Topkapi palace and basilica cistern tickets

Topkapi Palace and Basilica Cistern: A Journey into Istanbul’s Imperial and Byzantine Past

Istanbul, straddling the boundary between Europe and Asia, is a city steeped in history. Two of its most visited historical sites, Topkapi Palace and the Basilica Cistern, offer glimpses into the imperial grandeur of Byzantine and Ottoman times. This article delves into everything you need to know about acquiring tickets for these iconic attractions, maximizing your experience, and seamlessly blending the exploration of both sites into one enriching journey.

Topkapi Palace: A Glimpse into Ottoman Splendor

Topkapi Palace, constructed in the 15th century following the Conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror, served as the heart of the Ottoman Empire for nearly four centuries. As a residence for sultans and a center of state management and education, the palace is a sprawling complex filled with lush courtyards, opulent pavilions, and an extensive collection of artifacts, including the Prophet Muhammad’s cloak and sword.

Ticket Options for Topkapi Palace
  1. Standard Entry Ticket: Grants access to the main palace, including the courtyards, kitchens, and several exhibitions. It excludes entry to the Harem.
  2. Harem Ticket: An additional ticket that allows entry to the Harem, a complex of private chambers where the sultan’s family lived, which is considered a highlight due to its rich decoration and historical significance.
  3. Combination Ticket: Covers both the main palace areas and the Harem, offering a complete experience of the Topkapi Palace.
  4. Museum Pass Istanbul: This pass is recommended for visitors planning to explore multiple museums. It includes entry to Topkapi Palace (excluding the Harem) and numerous other attractions across the city.

Basilica Cistern: Exploring Byzantine Ingenuity

Just a short walk from the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace lies the Basilica Cistern, one of several ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. Built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, this enormous underground water reservoir is renowned for its capacity to hold 80,000 cubic meters of water, its 336 marble columns, and the enchanting atmosphere created by its dimly lit, water-filled corridors.

Ticket Options for Basilica Cistern
  1. Standard Entry Ticket: Provides access to the cistern’s main walkways and exhibits, including the famous Medusa head columns.
  2. Guided Tour Tickets: Available for those who prefer a deeper historical context during their visit. These often need to be booked in advance and are separate from the general admission.

Tips for Visiting Topkapi Palace and Basilica Cistern

  • Purchase Tickets in Advance: Especially during tourist season, buying tickets online can save a lot of time. Skip-the-line options are available and highly recommended.
  • Plan Your Visit: Consider visiting Topkapi Palace in the morning and the Basilica Cistern in the afternoon. The proximity of these sites to each other makes it easy to explore both in a single day.
  • Wear Comfortable Shoes: Both sites involve a considerable amount of walking. Comfortable footwear will enhance your experience, especially at Topkapi Palace, which has a more extensive area to cover.
  • Photography: Photography is allowed in both locations, but tripods and flash are generally not permitted. Always check the specific site rules on your visit day.

Combining Visits

Given their proximity and the depth of history they cover, combining a visit to Topkapi Palace and the Basilica Cistern offers a comprehensive look at Istanbul’s imperial past. Many visitors choose to explore the cistern first, enjoying its cool underground passages, before walking up to Topkapi Palace to delve into the colorful and dynamic world of the Ottoman sultans.


Visiting Topkapi Palace and the Basilica Cistern provides a window into the soul of Istanbul, juxtaposing the imperial might of the Ottomans with the ancient Byzantine ingenuity. Securing tickets to these sites not only facilitates a smoother visit but also ensures that you can appreciate the rich tapestry of history, architecture, and art that these iconic landmarks offer. Together, they form an essential part of any Istanbul itinerary, bringing to life centuries of history in one of the world’s most historically rich cities.