Theodosius Cistern (Serefiye Sarnici) in Istanbul

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Theodosius Cistern in Istanbul

Theodosius Cistern Entrance Fee and Opening Hours

Foundation legend of Istanbul dates back to Ancient Greece. Upon departing the city of Megara close by Gulf of Corinth, Byzas and his company came to Seraglio Point (Sarayburnu) and established Byzantium on the hill where Topkapı Palace resides now.

Shortage of water supplies was not a problem for this small community because only a few thousand people resided there at that time. However, after Byzantium was reconstructed and became Constantinople as the second capital of Roman Empire, population explosion caused significant water shortages.

Emperor Valens built the longest water network system until that time. Known as Valens Aqueduct supplied drinking water through Thrace (Star Mountains) to Istanbul.

Cisterns of Istanbul

Istanbul solved the problem of water shortage with the aqueducts that Valens built. But they needed to sustain the flowing water. For that purpose, tens of cisterns were built in the following centuries. Basilica Cistern is no doubt the most famous among them.

Until recently, there haven’t been any cisterns but Basilica Cistern to visit as a museum at the Historical Peninsula. Now Theodosius Cistern is among the most valuable museums of Istanbul thanks to eight-year-work of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.

Besides these two, Bindirdirek Cistern (Cistern of Philoxenos), Cistern Restaurant (Soğukçeşme Street), and the one that is used as an exhibition on the ground floor of Nakkas Rug Store (Nakilbent Street) are worth to see, as well. (all located in Sultanahmet area)

Underground Basilica Cistern in Istanbul
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Basilica Cistern

The History of Theodosius Cistern

Serefiye Cistern (its local name) is mentioned as Theodosius Cistern in English because it’s named after its builder, Theodosius II. He is an important figure because of his major contribution to the construction of the city, as he reigned as an Eastern Roman Emperor in Constantinople at the 4th century.

To exemplify, Walls of Constantinople (also known as Theodosian Walls) that guarded the city from any kind of threat for ages, was constructed under his reign.

Additionally, we need to keep in mind that it was himself who reconstructed 2nd generation Hagia Sophia (Theodosian Hagia Sophia). Theodosian Hagia Sophia was demolished during the Nika Revolt which broke out in 532, and Emperor Justinian built the 3rd generation Hagia Sophia that still stands today.

The construction of Theodosius Cistern took nearly 15 years, from 428 to 443. It was crucial for rulers to supply non-stop water in Sultanahmet area because it was the center of the capital in Roman, Byzantine (and even Ottoman) era.

The cisterns we have mentioned in this post are the main cisterns that supply water to the Great Palace, Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia and to several official buildings in Sultanahmet (Heart of Old City). There is a great documentary here published by Byzantium1200.

Theodosius Cistern Entrance Fee 2020

Entrance fee for Theodosius Cistern is 20 Turkish Lira as of 2020. Children under the age of 7 is free of charge. Since the Serefiye Cistern is not affiliated with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Istanbul Museum Pass is not valid in this museum.

The Istanbul Museum Pass, a product of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, is not valid in museums run by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. The other museums in this category are the Basilica Cistern, the Miniaturk Museum, the Panorama 1453 Museum and the Tekfur Palace Museum respectively.

Theodosius Cistern Visiting Hours 2020

The Theodosius Cistern is open from 09.00 in the morning to 18.00 in the evening. The museum can be visited every day of the week. It closes 3 hours earlier, at 15:00, for Saturday only.

Visiting times of museums in Istanbul may change due to events and renovations. There can be concerts at weekends at the Serefiye Cistern. Before going to the museum, I suggest you visit the official website of the Serefiye Cistern and review the latest situation.

Serefiye Sarnici or Theodosius Cistern in Istanbul

Theodosius Cistern (Serefiye Sarnici)

The entrance of Theodosius Cistern in Istanbul.

Image by Ayhan Altun from Getty Images

Where is it and How to Serefiye Cistern

In order to visit Theodosius Cistern (locally known as Şerefiye Sarnıcı) you need to find Piyer Loti Hotel which is located on Divanyolu Street (Tramline street in Sultanahmet) and then take the turning to Piyer Loti Street.

In order to find the Piyer Loti Street, you need to take the Sultanahmet Tram Station behind you and walk in the direction of the next tram stop which is called as Cemberlitas. Before you arrive at Cemberlitas Tram Station where Column of Constantine (Burnt Column) stands, you’ll see the cafeteria of Piyer Loti Hotel on your left.

Take the turning at the café and go straight ahead. You’ll realize a steel construction building at the square. That elegant building covered in glass is the entrance to the cistern.

Theodosius Cistern Ticket Price and Hours 2020

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