Serefiye Cistern Guided Tour

Free with Istanbul Tourist Pass®

Regular Price: € 10

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Serefiye Cistern: The oldest underground cistern in Istanbul

The Serefiye Cistern is also known as the Theodosius Cistern after the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II who had it built between 428 and 443 to store fresh water for the city. The water was taken from Belgrade Forest through many canals which led to the Valens Aqueduct and finally to the Theodosius Cistern. The Serefiye Cistern and the more famous Basilica Cistern met Istanbul's water needs for centuries.

After 8 years of restoration, the Serefiye Cistern is now open to visitors and hosts many concerts and exhibitions.

What's Included?

An amazing skip-the-line guided tour is included with the Istanbul Tourist Pass.

Serefiye Cistern Guided Tour is free with Istanbul Tourist Pass®

Regular Price € 10

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Hours & Schedule


Wednesday to Sunday: 15:45
The approximate duration is 20 minutes

How To Get There?

The tour starts at the main bus stop for the Big Bus Tour Company at Sultanahmet Square. Look out for the dark red double-decker buses. It's about 20 metres (65 ft) in front of the Hagia Sophia Museum.

To get to Sultanahmet Square, take the T1 Bağılar - Kabataş tram and get off at Sultanahmet station. Walk towards Hagia Sophia and keep an eye out for the Big Bus stop.

Get Directions


  • The guided tours are performed in English.
  • The tour starts at the stop of the Big Bus in Sultanahmet. Click on Get Directions above to find the location.
  • You need to be at the meeting point at least 10 minutes bofore the start time of the tour.
  • The tour doesn't require a reservation in advance.

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One of the most unique and breathtaking places you can visit during your Istanbul tour is Serefiye Cistern, and that is quite a title to have in a city like Istanbul where you can find literally hundreds of different culturally and historically significant places to visit. Also known as the Theodosius Cistern, Serefiye Cistern is one of the many underground ancient cisterns in Istanbul and is open to visitors, waiting to be discovered. Without further ado, let us get into the details of this mesmerizing place.

Serefiye Cistern History

This particular cistern was made by the Emperor II. Theodosius, thus its other name Theodosius Cistern. Being built between the years of 428 and 443, its purpose was to store rain water by utilizing the Valens Aqueduct (Bozdogan Kemeri in Turkish) and supply water to the Nymphaeum, the Baths of Zeuxippus and the Great Palace of Constantinople. While it is also known as the Constantinus or Theodosius Cistern, it started being called Serefiye Cistern after the 19th century. It is one of the oldest cisterns in Istanbul along with Binbirdirek Cistern and Yerebatan Cistern.

Some of the important buildings that were built on the Serefiye Cistern are the Arif Pasha Mansion and the Eminonu Municipality. After the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality demolished the Eminonu Municipality in 2010, they discovered the Serefiye Cistern below. It underwent big restorations in 2010 and was opened in April 24, 2018 as a museum with the participation of the Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin, Mayor of Istanbul Mevlut Uysal, Fatih Mayor Mustafa Demir, IBB Kultur Inc. General Manager Kemal Kaptaner and many other citizens.

It is smaller than Binbirdirek Cistern and Yerebatan Cistern. While the inner area is not that big, it has a captivating atmosphere. It is 45 x 25 meters large and has 32 9 meters high marble pillars that are supporting it. It was recently discovered to be connected to the Binbirdirek Cistern.
Since its opening, it also hosted many exhibitions. Plus, Serefiye Cistern’s management started arranging acoustic concerts in every Saturday evening at 6 PM in 2019.

Visiting Serefiye Cistern

Since Serefiye Cistern is located in Fatih district, near the Sultan Ahmet neighborhood. If you are doing an Istanbul tour, you are probably going to come to Fatih at one point since the district is full of exciting places to visit. While you are in Fatih, there is nothing you can lose by visiting Serefiye Cistern since the entrance is completely free. Also, they are open every day of the week. The visiting hours are between 9 AM and 6 PM on every day except Saturdays, on which visiting hours are between 9 AM and 3 PM. The cistern also opens at 1 PM on the first days of the religious holidays. Since the museum is not under the Ministry of Culture, Muze Kart is not accepted, but you can book a Serefiye Cistern guided tour to skip the line and visit the Serefiye Cistern with a guide.

How to Get to Serefiye Cistern

To get to the Serefiye Cistern using the metro, you have to get on either the M1A Yenikapi – Ataturk Airport metro line or the M1B Yenikapi – Kirazlı metro line. You can use the M2 Yenikapi – Haciosman metro line to reach Yenikapi. On the M1A or M1B metro lines, get off at the Aksaray stop. From there, take the Kabatas – Bagcilar tramway line to the Sultan Ahmet stop and walk from there.
From the Asian side, you can use the ferries from Uskudar and Kadikoy to Eminonu and hop on the Kabatas – Bagcilar tramway and get off at the Sultan Ahmet stop. Alternatively, you can use the Marmaray to both reach Sirkeci or Yenikapi. From Sirkeci, you can also take the Kabatas – Bagcilar tramway to the Sultan Ahmet.

While You Are in Serefiye Cistern

Because of Serefiye Cistern’s culturally and historically rich location, it would be a waste to not discover it.
If you want to see one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world, book a Grand Bazaar guided tour and try not to get lost in this huge historical Turkish bazaar. With 61 streets and more than 4,000 shops, this place attracts literally hundreds of thousands of visitors every day, and there is no reason you shouldn’t be one of them.

While it may be the most obvious and famous place to visit in Istanbul, it is worth reminding that the Topkapi Palace is also in Fatih. This large museum was once the most important palace in the entire Ottoman Empire and it hosted thousands of important people throughout its 500 years of history. Do not miss this important landmark of history and join a Topkapi Palace tour to discover the rarest Ottoman treasures.
With its glittering mosaics, breath-taking interior design and central location in the history of Turkey, Hagia Sophia Museum is also awaiting its visitors near the Serefiye Cistern. Considered to be the peak of Byzantine architecture, it is the biggest church Byzantine Empire built in Istanbul. Byzantine emperors were crowned here. Throughout its 1500 years of history, it served as a Christian patriarchal cathedral, an Ottoman imperial mosque and now a museum. Buy a Hagia Sophia Museum ticket to visit this one-of-a-kind place.

To experience the best examples of the Islamic and Turkish art and the history of these 2 elements coming together, get a Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum ticket. It is one of the most important museums in all of Istanbul as it is the first Turkish museum ever to include this many examples of the Turkish and Islamic art together.

Turkey Is Bank Museum is another great choice. Witness the evolution of banking in Turkey inside the first bank of the country. Plus, the entry is free. Many documents, photographs, movies and objects about the banking in Turkey since 1924 are on the display here. Also, the building of the museum is the historical Postane building from 1892.

Last but not least, end your cultural trip on a high note by visiting The Great Palace Mosaic Museum and witness the greatest examples of the unique mosaic art that was born in Anatolia centuries ago. The pieces that are displayed here are from the Byzantine palaces that were long lost, and though they are only a fraction of the original pieces, they are still amazing historical relics that take us centuries back in time.