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Basilica Cistern: Underground Cistern,
Entrance Fee and Visiting Hours

Basilica Cistern, the Entrance Fee of Basilica Cistern in 2021 and Visiting Hours, Public Transportation Options and Facilities

Basilica Cistern is located in Sultanahmet, the building is neighbor to Hagia Sophia, another symbol of Istanbul.

Basilica Cistern is built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (572 - 565), this great underground cistern (its name was Basislika Cistern at the time) was named the "Basilica Palace" by the people looking at the marble columns rising from the water and seen as countless.





Istanbul is one of the few cities in the world that has hosted the most rooted and ultimate civilizations all over human history. 

Due to this feature, it is possible to come across a historical artifact, different structures originating from different beliefs and traditions of various civilizations in Istanbul. One of them is the Basilica Cistern.

Istanbul was one of the most frequently besieged cities during the Roman and Byzantine Empire periods. The most important problem during the sieges was the exhaustion of food and beverage stocks.

We also witness that the Roman and Byzantine emperors built many cisterns in the city in order to solve this problem. The Basilica Cistern is the largest among them.

The Basilica Cistern proximate to the historical peninsula Sultanahmet Square is one of the most widespread tourist attractions in Istanbul. 

It is suggested to visit this cistern when you come to Istanbul. It serves as a museum by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and also hosts different national and international events all over the year.


General Information and Details about Basilica Cistern




The superior features of this extraordinary cistern, which was built to meet the water needs of the city, are:

•    It was an underground water tank built for the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century (532).
•    It is built on a huge rectangular area of 9,800 square meters, 140 meters long and 70 meters wide, and has a water storage capacity of 100,000 tons.
•    The name Basilica comes from an ancient religious building in the area where the cistern was built.
•    The cistern is raised by a 52-step staircase, comprises 336 columns, each 9 meters high, 4.8 meters apart.
•    The Basilica Cistern is popular for two unique Medusa Heads.


What to See in Basilica Cistern?



The Basilica Cistern is an enormously quiet and peaceful place. The most famous work of hundreds of marble columns and cisterns accumulated from ancient structures. Its greatest monument is Medusa Heads.
Be sure to walk to the far left corner of the cistern to see the two Medusa heads. Both heads are used indiscriminately as column bases; one is upside down, the other is sloping sideways. Their positioning as both their origins has remained a mystery until now, but rumors are said to have been recycled from an ancient building from the late Roman period.


Medusa Headed Pillars



Among the pillars of the Basilica Cistern, undoubtedly, the most curious ones are the three pillars with the Medusa Head underneath. The two Medusa Heads in Basilica Cistern, are the works of the sculpture art of the Roman period and used as supports under the two columns on the northwest edge of the cistern. These two columns on the northwest edge of the cistern are the most famous places of the Cistern.
How Medusa heads were brought to the cistern is not yet known. There are numerous legends.




Weeping Pillar (Pillar of Tears)



The Weeping Pillar, which looks like a tree trunk with branches cut off and has motifs called peafowl eyes, looks wet, unlike other columns. This pillar has legends, as in the column with the Medusa Head.
 According to the legend, these motifs on the pillar were a symbol of the torments suffered by the slaves working during the building of the Basilica Cistern.
The pillar is in the middle of the Cistern. There is also a famous belief that the wishes of those who put their finger in the hole available in the shaft of a column will come true. This is why this column is also called the "wish column".




Visiting Hours and Entrance Fee of Basilica Cistern



The Basilica Cistern is open to local and foreign tourists every day of the week from 09.00 to 18.30. Except for the first days of public holidays and religious holidays. There is no online ticket sale. The ticket is taken from the door.


The Entrance Fee of Basilica Cistern in 2021


The Entrance prices was announced to be 15 Turkish Lira for local visitors with a 50 percent increase, 5 Turkish Lira for students and teachers, and 30 Turkish Lira for foreign visitors in 2021. Credit cards and cash are valid. The museum card is not valid.





How to Go To the Basilica Cistern?



The Basilica Cistern is situated in the Sultanahmet region of Fatih district, near enough to the Sultanahmet square. When you turn your face to the Hagia Sophia Mosque, about 200 meters in the direction of your left, on the other side of the tramway you will see the cistern.

Public Transportation Options to Basilica Cistern




The most practical and easy way of reaching Sultanahmet is the Tram (T1 line) between Bagcilar-Kabatas. You should get off at the Sultanahmet stop of the tram.
If you are coming from Taksim, take the funicular to Kabatas, if you come from Besiktas you can come to Kabatas by bus or by a short walk and then by tram from Kabatas to Sultanahmet.
If you are coming from Uskudar or Kadikoy, first come to Eminonu by city line ferries and then by tram from Eminonu to Sultanahmet.
Moreover, you can get off at Sirkeci stop by Marmaray (from Uskudar) or by train, and reach Sultanahmet by tram.
Since Sultanahmet square and its surroundings are closed to vehicle traffic, it is recommended not to come to Sultanahmet with your private vehicle.