Basilica Cistern Tour

Basilica Cistern Tickets and Guided Tour


  • Wonder at the high vaulted ceiling and the pillars that seem to rise from the water. 
  • Muse on the two legendary inverted Medusa heads at the bottom of two corner pillars, legends say that their origin is unknown.
  • Gaze at the Weeping Column’ that was constructed in memory of the hundreds of slaves who made the cistern.
  • Marvel at the Corinthian Columns that showcase the influence of Ancient Roman architecture in Istanbul.
  • Witness the large fish that swim in the water of the cistern, a unique feature that makes this church stand out from the rest.

2. Inclusions-

  • Audio guide- Receive audio guidance to know thoroughly about the place in case you miss some points while touring the place with the guide.
  • Skip-the-line-tickets- Book your tickets online to get a seamless experience without having to stand in queues.
  • Tour guide- This area is inaccessible without guides, so you will have a friendly tour guide to walk you through the place.
  • Guided combo- tours- If you want, you can opt for a guided combo tour of Hagi Sophia and Topkapi Palace.

Why to Book Basilica Cistern Tour Online

Convenience- You can book your Basilica Cistern tour online while sitting in the comfort of your home, rather than waiting under the sun in long queues. It is not just more convenient, but also a smart move to get your tickets in advance.

Secure Bookings- Online booking is as secure as paying by cash. In recent times, more than half of the human population relies on the Internet for most bookings and monetary transactions. Also, since you will book your ticket in advance, you do not have to worry about the availability of tickets on the spot. Just reach the destination on time and enjoy your tour.

Great Deals- Going online to book tickets can expose you to a number of great deals. It is encouraged to book tickets online as it is paperless, convenient and easily manageable. So grab some amazing discounts and offers while touring one of the highly precious historical tourist destinations.

Why Basilica Cistern Tour is Famous

The mysterious land of Turkey is home to a plethora of iconic and historical architecture. Beginning from the ancient Roman civilisations to the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, Istanbul has always been a place of human interest. One of the most fascinating attractions of Istanbul is the Basilica Cistern, which is also known as the Cisterna Basilica. It bears another nickname in Turkish as ‘Yerebatan Sarayi’ or the ‘Sunken Palace’, and it served as a film-shooting location for Dan Brown’s Inferno. The Basilica Cistern tour is a treat for history buffs and archaeology enthusiasts, so you can learn about the rich historical background of this area on your visit to this place.

Explore the Basilica Cistern that was made by Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century AD, the largest underground cistern in Turkey. It has an 80,000-tonne of water storage capacity and covers an area of 10,000 square metres. Built beneath the public square of Stoa Basilica, it derived its name from here. In recent times, it has been a major tourist attraction spot to view the relics, and unique columns and marvel at the grandeur of the place.

 If you are visiting Turkey, the Basilica Cistern tour is something that you must take in order to gain a complete understanding of the place.

What to Explore During a Basilica Cistern Guided Tour

Medusa Heads At Basilica Cistern

There are two Columns in the Basilica Cistern that bear the head of Medusa at their base, aligned upside-down and sideways. Witness these sculptures that are situated on the north-western side of the cistern, which fill the atmosphere with an eerie aura. The reason behind the carvings of one of the Gorgon Monsters is still unknown. It forms one of the several unique architectural features of this underground cistern and is a curious sight to all. They are a grand architectural attraction of the Basilica Cistern tour that can leave you looking at them in awe. 

Corinthian Columns At Basilica Cistern

The 336 pillars that support the vault of the cistern are examples of Ancient Roman architecture. Watch the distinct shape and design of the pillars that showcase the genius of engineering. They are situated at an interval of 4.8 metres, forming twelve rows, each of which contains twenty-eight columns. All these columns make up a great colonnade that is breathtaking to view upfront. Some of these pillars are plain and simple, while some are embellished with carvings of leaves and vines.

Hen's Eye Pillar At Basilica Cistern

Constructed to commemorate the 7000 slaves who sacrificed their lives in the making of this cistern, this pillar is one of a kind in this entire place. The carvings upon this pillar resemble hen’s eyes, and from a bit afar it looks like teardrops. This pillar also has peacock feathers, tree leaves and branches engraved upon it. This is the only pillar in the entire cistern that bears such motifs and is a very unique sight to witness in the Basilica cistern tour.

Fish and Carp At Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern is dimly lit with magical hues. These lights make up a surreal atmosphere, topped by the vault’s reflection upon the crystal clear water. You may be surprised to see fish and carp swimming around these underground relics and columns as well. Legends say that these fishes are ancestors of those that were released back in the 6th century. There is no provision for feeding these fishes, as it is maintained entirely by the management of the attraction spot.

Byzantine Artefacts At Basilica Cistern

The Colonnade is one of the major Byzantine architectural spectacles to witness. Once you visit the place, you will be transported to a different world that consists of mysterious figures, heads of Greek Monsters, ancient Roman pillars, and more. 

The 52-Step Staircase

The staircase that takes you down to this underground Basilica Cistern is an iconic structure in itself. As you climb down the steps, you may get the feeling of entering into the past, when the Romans and Ottomans fought for their supremacy over the land. 

Essential Information

Best Time to Visit:

  • This destination is open on all 365 days from 9 AM to 7 AM, so you can visit any time of the year. But, if you are looking for the perfect time, consider visiting during the off-season in the months of September-November, or March-May. The weather remains pleasant during these months so you can roam about comfortably. Additionally, you can keep an eye on the offers and discounts being offered, this can make your Basilica Cistern tour more affordable.


  • Entry ticket to Basilica Cistern
  • Professional English-speaking guide

Meeting point :

  • The meeting point for taking the Basilica Cistern tour, under the Stoa Basilica, is SultanAhmet Square. It is around 200 metres away from the Hagia Sophia museum. Meet your guide and follow them from there.

What to bring:

  • The cistern is a damp place, so you may wish to carry a cardigan or a stole. Wear comfortable shoes, as this tour would require you to walk a lot. Food items are not allowed at this place.

Please Note: 

  • This attraction cannot be visited without the guide
  • All children will be asked to present their valid passports at the entrance of the museums in order to validate their age


What is included in a Basilica Cistern tour?

A Basilica Cistern tour is inclusive of human guides who will walk you around the main attraction spots while narrating the history of the place. You can also receive audio guidance, and you can get a direct entry by booking the tickets online. You will be able to witness the pillars having the engraved head of Medusa at their base, the ‘Weeping Eye’ pillar, the colonnade of Roman Columns and the carp swimming around in the water. The vault of the cistern is a marvel to wander at as well.

How long does a Basilica Cistern tour take?

The Basilica Cistern tour takes around an hour or two. If you wish to explore the entire area, it could take some more time. You can also read about this destination from the information panels that are boarded on the walls. Enjoy your tour staring at the beautiful fishes and the ancient architecture while soaking in the damp and eerie atmosphere of the largest cistern in Turkey.

Is it necessary to book a Basilica Cistern tour in advance?

It is a smart decision to book your Basilica cistern tour online as it is more convenient to get them in advance. It saves a lot of time and energy, and you may also get some fantastic deals on the tickets as well. Secure your booking in advance so that you do not have to wait in line.

What should I wear on a Basilica Cistern tour?

It is advisable to carry something to keep warm on this tour. The Basilica Cistern can get a bit chilly as the water reservoir is situated under the ground. It is also a damp place that is thousands of years old, so take proper precautions. As this tour requires one to walk a lot, try to wear comfortable shoes that will not tire you out easily.

Is the Basilica Cistern accessible for individuals with disabilities?

Yes, the Basilica cistern is accessible for individuals with disabilities. There is a lift that is wheelchair friendly, and the passageways of the cistern are broad enough for wheelchairs to pass easily. It is advisable for people with disabilities to visit the place with close guidance.


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