Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayi)
Located in the Sultanahmet district (Istanbul’s “old town”), Basilica Cistern is easy to visit during a day of sightseeing. Many tours and attraction passes include the cistern along with other top sites such as Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace. Measuring 450 feet (140 meters) long and 230 feet (70 meters) wide, the cistern is reached via 52 steps leading down to walkways over the water. Look for the two columns with carved Medusa heads.
Things to Know Before You Go
Wear comfortable, nonslip shoes to traverse the steps and the often-wet ground.
The entrance for wheelchair users and other visitors with mobility challenges is at the cistern’s exit.
As the cistern is underground, the setting is damp and cool. Take a layer if you don’t want to feel the chill.
How to Get There
Enter Basilica Cistern from Yerebatan Caddesi (street) in Sultanahmet. It’s a 20-minute walk from the Spice Market, the Eminonu tram station, and the Eminonu pier, where the ferries arrive.
When to Get There
The cistern is open daily from morning till evening. In summer, it’s particularly popular in the middle of the day to escape the heat.
Where You’ve Seen Basilica Cistern
The basilica has been mentioned or featured in several books and movies, most famouslyFrom Russia with Love, one of Sean Connery’s James Bond films from 1963. It’s also a setting in Dan Brown’sInferno, the sequel to his previous worksThe Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons.
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- Hippodrome (Sultanahmet Meydani)
- Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya)
- Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii)
- Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts (Türk Islam Eserleri Müzesi Hizmete)
- Arasta Bazaar
- Hagia Irene (Aya Irini)
- Sultanahmet District
- Serpent Column (Yilani Sütun)
- Great Palace Mosaic Museum
- Istanbul Archaeological Museums (Istanbul Arkeoloji Muzeleri)
- Column of Constantine (Çemberlitaş Sütunu)
- Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayi)
- Gülhane Park (Gülhane Parki)
- Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Mosque (Sokollu Mehmet Paşa Camii)
- Hodjapasha Culture Center (Hocapasa Kültür Merkezi)