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Basilica Cistern Istanbul: Tips & Tickets

Basilica Cistern, located in Istanbul, Turkey, is an underground water reservoir that dates back to the 6th century. Constructed during the reign of Emperor Justinian I, the cistern covers an area of approximately 9,800 square meters and can hold up to 80,000 cubic meters of water.

Featuring 336 columns that measure 9 meters in height and supported by vaulted brick ceilings, the Basilica Cistern is a remarkable architectural feat. What makes it even more unique is that its columns were sourced from various buildings and structures across the Roman Empire.

But what was the purpose behind constructing such a massive underground water reservoir? The answer lies in Istanbul's geography. The city was built on seven hills, with Basilica Cistern situated on the first hill. This location made it possible for water to be transported from nearby forests via aqueducts and stored in the cistern for use during times of drought or siege.

Visitors today can explore this ancient marvel and admire its unique architecture. One of its most famous features is two Medusa heads that serve as bases for two columns. It's believed that these heads were brought from another site and placed there as a symbol of power over pagan beliefs.

If you're planning a visit to Basilica Cistern, you'll be happy to know that admission prices are reasonable. However, keep in mind that lines can be long during peak tourist season.

Location and Architecture: Discovering the Unique Features of Basilica Cistern

The Medusa Heads: A Mysterious Addition to the Basilica Cistern

At the base of two columns in the Basilica Cistern, visitors can find two Medusa heads made of marble. These eerie and mysterious additions are believed to have been brought from a pagan temple and placed upside down as a way to ward off evil spirits. The Medusa heads add an element of intrigue to the already fascinating site.

The Column of Tears: A Symbol of Byzantine Architecture

Another attraction in the Basilica Cistern is the Column of Tears, named after the tear-like carvings on its surface. It is said to have been built during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. This column is just one example of the exquisite Byzantine architecture found throughout the cistern.

A History Rich Site: From Constantine to Justinian

The Basilica Cistern itself was originally built during the reign of Emperor Constantine in the 4th century and was later enlarged by Emperor Justinian to provide water for his palace and nearby buildings. The water in the cistern was brought through an aqueduct built by Emperor Justinian, who also commissioned the construction of Hagia Sophia. This historical site offers visitors a glimpse into Istanbul's rich past.

A Must-See Attraction: Witnessing Light and Shadow Play

Travelers visiting Istanbul should make it a point to visit this unique site. The play of light and shadow created by the columns and Medusa heads is truly mesmerizing. Additionally, witnessing such an important piece of history firsthand is an unforgettable experience.

Location Matters: Finding Basilica Cistern

Located near Hagia Sophia, visitors can easily find this hidden gem within Istanbul's bustling city center. Its location offers travelers a chance to explore multiple historical sites all within walking distance.

Discovering Basilica Cistern: How Was It Discovered?

The Basilica Cistern was discovered by chance during the construction of a building in the 16th century. The sunken cistern was then restored and opened to the public. Today, it remains a popular tourist attraction and an important piece of Istanbul's history.

Medusa Heads and Column of Tears: Unveiling the Attractions of Basilica Cistern

An Audioguide: The Best Way to Explore the Mysteries of Basilica Cistern

To fully appreciate the beauty and significance of the Basilica Cistern, an audioguide is a must-have. This audio tour provides visitors with a detailed explanation of the history and importance of this ancient structure. It also highlights unique features such as the Medusa heads and upside-down columns.

The audioguide is available in multiple languages, making it accessible to travelers from all over the world. Using an audioguide allows visitors to explore at their own pace and gain a deeper understanding of this fascinating historical site.

Discovering Unique Features: Medusa Heads and Column of Tears

One of the most intriguing features of Basilica Cistern is its Medusa heads. These two marble heads are placed upside down, serving as bases for two columns in the northwest corner of the cistern. According to legend, they were brought here from a pagan temple during the Byzantine era.

Another unique feature that can be discovered through an audioguide is the "Column of Tears." This column has been named so because it appears to be weeping water droplets on its surface. The column was originally part of a temple dedicated to Emperor Constantine before being repurposed by Emperor Justinian for use in his grand cistern project.

Interesting Stories and Legends Associated With Basilica Cistern

In addition to providing information about unique features like Medusa heads and Column of Tears, an audioguide also includes interesting stories and legends associated with basilica cistern. For example, one story tells how two young fisherman accidentally discovered this underground structure while fishing in nearby waters.

Another legend suggests that there may be hidden treasure buried deep within Basilica Cistern's walls. Although no evidence has ever been found to support this claim, it continues to capture people's imaginations.

Visiting Basilica Cistern: Tips, Advice, and Ticket Purchasing Details

Where to Buy Basilica Cistern Tickets

Tickets for the Basilica Cistern can be purchased at the entrance of the cistern itself. Visitors are advised to arrive early, as lines can get quite long during peak hours. The cistern is open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM.

Tips for Visiting Basilica Cistern

Before visiting the Basilica Cistern, it's important to keep a few things in mind. First and foremost, visitors should wear comfortable shoes, as there are many steps leading down into the cistern. Additionally, visitors should bring a camera, as there are many beautiful photo opportunities within the cistern.

Advice for Visitors

When visiting the Basilica Cistern, it's important to take your time and explore all that this ancient structure has to offer. From the towering columns and arches to the tranquil waters below, there is much to see and appreciate within this historic site.

Ticket Purchasing Details

Tickets for the Basilica Cistern cost 20 Turkish Lira (approximately $2.50 USD) per person. Children under 8 years old can enter free of charge. Visitors are advised to check TripAdvisor reviews before purchasing tickets or planning their visit.

History of Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern was built in the 6th century during the Byzantine period and is one of Istanbul's largest cisterns. It was constructed using columns and capitals from various ancient structures, including those from the Roman period.

Pop Culture References

The cistern has been featured in popular culture numerous times over the years, including James Bond's From Russia with Love and Dan Brown's Inferno. These references have helped increase its popularity as a tourist attraction.

Mythology Surrounding The Site

According to ancient mythology, the cistern was built by Medusa's tears and was believed to be a place where people could communicate with the gods. While this may just be a myth, there is no denying the beauty and majesty of this ancient structure.

Restoration History

The Basilica Cistern has undergone several restorations throughout history, with the most recent one taking place in 1985. Despite its age, however, it remains an impressive feat of engineering and architecture that continues to captivate visitors from around the world.

Exploring the Mysteries Beneath: Best Audioguide for a Tour of Basilica Cistern

336 Columns with Medusa Heads: A Marvelous Sight

The Basilica Cistern is a sight to behold, and perhaps one of the most impressive features are the 336 columns that stand tall within it. These columns are each 9 meters in height, and their bases have been recycled from earlier structures. What makes these bases particularly fascinating are the Medusa heads that can be found on some of them.

According to local legend, these heads were placed in the cistern as a way to ward off evil spirits. However, the truth behind their placement is much more practical. The Medusa heads were used as column bases because they were seen as strong and durable materials that could withstand heavy weights.

Despite their practical purpose, there's no denying that the Medusa heads add an element of mystery and intrigue to the cistern. Visitors often marvel at their intricate details and unique aesthetic appeal.

A Forgotten Wonder Rediscovered: The History of Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern may be a popular tourist attraction today, but it was forgotten for centuries after it was built during the Byzantine Empire. It wasn't until Pierre Gilles rediscovered it in the 16th century that people began to take notice of this incredible feat of engineering.

Gilles was a French scholar who had traveled to Istanbul on behalf of King Francis I. During his time in the city, he stumbled upon an entrance to what he believed was an underground palace. Upon further investigation, he discovered that it was actually a massive water reservoir - one that had been lost to history for centuries.

Today, visitors can explore this underground wonder thanks to Gilles' discovery. It serves as a reminder of Istanbul's rich history and how even its most impressive landmarks can be hidden from view for centuries at a time.

An Impressive Feat of Engineering: The Sunken Palace

The Basilica Cistern is often referred to as the Sunken Palace due to its impressive size and grandeur. It covers an area of 9,800 square meters and is capable of holding up to 80,000 cubic meters of water. This made it a vital source of water for the Great Palace during the Byzantine Empire.

What's particularly impressive about the cistern is how it was built. The columns that support the structure were brought in from all over the empire - some as far away as Egypt - and were carefully placed into position by skilled engineers. The result is a breathtaking underground space that has stood the test of time.

Visitors today can explore this incredible feat of engineering for themselves with an audioguide tour that provides insight into its history and significance. Whether you're a history buff or simply looking for a unique experience in Istanbul, the Basilica Cistern is not to be missed.

Guided Tours and More: How to Experience Basilica Cistern with Tickets and Tours

Entrance Tickets to Basilica Cistern

Visiting the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul is a must-have experience for travelers. Entrance tickets to the cistern can be purchased on-site or online through various tour providers such as TripAdvisor . However, visitors who want to avoid long lines and wait times should opt for skip-the-line tickets from reputable tour providers.

Day Tours from Topkapi Palace

For visitors who want to explore more of Istanbul's historical landmarks, day tours from Topkapi Palace are available. These tours include a visit to the Basilica Cistern as part of the itinerary. The period between April to October is the peak tourist season, so it is advisable to book tours and tickets in advance.

Guided Tours at Basilica Cistern

Tour guides are available at the entrance of Basilica Cistern for visitors who want a more informative and immersive experience. These guides provide insights into the history and significance of this ancient water reservoir. Visitors will learn about its construction during the Byzantine era and how it played a vital role in Istanbul's survival during wars.

What Not To Miss at Basilica Cistern

The most iconic feature of the cistern is its Medusa heads that support two columns in one corner of the underground chamber. According to legend, these heads were placed upside down by early Christians since they believed that Medusa's gaze turned people into stone. Another notable feature is the Hen's Eye column that has an irregular shape due to centuries-old water erosion.

Reopening and New Exhibition: Current Basilica Cistern Opening Hours and Details

Basilica Cistern Opening Hours and Details Today

Opening Hours

The Basilica Cistern is open every day of the week, from 9:00 AM to 6:30 PM. It is important to note that last admission is at 5:30 PM, so visitors should plan accordingly.

Reopening Date

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Basilica Cistern was temporarily closed. However, it has reopened and is now welcoming visitors once again. As always, safety measures are in place to ensure the health and well-being of all visitors.

Stunning Architecture

One of the main reasons why people visit Basilica Cistern is because of its stunning architecture. The cistern was built in the 6th century and showcases impressive engineering skills of ancient Constantinople. Visitors can marvel at the intricate details of this historical site while learning about its past uses as a water filtration system and even a filming location for popular movies.

Mystery and Intrigue

Another reason why people flock to Basilica Cistern is because of its unique features such as Medusa heads located at the base of two columns in the cistern. These add an element of mystery and intrigue to the site, making it even more fascinating for visitors.

Convenient Location

Located in the heart of Istanbul, Basilica Cistern offers easy access for tourists who want to explore the city's rich cultural heritage. Visitors can easily combine their trip with other popular sites such as Hagia Sophia or Topkapi Palace.

basilica cistern

Fascinating History of Basilica Cistern: Pop Culture References and Ancient Mythology

Unique Architectural Features: Medusa Heads and Columns

The Basilica Cistern, also known as the Yerebatan Sarnici, is a fascinating historical landmark in Istanbul. Built during the 6th century during the Roman period, it is one of the largest ancient cisterns in Istanbul. The cistern's most unique architectural features are the Medusa heads and columns that support the structure.

The two Medusa heads at the base of two columns are said to be from an ancient pagan temple that stood on this site before Emperor Justinian built the Basilica Cistern. The heads are believed to have been brought here because they were considered too powerful and dangerous for public display. One of them is placed upside down while the other one is positioned sideways, adding to their eerie appeal.

The cistern has 336 marble columns arranged in 12 rows with a distance of 4 meters between each row. Each column stands around 9 meters high and has a diameter of approximately 30 centimeters. These columns were sourced from various locations throughout the Byzantine Empire, with some being recycled from older structures.

Cool Respite from Bustling City: A Glimpse into Rich History

Visiting Basilica Cistern offers a cool and peaceful respite from Istanbul's bustling city streets. As you descend through dimly lit stairs into its depths, you'll find yourself surrounded by quiet stillness with only soft lighting illuminating your path forward.

As you explore deeper into this underground water storage facility, you'll be transported back in time to witness Istanbul's rich history and engineering prowess firsthand. The cistern was designed to hold up to 80,000 cubic meters of water, which was then used for irrigation or supplied directly to homes via aqueducts.

Pop Culture References: From James Bond to Dan Brown

Over time, Basilica Cistern has become more than just a historical landmark. It has also been featured in various movies, TV shows, and books. One of the most famous scenes was filmed here for the James Bond movie "From Russia with Love." The cistern was used as a location for a fight scene between Bond and his enemy.

Additionally, Basilica Cistern was referenced in Dan Brown's novel "Inferno," where it played a significant role in the book's plot. The cistern's unique architecture and rich history make it an ideal backdrop for pop culture references that add to its appeal.

Hidden Beneath the Historical Peninsula: The Mysterious Beauty of Basilica Cistern

What is the Basilica Cistern?

The Basilica Cistern, also known as the Yerebatan Sarnıcı in Turkish, is an underground cistern located beneath the historical peninsula of Istanbul. It was built during the Byzantine Empire's reign by Emperor Justinian I in 532 AD. The purpose of this water reservoir was to store and supply water for the Great Palace and other buildings in Old City.

When was the Basilica Cistern built?

Built in 532 AD, it has been standing for over 1,500 years. The construction of this sunken palace took place during the reign of Emperor Justinian I. This work of engineering marvel has stood the test of time and remains a testament to ancient architecture.

How big is the Basilica Cistern?

The cistern covers an area of approximately 9,800 square meters with a capacity to hold up to 80,000 cubic meters of water. It consists of 336 marble columns arranged in 12 rows with a distance between them being around four meters. Each column stands at around nine meters tall with bases measuring two meters wide.

What is the purpose of Medusa heads in Basilica Cistern?

One interesting feature that visitors can find inside are two Medusa heads located at the northwest corner. These heads have been placed upside down or sideways to ward off evil spirits according to popular belief. Some historians believe that these heads were used as decorative elements while others think they were recycled from earlier structures.

Can visitors go inside Basilica Cistern?

Yes! Visitors can go inside and explore this magnificent structure themselves. The entrance fee is quite affordable and there are guided tours available as well for those who want a more immersive experience. When you enter, you will see dimly lit pathways leading towards its basement floors where you will find rows upon rows of marble columns supporting arched ceilings above your head.

Why You Should Visit Basilica Cistern in Istanbul

Well-Connected Transport System to Reach Basilica Cistern

Istanbul is a bustling city with a well-connected transport system that makes it easy for visitors to reach the Basilica Cistern. The most convenient way to get there is by using public transportation. The nearest tram station to the Basilica Cistern is the Sultanahmet station, which is just a few minutes' walk away. Visitors can take the T1 line and get off at this station, which is located in the heart of Istanbul's historic district.

In addition, visitors can also take a taxi or use ride-sharing services like Uber or Careem to reach the Basilica Cistern. However, keep in mind that traffic in Istanbul can be unpredictable and congested, so taking public transport may be faster and more convenient during peak hours.

Check Operating Hours and Ticket Prices Before Planning Your Visit

Before planning your trip to the Basilica Cistern, it is important to check its operating hours and ticket prices. The cistern is open every day from 9 am until 5:30 pm (last admission at 4:30 pm). However, during religious holidays such as Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, operating hours may vary.

The entrance fee for adults is 20 Turkish Lira (approximately $2.50 USD) per person. Children under the age of eight can enter free of charge. It is worth noting that credit cards are not accepted at the ticket counter, so make sure you have cash on hand.

Why You Should Visit Basilica Cistern in Istanbul

The Basilica Cistern is an impressive underground water reservoir built during the Byzantine Empire in AD 532. It was designed to store water for the city's palaces and buildings and could hold up to 80,000 cubic meters of water at any given time.

Visitors will be amazed by its grandeur and beauty as they descend the stairs to the underground chamber. The cistern features 336 columns, some of which are over 8 meters tall, and its ceiling is supported by brick arches. The dimly lit interior creates a mysterious and atmospheric ambiance that transports visitors back in time.

In addition to its historical significance, the Basilica Cistern has also been featured in several popular films and TV shows, including James Bond's "From Russia with Love" and Dan Brown's "Inferno." Its unique architecture and cultural importance make it a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Istanbul.

Is Basilica Cistern Worth It?

Without a doubt, visiting the Basilica Cistern is worth it. This hidden gem offers visitors a glimpse into Istanbul's rich history while providing an unforgettable experience. Its location in the heart of Istanbul's historic district makes it easily accessible and convenient to visit.

Whether you're interested in history, architecture or simply looking for a unique experience during your travels, the Basilica Cistern should be on your list of things to do in Istanbul. So why not plan a visit today?

Frequently Asked Questions About Basilica Cistern: Everything You Need to Know

The Basilica Cistern is a magnificent structure that has been standing for over 1500 years. It is an engineering marvel and one of the most visited tourist attractions in Istanbul. The cistern has recently reopened to visitors, and there are many things you need to know before visiting.

Exploring the Cistern

Visitors can now explore the cistern from 9am to 5:30pm daily. The new exhibition at the cistern showcases the history and significance of the structure. The exhibition features interactive displays and multimedia installations that will engage visitors of all ages. You can learn about the cistern's construction, its role in Istanbul's water supply system, and its use in popular culture.

Admission Cost

Admission to the cistern costs 30 Turkish Lira for adults and 15 Turkish Lira for children. This fee is reasonable considering what you get to see inside. You will be amazed by the sheer size of the structure as well as its intricate details.

History of Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern was constructed during Emperor Justinian's reign in Byzantine Constantinople (Istanbul) in AD 532-537. It was built underground with a capacity of storing around 80,000 cubic meters of water, which was brought through aqueducts from Belgrade Forest almost 19 kilometers away from Istanbul city center.

Role in Water Supply System

The cistern played a significant role in providing water to Istanbul residents throughout history. Its water supply system was so advanced that it continued to provide water even during sieges when other sources were cut off or destroyed.

Pop Culture Significance

Apart from its historical importance, the Basilica Cistern has also been featured prominently in pop culture. It appeared in Dan Brown's novel "Inferno" and James Bond movie "From Russia with Love." Visitors can see where these famous scenes were filmed and imagine themselves in the shoes of their favorite characters.

basilica cistern inside

Tours and Tickets to Experience Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayi): Entrance, Tickets & More

Purchasing Tickets for Basilica Cistern

Visitors to Istanbul can purchase tickets for the Basilica Cistern on-site or online. However, it is recommended to book tickets in advance to avoid long queues and ensure availability. The entrance fee for adults is 30 Turkish Lira, while children under 8 years old can enter for free.

To buy tickets online, visitors can go to the official website of the Istanbul Museum Pass. It is a great option if you plan on visiting other museums and attractions in Istanbul as well. The pass includes admission to Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, and many other sites.

Visitors who prefer purchasing their tickets on-site should be aware that there might be long lines during peak times. Therefore, it is advisable to arrive early in the morning or later in the afternoon when crowds are thinner.

Tripadvisor Reviews Suggest Visiting Early or Late

According to Tripadvisor reviews, visiting early in the morning or later in the afternoon is highly recommended. This way visitors can avoid crowds and enjoy a more peaceful experience at this magnificent site.

The cistern has 52 steps leading down to the underground chamber, so visitors with mobility issues may need to consider this before planning their visit. There are no elevators or escalators available inside, so it might not be suitable for everyone.

Topkapi Palace Tours from Basilica Cistern

If you have enough time and want a more comprehensive experience of Istanbul's history and culture, consider taking a day tour that includes both Topkapi Palace and Basilica Cistern. offers several tours that include these two landmarks as well as other popular sites such as Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. These tours usually last around 6-8 hours depending on your preferences.

How to Get to Basilica Cistern Istanbul: Your Ultimate Guide

Getting to the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul is easy and straightforward. Here are some of the ways you can get there:

By Metro

The easiest way to get to the Basilica Cistern is by metro. The closest station is Sultanahmet Station, which is on the Marmaray Line. From there, it's just a short walk to the cistern.

By Tram

Another option is to take the tram. The T1 tram line stops at Sultanahmet, which is just a few minutes' walk from the cistern.

By Bus

If you prefer taking the bus, there are several options as well. Buses 28T, 81E, 82, 82B, and 92 stop near Sultanahmet Square.

On Foot

If you're staying in or near Sultanahmet, you can easily walk to the cistern. It's located just a few minutes' walk from most hotels in the area.

Once you arrive at Sultanahmet Square, look for signs pointing towards Yerebatan Caddesi (Cistern Street). Follow this street until you reach a small park with an entrance gate on your right-hand side. This gate leads down into the cistern.

Tips for Visiting Basilica Cistern:

Why Basilica Cistern is a Must-Visit Destination in Istanbul

Ready to embark on an adventure that will take you back in time? Look no further than the Basilica Cistern. This ancient underground waterway, located in the heart of Istanbul's historical peninsula, boasts some of the most unique and fascinating features you'll find anywhere in the world.

From its stunning architecture to its intriguing history, there's something for everyone at the Basilica Cistern. Whether you're a seasoned traveler or simply looking for a new adventure, this destination is sure to leave you spellbound.

One of the most impressive aspects of the Basilica Cistern is its sheer size. With a capacity of over 100,000 tons of water, this underground marvel spans an incredible 9,800 square meters. But it's not just its size that makes it so impressive – it's also home to a number of beautiful columns and archways that are sure to take your breath away.

Of course, no visit to the Basilica Cistern would be complete without taking a closer look at some of its more unique features. From the famous Medusa heads that adorn two of its columns to the mysterious Column of Tears, there are plenty of hidden gems waiting to be discovered here.

But what really sets this destination apart from others is its rich history. Dating back over 1,500 years, the Basilica Cistern has played an important role in Istanbul's past – and continues to capture imaginations today. From pop culture references like James Bond films to ancient mythology surrounding Medusa herself, there's no shortage of stories waiting to be uncovered here.

And with so much on offer at this one-of-a-kind destination, it's easy to see why visitors from all around the world continue to flock here year after year. So if you're looking for an unforgettable experience that will transport you back in time, be sure to add the Basilica Cistern to your must-visit list. You won't be disappointed!

The Entire History of Constantinople // Istanbul Documentary

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