Basilica Cistern

Holiday Travel Guide
Basilica Cistern showing religious aspects, a church or cathedral and interior views

'The Sunken Palace' is the biggest of the hundreds of underground reservoirs underneath the streets of Istanbul, dating from Byzantine Constantinople.

If you'd like a change from the bazaars, palaces and mosques of the typical Istanbul visit, then the Basilica Cistern offers something very different. Known as the Yerebatan Sarayi in Turkish, it is the most celebrated of the many reservoirs built in Byzantine times, and the most impressive. It's also an excellent place to cool down during a hot summer's day.

Dating from the 6th century and the rule of Emperor Justinian, it was built to provide water for the Great Palace. Over time, it was forgotten and became a dumping ground for local people, until found once again in the 16th century, when it was restored to its former majesty and used to provide water for the Topkapi Palace.

Follow the raised walkways – installed in the 1990s – around 'The Sunken Palace' to best appreciate this enormous structure. The experience is further heightened by the atmospheric lighting and music, perfectly setting the ambience of this subterranean wonder. Keep a sharp lookout for the ancient Medusa heads, which can be found at the back, on the north-western side.

As a feat of engineering, it is hugely impressive. Containing 336 marble columns, and covering almost 1 hectare, the Basilica Cistern held over 80 million litres of water during its heyday, which were sent far and wide through 19 kilometres of aqueducts. When we consider that this was designed and constructed around 1,500 years ago, without the benefits of modern techniques or of the technology we possess today, the scale of this achievement becomes even more astounding.

A visit takes less than one hour, and there is a cafe selling snacks, soft drinks and wonderful Turkish-style tea at the site. The Basilica Cistern is open every day, and there is an entrance fee for foreigners. You can reach it from the nearby Atram stop.

Top 10 Hotels Near Basilica Cistern

Crowne Plaza Istanbul - Old City, an IHG Hotel
Crowne Plaza Istanbul - Old City, an IHG Hotel
5 out of 5
Balabanaga Mahallesi, Fethibe, Laleli-Fatih, Istanbul, Istanbul
Fully refundableReserve now, pay when you stay
The price is RM239 per night from 28 Jan to 29 Jan
Located in Istanbul City Center, this luxury hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Beyazit Square and Grand Bazaar. The Egyptian Bazaar and Suleymaniye Mosque ...
3.9/5 Very Good! (714 reviews)
"Good location"

Reviewed on 17 Jan 2022

Crowne Plaza Istanbul - Old City, an IHG Hotel
Sultanhan Hotel - Special Class
Sultanhan Hotel - Special Class
4 out of 5
Piyer Loti Cad No:7, Istanbul, Istanbul
The price is RM462 per night from 25 Jan to 26 Jan
Located in Sultanahmet, this spa hotel is steps away from Cemberlitas Bath and Column of Constantine. Sultanahmet Square and Blue Mosque are also within 10 minutes. ...
4.5/5 Wonderful! (949 reviews)
"It is a classy traditional hotel perfectly located in the old town area of Istanbul. Featuring a superb view from the restaurant on the 6th floor, nice rooms, a turkish bath in the basement, and an elegant foyer - it was everything we were looking for during our week-long stay. The staff was exceptionally ..."

Reviewed on 22 Jan 2022

Sultanhan Hotel - Special Class
Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel
Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel
5 out of 5
Divanyolu Cd. Alemdar Mah., Ticarethane Sk. No 10 Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Istanbul
The price is RM436 per night from 25 Jan to 26 Jan
This family-friendly Istanbul hotel is located in the historical district, within a 5-minute walk of Sultanahmet Square, Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. Grand ...
4/5 Very Good! (100 reviews)
"Excellent hotel. Good service and great location"

Reviewed on 13 Jan 2022

Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.
GLK PREMIER Regency Suites & Spa
Omega Luxx Hotel
Q Hotel Old City

Popular places to visit in Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern


Top Basilica Cistern Hotel Deals

Crowne Plaza Istanbul - Old City, an IHG Hotel
Crowne Plaza Istanbul - Old City, an IHG Hotel
5 out of 5
Balabanaga Mahallesi, Fethibe, Laleli-Fatih, Istanbul, Istanbul
The price is RM239 per night from 28 Jan to 29 Jan
Crowne Plaza Istanbul - Old City, an IHG Hotel
Sultanhan Hotel - Special Class
Sultanhan Hotel - Special Class
4 out of 5
Piyer Loti Cad No:7, Istanbul, Istanbul
The price is RM462 per night from 25 Jan to 26 Jan
Sultanhan Hotel - Special Class
Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel
Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel
5 out of 5
Divanyolu Cd. Alemdar Mah., Ticarethane Sk. No 10 Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Istanbul
The price is RM436 per night from 25 Jan to 26 Jan
Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel
Pera Palace Hotel
Pera Palace Hotel
5 out of 5
Mesrutiyet Cad. No. 52, Tepebasi Beyoglu, Istanbul, Istanbul
The price is RM564 per night from 26 Jan to 27 Jan
Pera Palace Hotel
GLK PREMIER Regency Suites & Spa
GLK PREMIER Regency Suites & Spa
5 out of 5
Akbiyik Cad No 46, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Istanbul
The price is RM396 per night from 25 Jan to 26 Jan
GLK PREMIER Regency Suites & Spa
Sura Design Hotel and Suites - Boutique Class
Sura Design Hotel and Suites - Boutique Class
5 out of 5
Alemdar Mh., Ticarethane Sk. No:13, Fatih, Istanbul, Istanbul
The price is RM418 per night from 25 Jan to 26 Jan
Sura Design Hotel and Suites - Boutique Class
Hotel Arcadia Blue Istanbul
Hotel Arcadia Blue Istanbul
4 out of 5
Dr. Imran Oktem Cad. No:1, Sultanahmet, Istanbul
The price is RM378 per night from 25 Jan to 26 Jan
Hotel Arcadia Blue Istanbul
Sultanahmet Palace Hotel - Special Class
Sultanahmet Palace Hotel - Special Class
4 out of 5
Sultanahmet mah. Torun Sokak, No:19, Istanbul, Istanbul
The price is RM306 per night from 25 Jan to 26 Jan
Sultanahmet Palace Hotel - Special Class
Hotel Sultania - Boutique Class
Hotel Sultania - Boutique Class
4.5 out of 5
Ebusuud Caddesi Mehmet Murat Sok. No 4, Sirkeci, Istanbul, Istanbul
The price is RM419 per night from 25 Jan to 26 Jan
Hotel Sultania - Boutique Class
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.