider Advice Guide 2020)This is offered by Istanbul Welcome Card and we highly recommend.

The ticket includes: No waiting in ticket lines, Entrance fee and fast track entry, Highlights tour in English

Price: €10

Notice: Our website visitors will get 5% extra discount. Just click the red button below and make sure you see the discounted price on the official page.

Basilica Cistern VIP Tour & Ticket


Combo Tickets

This is also a great option we recommend especially for both first time visitors and budget travelers.

Majority of the tourists visit Basilica Cistern on the same day with Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace due to their proximity. Basilica Cistern is 200 meters from Hagia Sophia.

Combo tickets become a good choice if want to get them all with same ticket. You can pick one of the combo tickets.

VIP Combo Ticket for Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Basilica Cistern

This is offered by Istanbul Welcome Card and we highly recommend.

Basilica Cistern (Tickets with Insider Advice Guide 2020)The ticket includes:

  • Skip the ticket lines with an official tour guide
  • All entrance fees and english speaking tour guide
  • 30 – 45 min. Highlight Tour at each museum by official tour guide
  • Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace Audio App in 9 languages for IOS and Android
    (English, German, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Arabic, Chinese, Turkish)

Price: €39

Hagia Sophia Meeting Hours: daily except Tuesdays at 09:30 and 10:30

Topkapi Palace Meeting Hours: daily except Tuesdays at 11:30, 13:30 and 14:30

Basilica Cistern Meeting Hours: daily except Tuesdays at 15:30

Notice: Our website visitors will get 5% extra discount. Just click the red button below and make sure you see the discounted price on the official page.

Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Basilica Cistern VIP Combo Ticket


Discount Cards

Basilica Cistern is included at the Istanbul Welcome Card Deluxe and Istanbul Tourist Pass.


Alternative Tours & Buying Channels

Here we only suggest the proven ways and top rated ones with travelers’ comments. You can feel free to book one of the below top selling tours.

Free cancellation up to 24 hours before activity starts


How to Get to Basilica Cistern?

Location

Basilica Cistern (Tickets with Insider Advice Guide 2020)

Neighboring the famous Hagia Sophia Museum, the cistern is located in Sultanahmet. When you face the entrance of the Hagia Sophia, it is about 200 meters on your left hand side. See the location map.

Transportation

The most practical way to get to Sultanahmet is via Bagcilar-Kabatas tram (T1 line).

  • The closest tram stop is Sultanahmet.
  • Sultanahmet Square and most of the connecting roads are closed for vehicle traffic except tram and tour buses.
  • From Taksim, take the funicular to Kabatas (from taksim Square) or funicular to Karakoy (from Tunel square) and than take the tram.
  • If you stay at the Sultanahmet hotels, than you easily walk to the museum.

Check our Sultanahmet page to see how to get to Sultanahmet in details.

Contact Details

Address: Alemdar Mh., Yerebatan Str. 1/3, Fatih, Istanbul
Tel: +90 212 512 15 70


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