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Basilica Cistern or Sunken Palace Istanbul

Basilica Cistern or Sunken Palace Istanbul
The Yerebatan Sarayı ( Sunken Palace ) or Basilica Cistern is the largest covered cistern in Istanbul , 140m x 70m, it could hold 80,000 cubic metres of water and is supported by 336 columns.


Thought to be built by Emperor Constantine in the 4th century, 
expanded by Justinian in the 6th century and its restorations commenced in 1887.
Water to the cistern was provided from the Belgrade Forest and it in turn supplied the Great Palace and later the Topkapi Palace
The two Medusa heads on the southwest corner discovered when the cistern was drained were probably used as construction materials rather than ornamental.

Basilica Cistern Today

Many visitors to the cistern cannot believe it when they see carp and goldfish swimming around the base of the columns although this is nothing new as the French writer Pierre Gilles or Petrus Gyllius (1490–1555) recorded going fishing in a boat there when he was being shown the cistern.

Gallery of the Cartoonists Association

There is an art gallery upstairs from the cistern; the Gallery of the Cartoonists Association that is worth a visit and the images on display need no explanation to be understood whatever language you may speak.

Esat Efendi Library

This 19th century library was once located next to the Kybele Hotel on Yerebatan Caddesi; its contents have since been moved to the Suleyman Library and the building is now a souvenir shop.


Basilica Cistern is situated in the Sultanahmet distrcit of Fatih .

Getting to Basilica Cistern


To get to the cistern you can take a short walk from Hagia Sophia , the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace


Take the tram from Zeytinburnu to Kabatas (T1) and get off at the Sultanahmet stop, and walk for 0.23 km


Get on one of the buses listed below and get off at the Eminonu stop. From here you should walk for 0.44 km
30D Dereboyu - Yenikapi
28T Topkapi - Besiktas
26 Dikilitas - Eminonu
70KE Kurtulus - Eminonu
26B Gayrettepe - Eminonu
28 Edirnekapi - Besiktas
26A Fulya District - Eminonu
Marmaray Underground
Take the Kazlicesme- Sogutlucesme (M5) underground and get off at the Sirkeci stop, and walk for 0.87 km


Get on the Sirkeci - Halkali train and leave the train at the Cankurtaran stop. It is a 0.5 km walk from Cankurtaran stop to the Basillica Cistern.

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