Basilica Cistern | Explore Istanbul's Subterranean Beauty

Basilica Cistern tickets get you access to an iconic ‘Sunken Palace’ of Istanbul, which dates back more than 1,500 years. The Cistern is renowned across the world as the largest surviving underground cistern constructed by the Byzantines in Istanbul. The iconic Cistern dates back to the sixth century when the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I undertook massive construction projects to beautify Constantinople, his capital city. Constructed to supply filtered water to the imperial Great Palace and other royal residences on the First Hill of the city, the structure was an architectural wonder supported by 336 uniquely ornate marble columns. The palatial cistern was functional for a few years before it was abandoned and forgotten for centuries until the Ottomans.

While the sixteenth-century Ottomans revived and used the Basilica Cistern for a while, it soon fell into disrepair and neglect, with several renovations over the centuries. It was only in 1987, after rigorous municipal efforts, that the majestic underground reservoir was opened to the public. With massive marble pillars that seem to reach the skies, Medusa Heads supporting the columns and shallow pools with rippling waters, Basilica Cistern is a must-visit for everyone during their Istanbul tour.

Basilica Cistern Skip-The-Line Guided Tour


  • Get skip-the-line access to one of Istanbul’s most iconic ancient attractions by booking Basilica Cistern tickets online in advance.
  • Explore the massive underground Cistern with a professional guide who would narrate interesting facts and intriguing stories about the attraction.
  • Admire more than 300 marble columns, each with unique architectural styles, as they rise high into the ceiling of the Cistern.
  • Spot the iconic Medusa Heads and the Weeping Column during your multilingual guided tour.
  • Experience the famous water ripple effect as you stroll through hidden nooks and corners of the ancient marvel.


  • Skip-the-line entry tickets to the Basilica Cistern.
  • A professional English-speaking guide to assist and accompany you throughout the tour
  • A two-hour detailed tour of the Basilica Cistern, covering all major highlights of the attraction
  • Fixed-day tickets for the day you have booked the experience for.
  • Instant confirmation of ticket booking.
Basilica Cistern: Fast Track Entry + Guided Tour
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Basilica Cistern Fast Track Entry Guided Tour
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  • Book your skip the line tickets to explore the famous Basilica Cistern, one of the largest & most popular cisterns located in Istanbul

  • Witness the Medusa heads; one of the three Gorgons with snakes in place of hair that could turn anyone into stone

  • With raised wooden platforms, vaulted ceiling, and aesthetic beauty, the Basilica Cistern reflects the history and culture of the Roman Age

  • Get an inverted walk experience, as the water in the cistern is so crystal clear that it reflects the ceiling

  • A friendly tour guide who will assist you throughout the tour and will tell you interesting stories and facts about this historical monument

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Must Know Before You Go
  • Fixed day ticket implies that this ticket will be applicable only for the date that you've booked the ticket, it won't be carried forward to next or any other day.
  • ID proof is mandatory for each individual guest at the time of arrival.
  • All foreign nationals must share their passport and visa details at the time of arrival.
  • Latecomers or no-shows can't be refunded.
  • Basilica Cistern is wheelchair accessible. However, there is no wheelchair service available on the site. You need to provide your own wheelchair if needed.
  • Visitors will find an elevator providing easy access to the sightseeing platform.
  • Age policies change according to the package. Please go through the policies in the package before booking.
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Interesting Facts About Basilica Cistern

 Interesting Facts About Basilica Cistern
  • As one of the oldest surviving structures of the Byzantine period in Istanbul, the Basilica Cistern ranks among the most-visited attractions of the city.
  • Renowned as the largest surviving Byzantine-era cistern in Istanbul, the structure is adorned with 336 engraved Roman marble columns which give it the appearance of a ‘Sunken Palace’.
  • Designed as an underground water reservoir to supply filtered water to the royals of Constantinople, the cistern can hold more than 80,000 cusecs of water.
  • While the epic proportions of the cistern make it an architectural marvel, the 336 columns that support the entire structure are all unique, suggesting their origin in different cities.  
  • Although the structure is more than 1,500 years old, it has been used for its original purpose of supplying water for less than two centuries.
  • Basilica Cistern has been a part of the video game ‘Assassin’s Creed: Revelations’, numerous movies like the Bond film ‘From Russia with Love’, ‘The International’ and ‘Brotherhood of Tears’, and fictional works like Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’.
  • Visitors can still witness water dripping from the columns and fish swimming in shallow waters like an echo of the past in the Cistern.

Must Visit - Basilica Cistern At Night

History Of Basilica Cistern

Byzantine Era of the 6th Century
Byzantine Era of the 6th Century

Constructed under an old dilapidated basilica of Constantinople, the sixth-century Basilica Cistern was commissioned to be built right across the iconic Hagia Sophia by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. Work began on the underground water reservoir in 527-28 and upon completion, it was to provide a continuous supply of filtered water to the Great Palace of the imperial family and other royal residences of Constantinople. While the basilica above vanished after a few centuries, the ‘Sunken Palace’ with its marble columns and intricate architectural details survived.

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Ottoman Era of 16th Century
Ottoman Era of 16th Century

After the Byzantines shifted base away from the Great Palace in Constantinople, the Basilica Cistern lost importance and was abandoned for centuries. The Ottoman conquest of the city in the fifteenth century led to its rediscovery, and the Cistern was revived to function as the main source of water supply for the imperial Ottoman residence at Topkapi Palace. However, as newer methods of water supply were brought in, the ancient reservoir was transformed into a dumping ground and neglected until its renovation and reopening as a public attraction in 1987.

Visit & Explore - Basilica Cistern Architecture

Things To See Inside Basilica Cistern

The Weeping Column
The Weeping Column

The Weeping Column commemorates the contribution and sacrifice of thousands of slaves who worked in the construction of the Basilica Cistern. The must-see pillar is adorned with carvings of trees, peacocks and branches, paying homage to each of the 7,000 slaves who were part of the construction. Since the angled branches and ‘tears’ seem to mimic a hen’s or peacock’s eye, the pillar is also known as the Hen’s Eye or Peacock’s Eye.

Read More - Basilica Cistern Mysteries

The Upside-Down Medusa Head
The Upside-Down Medusa Head

Among the most sought-after highlights you can access with Basilica Cistern ticket price, the Upside-Down Medusa Head stands as an unexplained presence in the Byzantine marvel. Hidden underwater for centuries, the two Gorgon heads form the base for the 336 marble columns that support the structure. The Greek construction style of the heads, one of which is upside down and another laid on its side, suggests that they were a part of a ruined Greek temple. Folklore suggests the heads were installed to protect the Cistern from harm. According to tradition, the blocks are positioned sideways and upside down as a protective measure to counteract the formidable gaze of the Gorgons.

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The Water Ripple Effect
The Water Ripple Effect

Originally constructed as a water reservoir to supply filtered water to the royal residences of the ancient city, the Basilica Cistern stands as a public attraction today with the water drained out from it. However, shallow pools of fresh water still exist throughout the area of the structure, with water dripping down from the columns into them. The constant flow creates a stunning ripple effect that reflects the magnificence of the Byzantine architectural wonder that is hard to miss while exploring the Cistern.

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The Secret Tunnel
The Secret Tunnel

Situated underneath the city of Istanbul as part of a massive labyrinth of underground cisterns, the Basilica Cistern can be accessed by ascending a flight of 52 steps. A well-lit public attraction now, the Cistern was a well-hidden secret tunnel unknown to the common people until 1987, when it opened after massive renovation and restoration. Well-lit and full of freshwater pools and stunning marble columns of the Byzantine era, the underground relic is a mysterious wonder of the ancient city.

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Plan Your Visit To Basilica Cistern

Plan Your Visit To Basilica Cistern

How to Reach:

  • By Taxi: This place can be reached by taxis very easily as you can board any taxi service near the Istanbul airport and reach it in the next 30-35 minutes.
  • By Tram: Taking a tram is a cost-effective option taking you to the Basilica Cistern in 50 minutes.

Best Time To Visit: The best time to visit Basilica Cistern Istanbul is from the months of March-May and September-November owing to the pleasant weather of Turkey.

Location: Basilica Cistern is situated in Alemdar, Yerebatan Cd. 1/3, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey

Distance from Istanbul Airport: The fascinating basilica cistern Istanbul is just 40 kilometers from the Istanbul airport

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Experience Basilica Cistern

Experience Of Basilica Cistern

Visiting the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul was a mesmerizing journey into the depths of history and architecture. As I descended into this ancient underground marvel, I was immediately struck by the grandeur of its colossal columns and the serene ambiance created by the softly lit waters. The sensation of walking on raised wooden pathways, above the shimmering pool, was surreal. I marveled at the Medusa heads, serving as the base for two columns, shrouded in mystery. The echoing sounds of dripping water added to the mystique. This experience transported me back in time, offering a profound connection to Istanbul's rich past.

Why You Should Book Basilica Cistern Tickets Online?

Booking Basilica Cistern tickets online is the easier and more convenient way to explore the ancient attraction at leisure on a day and time slot of your preference. Renowned as one of the top places to visit in Istanbul, the underground architectural relic supplied water to the city under the Byzantines and stands as a symbol of the connection between history and modernity.

Online booking and payment of Basilica Cistern ticket price get you skip-the-line access to the attraction, which allows you to skip the long queues at the walk-in counters and Cistern entrance and save precious time. Embark on a hassle-free tour as you explore numerous package deals and choose the experience best suited to your requirements and tastes.

Get guided tours to the Basilica Cistern, combo packages that include tickets to other Istanbul attractions like the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace, or access to city cards and passes by booking your Cistern tickets online. While guided tours offer the options of multilingual audio guides or knowledgeable human guides narrating facts and stories about the attraction, combo deals get you great discounts on ticket prices and soothe your budget worries. Discover the convenience of booking online as you pay the Basilica Cistern entrance fee in advance.

Tips For Visiting Basilica Cistern

  • Pay the Basilica Cistern entrance fee in advance online to avoid the hassle of waiting in long queues at the walk-in ticket counters.
  • Skip-the-line tickets are highly recommended if you are short on time and need to visit the attraction in the heavy crowds of the afternoon hours.
  • Check the timings and updates about restoration activities at the Cistern before you book your tickets to avoid last-minute issues.
  • Wear comfortable and sturdy shoes for exploring the Cistern to avoid slipping accidents on the wet floors of the attraction.
  • As the Basilica Cistern Istanbul is underground, it is advised that you carry a light woollen article to protect yourself from the slight drop in temperature inside the attraction.
  • It is advised that you wear clothing that covers your arms and knees out of respect for local customs during your visit to the Cistern.
  • Photography on the Basilica Cistern premises is permitted only through the use of mobile phones, so remember to carry yours along.

Basilica Cistern Tickets Options

Basilica Cistern Skip the Line Tickets
Basilica Cistern Skip the Line Tickets

Save time and avoid the hassle of waiting in long queues at walk-in counters as you book the skip-the-line Basilica Cistern tickets. Perfect for visitors who have less time to explore the city and wish to save themselves from last-minute delays due to heavy crowds, these tickets get you instant entrance to the Cistern. Purchase the package online in advance for easier and more convenient bookings from the comfort of your home and to avail of steep discounts on Basilica Cistern ticket price.

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Basilica Cistern Guided Tours
Basilica Cistern Guided Tours

Guided tours of the Basilica Cistern are ideal for those who wish to indulge in the fascinating history of the ancient underground water reservoir of the Byzantines. Follow a knowledgeable multilingual guide as they narrate unique details about Basilica Cistern and its highlights and interact with fellow visitors as part of the structured package. Skip the long queues at the Cistern and get access to a multilingual audio guide as well when you book these Basilica Cistern tickets online in advance.

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Hagia Sophia + Topkapi Palace + Basilica Cistern Guided Tours Tickets
Hagia Sophia + Topkapi Palace + Basilica Cistern Guided Tours Tickets

Avail of great discounts on Basilica Cistern Istanbul ticket price as you book a combined visit to three of the city’s most popular attractions. Explore the architectural wonders of Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace along with the Basilica Cistern accompanied by a knowledgeable multilingual guide. Enjoy instant entrance as you skip the long lines at the walk-in counters and listen to the incredible histories and hidden facts about the three attractions with a group of people with similar interests as you.

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Blue Mosque + Topkapi Palace + Basilica Cistern Guided Tour
Blue Mosque + Topkapi Palace + Basilica Cistern Guided Tour

Experience the magnificence of three of Istanbul’s most visited attractions, namely the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and the Basilica Cistern as you book a well-planned guided tour. Save a few bucks on the Basilica Cistern ticket cost as you choose combo deals on a day and time slot of your preference. Get skip-the-line access and interact with a professional and knowledgeable guide to learn local myths and factual histories of the attractions as you admire them with a diverse group of visitors.

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FAQs Of Basilica Cistern

Which are the best places to visit near the Basilica Cistern?

    • Hagia Sophia: The most iconic attraction of Istanbul, Hagia Sophia was a church, a mosque and a museum. It dates back to the sixth century and is the most stunning marvel of Byzantine and Ottoman architecture.
    • Blue Mosque: Adorned with mesmerising blue tiles throughout its interiors, massive domes and six colossal minarets, the Blue Mosque is a seventeenth-century Ottoman masterpiece that still functions as a mosque.
    • Topkapi Palace: Renowned as one of the largest surviving palaces in the world, Topkapi Palace was the seat of the Ottoman Sultans for four centuries and is now a museum of imperial treasures.
    • Sultanahmet Square: The heart of Istanbul, Sultanahmet Square is within walking distance from the Hagia Sophia and is home to numerous monuments, restaurants and cafes.
    • Grand Bazaar of Istanbul: Explore one of the world’s oldest and largest markets as you stroll through the thousands of shops of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.

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