Yerebatan Sarayı

Yerebatan Cistern - Cistern Basilica - Basilica Cistern

Useful Information

Location: Istanbul. At Sultanahmet Square, opposite to the entrance of Aya Sofya. Entrance is a small inconspicuous building of white and red bricks.
Open: Summer daily 9-18:30. Winter saily 9-17:30. [2019]
Fee: Turks TRL 10, Foreign Tourists TRL 20, Student TRL 5. [2019]
Classification: ExplainWater Supply
Light: electric
Dimension: L=140m, W=70m, H=8m, V=80,000m³.
Guided tours: self guided
Address: Yerebatan Sarayı, Yerebatan Caddesi No: 13, 34410 Sultanahmet-Fatih, Istanbul, Tel: +90-212-5121570, Tel: +90-212-5221259, Fax: +90-212-5228166. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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532 built under emperor Justinian.
1966 used as a location in the James Bond movie From Russia With Love.
1987 opened to the public.


The Yerebatan Sarayı is a large underground water resevior. It was built around 532, to supply Byzanz with fresh water, especially the palace of emperor Justinian nearby. The huge hall is 140m long and 70m wide, with 336 pilars with corinthian capitals supporting the 8m high ceiling. The floor is completely covered by water, the cistern contains up to 80,000m³ of water. It was connected with a 250km long system of canals, tunnels and aqueducts. The water originated from the Belgrade forest, the highland west of Marmara, and was transported via the Aqueduct of Valens.

Yerebatan Sarayı means Sunken Cistern, but it is also called Yerebatan Sarnıçı, which means Sunken Palace. A very common name is also Cistern Basilika. All those names imply the overwhelming architecture of this functional building. Fine stonework, garnishments, ornaments and even huge heads cover the whole cistern. There are Ionic, Corinthian, and a couple Doric pilars, with no two alike. The head of Medusa, which is upside down, supports one of the pilars. Some say it was placed here to guard against the palaces' water supply being poisoned. With its enormous size and the fascinating water surface, it is probably the most impressing sight in Istambul.

The uniqueness of this place was recognized by the location scouts of James Bond. This place was used in the movie From Russia With Love. James Bond and his Istanbul contact person Selim Bey go through the cistern to the russian embassy, to use a submarine periscope to have a look into the embassy. And of course there is an exchange of gunfire underground.

When visiting the the Cistern Basilika we recommend a Turkish coffee in the underground cafe by candlelight. Definitely a good place for a secret romantic liaison.