Things to do in Istanbul

The ultimate guide to skipping the queue at Istanbul’s Basilica Cistern

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The Basilica Cistern is a must-see attraction in Istanbul, drawing in a staggering 2.2 million visitors each year. Now, that’s quite a number! This ancient underground water reservoir has a history spanning over 1,500 years and is also linked to the iconic Hagia Sophia.
Located on Yerebatan Cd street, the cistern often attracts long queues that snake along the pavement, especially during peak hours. The line can be daunting, but there's a way to skip it entirely. Keep reading to discover how you can secure skip-the-line tickets and make the most of your visit to this fascinating historical site.

Recommended tickets to the Basilica Cistern

Average wait time at the Basilica Cistern

The average wait time at the Basilica Cistern can vary depending on the season and time of day. During peak tourist season, which typically runs from May to September, the wait can be as long as an hour. Weekends and midday tend to be the busiest times. March to May and September to November, are considered shoulder seasons and the temperatures hover around 10 to 15 °C. The average wait time can be as less as 10 minutes to none at all.

Basilica Cistern Tickets

Tried & tested hacks to skip the lines at Basilica Cistern

Buy skip-the-line tickets:

Skip-the-line tickets allow you to bypass the long queue and significantly reduce your wait time from around 40 minutes to a mere 5 minutes! We’re not kidding!
Just present your ticket at the entrance, pass through the metal detector, and you'll be inside this ancient wonder in no time. Tickets purchased through Headout are valid until 23 January 2025, giving you ample flexibility in planning your visit. For a better experience, you can choose to be accompanied by an English-speaking guide who will explain the cistern's fascinating architecture and history.

Upgrade to a guided tour:

For historic attractions like the Basilica Cistern, opt for a guided tour with an expert English-speaking guide. They will highlight the site's significance and point out interesting details you might otherwise miss. This ticket also includes skip-the-line access for your convenience.

Buy a combo:

Purchasing a combo ticket that includes entry to multiple attractions, such as the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace, can be a smart way to save time and money. These tickets come with skip-the-line access, allowing you to make the most of your day.

Go for a multi attraction pass:

If you plan on visiting multiple attractions during your stay, the Istanbul Museums 3-Day Pass is a convenient option that includes skip-the-line access to the Basilica Cistern among four other popular sites.

Visit during the shoulder season:

If you're planning a trip to Istanbul, consider visiting during the shoulder season, which falls between March and May or September and November. During these months, the weather is pleasant, and the crowds are thinner, making it easier to explore the city's attractions without long wait times. Alternatively, if you must visit during peak season, try to arrive early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the midday rush.

Inside Basilica Cistern Istanbul

A quick guide to Basilica Cistern

Getting there:

  • Take the tram T1: Take the T1 tram line to the Sultanahmet station. It’s a 50-minute journey and from Sultanahmet station, the Basilica Cistern is just a short walk away.
  • Marmaray train: Take the Marmaray train to the Sirkeci station. From the Sirkeci station, it's a 10-minute walk to the Basilica Cistern. Follow the signs for Sultanahmet Square, and you'll find the entrance on the northwest corner of the square.
  • By metro: To reach the Basilica Cistern, take the M1A metro line to Sultanahmet station, the nearest stop to the attraction. If you are traveling on the M11 line, transfer to the M1A at Yenikapı station.



Open daily from 9 am to 11.50 pm.


The Basilica Cistern is accessible for visitors with limited mobility, as there is a wheelchair ramp and a special lift at the entrance. However, the interior of the cistern has uneven surfaces and steps, which may pose challenges for some. Inside the cistern, there are walkways and platforms to help you navigate easily. Be careful because the lighting is dim inside to create a mysterious atmosphere.

Skip The Lines At Basilica Cistern