Things to do in Istanbul

Tips for visiting the underground realm of Basilica Cistern

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The Basilica Cistern, also known as the Sunken Palace, is a stunning underground water reservoir in Istanbul, Turkey. Built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, this magnificent structure features 336 columns, each 9 meters high, arranged in 12 rows of 28. Located near iconic Istanbul attractions like the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, visiting the Basilica Cistern offers a fascinating glimpse into the city's tumultuous past. Let me let you in on a few tips to help you make the most of your visit to this remarkable site!

Recommended tickets to Basilica Cistern

Tips for visiting Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

1. Choose the ideal time

Plan your visit to the Basilica Cistern during midday, ideally on a weekday. Start your day by exploring nearby attractions like Hagia Sophia, then head to the Cistern to escape the heat. Weekdays tend to be less crowded than weekends.

2. Know the ticket variants

All tickets to Basilica Cistern include an English-speaking guide as a standard feature. For those seeking upgrades, the skip-the-line ticket is a worthwhile investment, as it allows you to bypass the long queue outside. Another popular ticket upgrade is the combo package, which grants guided and skip-the-line access to Basilica Cistern, Blue Mosque, and Hagia Sophia, three closely situated attractions.

Basilica Cistern

3. Wear non-slip shoes

The floors of Basilica Cistern are damp and slippery due to the shallow water that covers it. Wearing shoes with good traction is essential for a safe and comfortable visit. The lighting inside the cistern is dim, creating a mysterious atmosphere, so watch your step as you explore the ancient columns and walkways.

4. Bring a light jacket or sweater

Bring a light jacket or sweater, as the underground chamber can be quite cool. Take your time to admire the intricate details of the columns, some of which were repurposed from older structures. Additionally, consider getting a head scarf or a hat, unless you’re okay with water dripping on your head at times!

5. Experience Night Shift Surprise Concerts

On select evenings between 7:30pm and 10pm, the Basilica Cistern hosts Night Shift Surprise Concerts, offering visitors a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the magical atmosphere of the ancient reservoir. These concerts combine the enchanting ambiance of the historic site with captivating live performances.

6. Follow the photography guidelines

While photography is allowed inside the Basilica Cistern, be mindful of other visitors and the site's preservation. Use a camera or smartphone without flash to capture the stunning architecture and unique features, such as the famous Medusa heads.

Basilica Cistern

7. Accessibility for visitors with mobility challenges

The Basilica Cistern is accessible for wheelchair users and visitors with mobility challenges. There is a special entrance located at the cistern's exit on Alemdar street, near the tram line. A wheelchair platform lift is available to assist visitors in navigating the stairs.

8. Keep your phone torch handy

Keep your phone or a torch handy, as it can get very dark inside during the light show, and you might misplace your step.

Basilica Cistern Tips