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Basilica Cistern
Holiday Travel Guide

'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 things to do in Basilica Cistern

Top 10 Hotels Near Basilica Cistern

Sultanahmet Nu Hotel
Sultanahmet Nu Hotel
Binbirdirek Mahallesi, Dizdariye Yokusu Sokak no 6, Istanbul, Istanbul
The price is RM96 per night from 4 Mar to 5 Mar

Located in Sultanahmet, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Cemberlitas Bath, Grand Bazaar and Blue Mosque. Sultanahmet Square and Basilica Cistern are ...

4/5Very Good! (92 reviews)

"Overall great experience, everyone was nice to meet and room service was great!"…"

Reviewed on 10 Dec 2020

Sultanahmet Nu Hotel
The Marmara Pera
The Marmara Pera
4 out of 5
Mesrutiyet Cad. Tepebasi, Istanbul, Istanbul
Free cancellationReserve now, pay when you stay
The price is RM250 per night from 17 Mar to 18 Mar

This family-friendly Istanbul hotel is located in the entertainment district, within a 15-minute walk of Galata Tower and Mixer. Taksim Square and Suleymaniye ...

4/5Very Good! (973 reviews)

"The view of the hotel is excellent. The rooms are cleaned on a daily basis, the staff are cheerful at all times and they have 24 hour room service"…"

Reviewed on 22 Nov 2020

The Marmara Pera
Sultanhan Hotel - Special Class
Sultanhan Hotel - Special Class
4 out of 5
Piyer Loti Cad No:7, Istanbul, Istanbul
The price is RM257 per night from 4 Mar to 5 Mar

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. ...

4.4/5Wonderful! (987 reviews)

"Close to all tourists attractions, very nice and helpful staff"…"

Reviewed on 22 Feb 2021

Sultanhan Hotel - Special 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.

Popular places to visit in Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

Top Basilica Cistern Hotel Deals

Sultanahmet Nu Hotel
Sultanahmet Nu Hotel
Binbirdirek Mahallesi, Dizdariye Yokusu Sokak no 6, Istanbul, Istanbul
The price is RM96 per night from 4 Mar to 5 Mar
Sultanahmet Nu Hotel
The Marmara Pera
The Marmara Pera
4 out of 5
Mesrutiyet Cad. Tepebasi, Istanbul, Istanbul
The price is RM250 per night from 17 Mar to 18 Mar
The Marmara Pera
Sultanhan Hotel - Special Class
Sultanhan Hotel - Special Class
4 out of 5
Piyer Loti Cad No:7, Istanbul, Istanbul
The price is RM257 per night from 4 Mar to 5 Mar
Sultanhan Hotel - Special Class
Levni Hotel & Spa
Levni Hotel & Spa
4.5 out of 5
Ankara Caddesi No: 12 Sirkeci, Istanbul, Istanbul
The price is RM251 per night from 4 Mar to 5 Mar
Levni Hotel & Spa
Swissotel The Bosphorus Istanbul
Swissotel The Bosphorus Istanbul
5 out of 5
Visnezade Mah. Acisu Sok. NO. 19, Macka Besiktas, Istanbul, Istanbul
The price is RM770 per night from 4 Mar to 5 Mar
Swissotel The Bosphorus Istanbul
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 RM363 per night from 12 Mar to 13 Mar
Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel
Erten Konak - Special Class
Erten Konak - Special Class
4 out of 5
Akbiyik Caddesi, Akbiyik Degirmeni Sokak 8/10, Istanbul, Istanbul
The price is RM89 per night from 16 Mar to 17 Mar
Erten Konak - Special Class
Lapis Inn Hotel & Spa ( Ex. Ambassador Hotel )
Lapis Inn Hotel & Spa ( Ex. Ambassador Hotel )
3.5 out of 5
Ticarethane Cikmazi No 19, Istanbul, Istanbul
The price is RM190 per night from 4 Mar to 5 Mar
Lapis Inn Hotel & Spa ( Ex. Ambassador Hotel )
Hagia Sofia Mansions Istanbul, Curio Collection by Hilton
Hagia Sofia Mansions Istanbul, Curio Collection by Hilton
Kabasakal Cad. No:5 Sultanahmet, Fatih, Istanbul
The price is RM435 per night from 23 Mar to 24 Mar
Hagia Sofia Mansions Istanbul, Curio Collection by Hilton
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.