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Basilica Cistern – tickets, prices, timings, what to expect, FAQs

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The Basilica Cistern is a magnificent ancient underground water reservoir located in Istanbul.

It was built during the Byzantine Empire, in the 6th century AD, during the reign of Emperor Justinian I, and its unique architectural design has made it quite popular among tourists. 

The Cistern is located near the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. 

This article covers everything you must know before booking tickets for the Basilica Cistern.

Basilica Cistern

What to expect at Basilica Cistern

Embark on a guided tour of the Basilica Cistern and marvel at the stunning 336 marble columns laid down in 12 rows and unusual sculptures.

The highlights of this attraction are the two Medusa head sculptures. One is built horizontally, and the other upside down. Pillars jut out of them.

See the “weeping column,” also known as the Crying Column or Pillar of Tears, carved with eyes that always drip tears.

The Cistern Basilica Museum offers a surreal atmosphere as visitors uncover the past.

Locally referred to as the ‘Yerebatan Sarayı’ or Sunken Palace in Turkish, the Yerebatan Cistern is the largest covered cistern in the city, with an 80,000-ton water storage capacity.

This architectural marvel has been featured in iconic movies like Inferno, Argo, Sky Fall, Tyrant, and the James Bond series.

Tickets Prices
Basilica Cistern Guided Tour ₺1190 (€36)
Basilica Cistern Fast Track Entry + Guided Tour ₺958 (€29)
Blue Mosque & Basilica Cistern Tour ₺1586 (€48)
Blue Mosque +Topkapı Palace + Basilica Cistern ₺2247 (€68)

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Where to book tickets 

You can buy tickets to the Basilica Cistern online in advance or at the attraction’s ticket booth.

Online ticket prices tend to be cheaper than tickets at the venue.

When you buy online, you can avoid the long queues at the attraction’s ticket counters.

You also get your preferred time slot when you book early.

Because some attractions sell a limited number of tickets, during peak days they may sell out. Booking early helps avoid last-minute disappointments.

How do online tickets work

Go to the Basilica Cistern ticket booking page, select the desired number of tickets, date, and time slot, and book your tickets immediately.

Once you purchase Cistern Basilica tickets, they get delivered to your email address. 

There is no need to get printouts of the ticket. 

You can show the e-ticket on your smartphone when you visit the attraction.

Remember to carry an ID. 

Basilica Cistern ticket price

Tickets for a standard Basilica Cistern Guided Tour are priced at ₺1190 (€36) for adults aged 12 years and above. 

Children’s tickets for those aged five to 11 years are discounted and available at ₺925 (€28). 

Kids under five years old are eligible for free tours. 

The skip-the-line tickets of Basilica Cistern cost ₺958 (€29) for all the guests. 

Basilica Cistern tickets

If you’re on a tour of Istanbul and planning to visit the Basilica Cistern, we’ve got a few tickets to suggest.

You can book the Basilica Cistern ticket or buy a combined ticket for the Blue Mosque & Basilica Cistern Tour.

If time and money are not a barrier, you can opt for the Blue Mosque +Topkapı Palace + Basilica Cistern combo ticket and take a dip into Turkey’s glorious past. 

Tickets for Basilica Cistern Guided Tour 

Tickets for Basilica Cistern Guided Tour
Image: Livemint.com

Book this ticket and take a 30-minute guided tour of Istanbul’s underground gem, the Basilica Cistern. 

Learn about the architecture and design of the underground reservoir and hear stories about its illuminated columns and Medusa sculptures. 

Note: This tour is available only in English. 

Ticket Prices

Adult Ticket (12+ years): ₺1190 (€36)
Child Ticket (5 to 11 years): ₺925 (€28)
Infant Ticket (up to 5 years): Free

Basilica Cistern Fast Track Entry + Guided Tour

Basilica Cistern Fast Track Entry + Guided Tour
Image: Istanbulwelcomecard.com

Buy this ticket and skip long queues at the Basilica Cistern entrance. 

Explore the world beneath Istanbul with a professional guide. 

The tour guide will share secrets and stories of these subterranean wonders. It also includes a museum tour, after which visitors can explore the attraction at their own pace.

This ticket does not allow guests to skip the security line, as security checks are mandatory. 

Ticket Cost: ₺958 (€29)

Blue Mosque & Basilica Cistern Tour

Blue Mosque tours
Image: Afar.com

Book this ticket and explore Istanbul’s most famous landmarks – Blue Mosque and Basilica Cistern.

This ticket is one of a kind and gives visitors an upper hand in deciding which attraction they can visit first. 

It is completely up to the guests to visit both attractions on the same day or tour them in two or three days. 

You can download the audio guide in seven languages for a better understanding and experience.

Meet the tour guide at the Green House room near the Blue Mosque. 

Note: The ticket allows you to skip the line at the Cistern but not at the Blue Mosque. 

Ticket Prices

Adult Ticket (7+ years): ₺1586 (€48)
Child Ticket (up to 7 years): Free

Combo Ticket: Blue Mosque +Topkapı Palace + Basilica Cistern

Topkapı Palace
Image: Afar.com

You can buy this combo ticket and travel through the history of the Ottoman Turks with expert guides sharing spine-tingling tales on the same. 

Take advantage of this flexible tour and cover all the attractions in one day or two to three days.

Meet your tour guide at the Green House Yeşil Ev—near the Blue Mosque, and decide which attraction you wish to visit first. 

The ticket allows you to skip the line at the Cistern and Topkapı Palace but not at the Blue Mosque.

Ticket Prices

Adult Ticket (7+ years): ₺2247 (€68)
Child Ticket (up to 7 years): Free

Save time and money! Explore Istanbul’s top attractions with ease and save money by booking a 2-, 3-, 5-, or 7-day E-Pass. Get access to over 40 popular attractions and guided tours, including the Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar, and Bosphorus cruise.


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How to reach Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern is on Sultanahmet’s Historic Peninsula, which is a few minutes walk from Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet Square. 

Address: Alemdar, Yerebatan Cd. 1/3, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye. Get Directions

You can get to the attraction by making use of public or private transport. 

By Bus

Bus lines 28, 30D, 46C, 54E, 66, 77A, 92C, 99A, and EM1 serve two bus stops, Sarayburnu and Akbiyik.

The Sarayburnu bus stop is 18 minutes walk away, while the Akbiyik bus stop offers the shortest route to the attraction and is within 10 minutes walking distance.

By Train

Marmaray Sirkeci Station is the nearest train station, and one can reach the attraction on foot in 10 minutes.

By Tram

Take tram T1 to Sultanahmet, a 4-minute walk to the Cistern.

By Metro

Board Metro M2 and get down at Vezneciler station, which is 3.4 km (2.1 miles) from the attraction. 

By Car

If you’re driving by car, turn on Google Maps and get started. 

There are numerous car parking spaces around the attraction.

Opening hours of Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern Istanbul is open from 9 am to 10 pm every day. 

The opening and closing hours may vary on special occasions featuring light shows and concerts. 

The last entry to the Basilica is one hour before the closing time. 


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How long does the tour take

The Basilica Cistern tour takes around 30 to 60 minutes. 

During the tour, visitors can wind their way through long colonnades, click pictures of the Medusa heads, and take a closer look at the intricate design of the Weeping Column.

Best time to visit Basilica Cistern

How long does the Basilica Cistern tour take
Image: rvch.net

The best time to visit Basilica Cistern is when the attraction opens at 10 am. 

Fewer guests are around in the early hours of the day. 

This allows you to explore every nook and corner of the Cistern and make the best of the tour with the tour guides. 

If you have booked a guided tour, we strongly recommend that you arrive at the meeting point at least 20 minutes before the tour starts. 

The attraction gets very busy during the weekends and on public holidays. 

Reviews

Basilica Cistern is a highly-rated tourist attraction. 

Check out these two Basilica Cistern reviews we selected from Tripadvisor to give you an idea of what to expect at this attraction.

A must do in Istanbul

Absolutely stunning and a must-do while in Istanbul. Also, a great place for pictures as many people were there. So pretty.

Amber W, Tripadvisor

Well worth a visit

We were in two minds whether to visit this attraction, having read mixed reviews, but we were so glad we did! What an amazing space. The lighting and art installations are brilliant, and the size and beauty are awe-inspiring. Definitely worth a visit!

Susan B, Tripadvisor

The Basilica Cistern’s history

The Cistern Basilica was built in the sixth century to provide water access to the Byzantine Imperial Palace and the neighborhood. 

The water reservoir sprawls across 9,800 square meters and has the capacity to hold 100,000 tons of water. 

More than 7,000 slaves were involved in constructing the world’s largest cistern. 

In the 16th century, it also functioned as the Ottoman Empire’s water reserve, supplying water to the Topkapi Palace.

In the 1980s, the cistern underwent restoration and major transformations, as a result of which lighting and decorations were added to make the experience more enriching and enlightening. 

The site was finally reopened as the Basilica Cistern Museum. 


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FAQs about Basilica Cistern

FAQs about Basilica Cistern
Image: Commons.wikimedia.org

Here are some questions visitors usually ask before visiting the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul. 

Where should I book tickets for the Basilica Cistern?

We strongly suggest you book the Basilica Cistern ticket online to save time and money. 

Are tickets for Cistern Basilica with audio guides worth buying?

The ticket featuring the audio guide allows you to explore the attraction at your own pace. You can also revisit areas as and when required.

In what languages are Cistern Basilica audio guides available?

The audio guides are available in seven languages, which fills the linguistic gaps and gives a comprehensive understanding of the tour. 

What should I wear to the Basilica Cistern Istanbul?

Visitors can wear whatever they want as the attraction does not follow any dress code. However, we suggest you wear closed and comfortable shoes as the cistern’s floors are quite slippery.

What is the dress code at the Blue Mosque?

Female guests must cover their knees, shoulders, and chest at the Blue Mosque. Hair should be partially covered with a scarf. All male guests are required to cover their knees and shoulders.

Do I have to take the stairs to reach the colonnades in the Basilica Cistern?

Yes, to reach colonnades in the cistern, visitors have to descend 52 stairs. 

Can I take pictures at the attraction?

Yes, visitors are encouraged to take photographs inside the Cistern Basilica, except the staircase area. The use of tripods and professional camera equipment is restricted to ensure the tour of other visitors doesn’t get affected. 

Where is the entrance of Basilica Cistern Istanbul located?

The attraction has two entrances, one near the Hagia Sophia, and the other near the Cistern of Serefiye.

Is the Basilica Cistern wheelchair accessible?

Yes, the site is wheelchair accessible, but we suggest guests move wheelchairs slowly as the grounds are slippery due to water accumulation. 

Does the attraction have an elevator?

The entrance of the cistern has an elevator from where visitors, including those in wheelchairs, can enter the premise. 

How old is the Cistern?

The Cistern Basilica was built by Emperor Justinian in 532 A.D. and is now almost 1400 years old. 

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This article was researched & written by

Edited by Rekha Rajan & fact checked by Jamshed V Rajan

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