Basilica Cistern
Basilica Cistern
4.5
Historic SitesAncient RuinsArchitectural Buildings
9:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Monday
9:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Tuesday
9:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Wednesday
9:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Thursday
9:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Friday
9:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Saturday
9:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Sunday
9:00 AM - 7:00 PM
About
Descend below the streets of Sultanahmet into this majestic underground reservoir which dates back to the 6th century. Also called the Sunken Palace, it is the largest cistern from Istanbul's Byzantine-era still standing, and something that James Bond fans might recognize from the film, 'From Russia with Love'. The underground chamber has over 330 distinctive marble and granite columns believed to have been salvaged from nearby buildings, the most famous being the two Medusa heads. Skip the lines and visit the Sunken Palace and other iconic sights like Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace on a tour of Istanbul. – Tripadvisor
Duration: 1-2 hours
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The area
Address
Neighborhood: Sultanahmet
With so many unmissable attractions within a mere stroll of each other – and all set around the site of an ancient Byzantine hippodrome – Sultanahmet is an overwhelmingly popular tourist destination, and a prime location for visitors to be wowed on a truly epic scale. Beyond the wonders of the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and more, this relatively small area of Istanbul somehow manages to retain an air of peace and calm. It offers visitors a significantly less celebrated but nonetheless pleasant network of quaint lanes and side streets, majestic panoramas of the Bosphorus, and an impressive assortment of accommodation options for all budgets and tastes.
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See what travelers are saying
  • VeroLzr
    Budapest, Hungary1 contribution
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Magical world under Istanbul
    The Basilica Cistern is a magical world underground, the light installations bring out different aspects of the architecture. The humidity and the changing light creates an ancient atmosphere. The statues along the way just add to that feeling. I especially enjoyed the Medusa statue: at first, far in the distance, we could only see the shadow of her head, then when we rounded the corner, the statue itself was revealed. We visited early in the morning when, luckily, there were no queues yet.
    Visited May 2023
    Written May 29, 2023
  • JULIENNE B
    Toronto, Canada10 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    One of the coolest places on the planet!
    This place was jaw dropping. I already cannot wait to go back! The history, the architecture, the art installments. Truly breathtaking! Its also located right by Sultanahment Square and on the tram line so NO EXCUSE. Go!
    Visited May 2023
    Written May 31, 2023
  • ila r
    Mumbai, India36 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Eerie and imposing
    The lines are long but they are definitely worth braving to see this gem of a monument. The Medusa heads are the highlight but don't forget to take your time admiring the rest. The modern art installations are also interesting.
    Visited May 2023
    Written June 2, 2023
  • Aqua_Uomo
    Toronto, Canada8,064 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    Interesting but not dramatic.
    There are a few others, this is nice due to lighting and being well maintained but I found it a little too commercial. Huge line up and very crowded inside. Tourist and locals, even schools. Be prepared to wait in line a long time...
    Visited June 2023
    Traveled solo
    Written June 9, 2023
  • deb1000
    87 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Simply the best - better than all the rest ;)
    By far the best! I loved the Basilica Cistern and would easily return on my next trip to Istanbul. I would rate it No. 1 of things to see in Istanbul. Wet well done as it could have ended up being a bit of a Disney type production but with the excellent sculptures and fabulous lighting it has ended up being inspiring. I would highly recommend it to my friends. I’m fact I’d insist that they go :)
    Visited June 2023
    Traveled with friends
    Written June 13, 2023
  • TracyM
    Cincinnati, Ohio1,071 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    Very cool experience
    Very cool experience. So amazing to see the columns and the different lighting down there. It's a bit pricey for a short amount of time, but never seen anything like that before. We got there right before it opened and had to wait about 20 minutes, but worth it.
    Visited June 2023
    Traveled with family
    Written June 16, 2023
  • JCW703
    Jerusalem District, Israel2,936 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    Pay For A Guide
    There was a long line when we came out of the Hagia Sophia. I found a guide and paid him for the tour, which enabled us to skip the line and go right in. The guide was certainly worth it to explain the significance of the cistern.
    Visited June 2023
    Traveled as a couple
    Written June 18, 2023
  • Lilia N
    Copenhagen, Denmark23 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Magical!
    It was a fist museum/exhibition visit in Istanbul that was absolutely MAGICAL. It touched me deeply. The combination of special atmosphere, dripping water here and there, particular light, Roman remains, very good but not too overwhelming texts accompanying the monuments and art installations - all this made the visit unforgettable. Warmly recommend to visit!
    Visited March 2023
    Traveled solo
    Written June 19, 2023
  • Varun Kumar
    New Delhi, India215 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Basilica cistern
    It’s a half hour tour. No need of guide. It’s a must thing to do as you won’t find this concept anywhere. Don’t think that watch has natural blue/ red colour, it’s the underground lighting. But the way this underground water storage was maintained was great.
    Visited June 2023
    Traveled as a couple
    Written June 22, 2023
  • K72
    Melbourne, Australia3,063 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Incredible
    So very interesting that this amazing underground place is right in the middle of such a busy place. The waterways were channeled as early as AD 117-138 and this structure built in the 6th century...incredible. Wait/ queue times were long but it was worth it. Costs 35oTIL to enter. Signs have English translations but there aren't enough signs! The Medusa heads towards the back are interesting- one sideways, one upside down. The light show is a good addition too. Really enjoyable outing! Close to many other attractions so make a day of it. Go early!
    Visited June 2023
    Written June 26, 2023
These reviews are the subjective opinion of Tripadvisor members and not of TripAdvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Most Recent: Reviews ordered by most recent publish date in descending order.

Detailed Reviews: Reviews ordered by recency and descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as wait time, length of visit, general tips, and location information.

Popular mentions

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tibby2016
Mumbai, India20 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2020 • Family
Great piece of engineering. An underground water system that can hold water for an entire city in the olden days. However lots of renovation work going on - so u don’t get more than 5-10 mins to see the entire place. Inspite of collecting entrance fees surprising that the monuments r in such a state. Tourists can skip it
Written March 5, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Heba K
2 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Sep 2022 • Solo
I went to visit the basilica cistern on Sunday September 4th, 2022 at 4:17pm. The line was quite long but moved relatively quickly I ended up reaching the ticket booth in about 10-15 minutes. I paid the amount to the tour office ticket officer. He was super rude and hostile. He stared me down and slammed my ticket and change on to the table in what seemed as a pathetic attempt to purposely offend and harm me. I’m pretty sure the ticket officer had a terrible agenda was acting on it in to the best of his capacity. This ruined my entire experience at the cistern as I wasn’t sure if this is meant to reflect the sentiments of the administration and/or of the country itself. I walked through the cistern which was structurally impressive, but lacked any kind of information regarding the structures inside and was super busy inside so it took away from the experience. The ticket was also quite pricy for the kind of experience it offered, perhaps including a tour guide in that price would be better. So all in all I would rate this place as 0 out of 5 for customer service and 3 out 5 for an actual cultural experience. My ticket number is 000513 and I got it from counter 6.
I wouldn’t recommend this place to anyone, purely because Of the horrendous customer service I was made to put up with on this trip.
Written September 4, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Mike X
Chicago, IL3,596 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2020 • Couples
Make sure your camera has a night mode or flash because it is dark up in this joint. 30 TL is a bit much for what you get but if you've never seen an underground cistern, you can check this off your bucket list. The Theodosius Cistern isn't far away and is actually lit (literally).
Written November 4, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Eileen M
Palmerton, PA187 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2020 • Couples
We very much enjoyed the Basilica Cistern. Although it is currently drained due to construction, we went after three very rainy days and there was water in the cistern. It is beautiful! If you are traveling during the time of the contraction, keep an eye on the weather forecast and go after a rain spell If possible. Had we gone the first part of the week it would have been dry.
Written January 25, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Ana M
Miami Beach, FL12 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2020
Located at 150 metres of southwest of the Hagia Sophia.
The cistern is a must see. The columns and the lights transport you to another time.
The museum pass does not cover the entry. You must pay 50 tl per person and when you go down they take your temperature as a precaution for Covid 19.
Written December 4, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

MarcusHurley
Calne, UK10,290 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Sep 2023 • Family
We then followed our well worn path to Haigha Sofia and then the Basillica Cistern. We were in total shock to see the length of the queue - over 90 minutes - and we had to be at our next tour in 2 hours.

There were various 'official guides' patrolling the queue in evident delight at the size, peeling people off that could pay their fee to skip the line. I had a quick look online and the price they were charging was still less than any of the online skip the line tickets so we opted for one of those. Today was turning out an expensive day!! The cistern is one of the hundreds under the old city but certainly the largest and best preserved and was in use for around a thousand years until the Ottomans upgraded to moving water rather than stored water for health reasons.

The guide was good at explaining the history and restoration of the building and after he left we wandered around and took photos although it was massively crowded compared to when I visited with Deb about 15 years ago. There were several art exhibits down there with varying degrees of relevance but the medusa statue was good. The cistern is really rather awe inspiring both for the beauty of a structure that was not designed to be seen and the longevity - a thousand years!!
Definitely book in advance or get there early though, we paid £70 over the counter price to skip the 2 hour queue!
Written September 29, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

narinehp
Istanbul, Türkiye23 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2019 • Family
We went there as a family, it was raining outside so it made sense to be indoors too. Our young children were fascinated by it for the first 20 min then because it is dark there they lost interest. One section was closed too. We still recommend the place.
Written February 14, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Lamia Mestek
London, UK50 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2022 • Family
We visited basilica cistern in April 2018. It’s quite nice and intriguing. The inside is a bit dark and the mellow lightings add charm to it. There was a school visit at the time we were inside so it got a bit loud, but we’re happy we visited. There are usually art work decorating the alleys. There is also a 5TK (Turkish Lira) photo booth where you can dress up like ottomans :) which I’d recommend as much cheaper inside the basilica cistern (outside can be between 25TK and 30TK).
Written January 11, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Waqas Ashraf
Karachi, Pakistan30 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2020
I was really anxious to visit this old place when I planned my Turkey trip and it was definitely worth the visit. This was an underground water reservoir for Hagia Sophia Museum. The place is just fantastic, although the floors were wet but their was Medusa's heads and then there was a pillar which is continuously wet and it's called the crying pillar. If you are in Istanbul, don't miss it. The tickets costed me 20 Turkish Lira as it was not included in my Museum Pass card.
Written January 16, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Amjschmitz
Chicago, IL221 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Sep 2022 • Couples
This was so cool and so much better than I expected. It’s really amazing because it’s essentially just a huge, rectangular room with lots of columns, but the reflections from the water and the expertly designed lighting really makes a difference. The art sculptures throughout make for cool sights as well. I’m not sure if they rotate exhibits or the same pieces are always there but the ones we saw were very cool and added to the experience.

I think this is maybe a 30-45 minute sight, but if you’re in a hurry or aren’t feeling it you could probably get through the walkways and see it all in 10-15.

For tickets/entrance, you have to go across the street from where you see people exiting. I say this because if you’re coming the Hagia Sofia/Blue Mosque, you will likely see the people exiting first and think that’s the entrance too, but it’s not and is hidden around a corner sort of north from where the site shows up on google maps.
Written October 14, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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Basilica Cistern - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (2024)

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