The Yerebatan Cistern, also known as the “Sunken Palace” due to its Turkish name, is a water reservoir from late antiquity. The complex is located west of the Hagia Sophia and is one of the impressive sights that the city has to offer.
The approximately 140 meters long and 65 meters wide underground cistern from the 6th century is the legacy of Emperor Justinian and was built as a water reservoir for the Great Palace. The water was brought here in the best quality from the north of Belgrade forest and served to supply the imperial household. Above the complex was a large basilica, which no longer exists today, hence its name “Basilica Cistern”.
The Sunken Palace has a capacity of approximately 80,000 cubic meters. Arranged in twelve rows, there are a total of 336 well-preserved columns, most of which have Corinthian and early Byzantine features, bearing the brick vaults. They are reflected crystal clear in the dark water. The spotlights immerse the scenery in an almost magical light. In addition, two beautiful medusa heads, which form the pillar foundation, can be admired here. It is the only cistern in the city that is open to the public.
The Basilica Cistern was the scene of several international movies. Among others, scenes from James Bond’s “From Russia with Love” with Sean Connery, Dan Brown’s “Inferno” with Tom Hanks, “The International” with Clive Owen or “The Accidental Spy” with Jackie Chan were filmed here. Most recently, it was the backdrop of the film “The Dead in the Cistern” from the ARD crime series “Homicide Unit Istanbul”.
Basilica Cistern Ticket with Fast Track Entry and a short introduction by a licensed guide – book online now and get a 5% discount!
Skip the long ticket line and enter the Basilica Cistern with an officially licensed guide who will give you a 20-minute introduction about the history of the 1,500-year-old cistern.