Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayi)

If you go to Istanbul, you should not miss the opportunity to visit Basilica Cistern in Sultanahmet ! This amazing structure is built by Byzantine emperor Justinian in the 6th century to provide water to the Byzantine Palace from Belgrade Forest in the black sea region of Istanbul, some 19 kilometers away. The cistern was built on the grounds of a Roman Basilica built two centuries earlier, hence the name of the cistern.

It is located right across the street from Hagia Sophia (about 200 meters away), in the historical peninsula of Istanbul (Sarayburnu) where Topkapi Palace and Blue Mosque are also located. The most proper public transportation to reach Sultanahmet is the tram you can take from Kabatas, down from Taksim or Aksaray or airport area to Sultanahmet station. It is very easy to go to the cistern on foot in only 4-5 minutes.

When you enter the cistern, first you go down the wet, dark stairs and then to the main chamber. Inside the cistern it is very cold and dark, there are only some greenish lights. This giant building consists of a lot of columns which resembles a forest. Wonders of Roman sculpture, two Medusa heads located at the end of the alley are really worth to see! There is also a lot of mythological stories which make the cistern more and more mystical. While you are visiting and exploring the cistern , tunes of classical music accompany you. Besides, a lot of interesting events happen here such as Sufi Jazz concerts, poem nights and Bosphorus Modern Dance Theatre shows. You can also participate for free and enjoy Turkish traditions.

The cistern was used as a shooting location in internationally acclaimed films first in 'With Love from Russia', possibly the best of the Bond series with Sean Connery and also lately in the film The International starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts. It is open everyday between the hours of 9am-6:30pm. The entrance fee is 10tl (~5 euro ) per person.

A unique and very mystic experience!

Basilica Cistern on Istanbul Map