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4 star rating: Recommended 61 Reviews

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  • Location:Istanbul, Turkey
  • Duration:4 hours (approx.)

Imperial Istanbul Half-Day Tour: Hagia Sophia, Basillica Cistern and Grand Bazaar

Venture to imperial monuments rich with history and discover the Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern and the Grand Bazaar during this half-day guided tour in Istanbul. Gaze at the Hagia Sophia’s massive columns and dome during a visit to one of the world’s largest basilicas and most popular museums in Turkey. This tour will take you underground to Basilica Cistern which was once the backbone of the Great Palace of Constantinople. Enjoy a trip to the Grand Bazaar where you can barter for souvenirs and feel the pulse of one of the oldest and largest covered markets on the planet. 


  • Half-day sightseeing tour of Istanbul's Imperial past
  • Learn how Istanbul served as the capital of an astounding four empires over thousands of years
  • Visit Hagia Sophia, a magnificent museum offering insight into Istanbul's complex past
  • See the inner workings of the Great Palace of Constantinople in the underground Basilica Cistern or Nakkas Cistern
  • Shop for authentic Turkish mementos at the massive Grand Bazaar

Recent Photos of This Tour

What You Can Expect

Imperial Istanbul Half-Day Tour: Hagia Sophia, Basillica Cistern and Grand Bazaar

Turkis shoes at the Grand Bazaar, Turkey

Meet your guide in around 1pm at your central Istanbul hotel and set-off on your imperial Istanbul half-day tour. Head to Hagia Sophia aboard an air-conditioned minivan. Along the way enjoy commentary from your guide that explains the rich history of Istanbul. Learn about four empires who sculpted the city’s architecture and culture and include the Roman empire (330–395), the Byzantine Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin Empire (1204–1261) and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922).

Arrive at Hagia Sophia, constructed in the 6th century as a Greek Orthodox church when Istanbul was known as Constantinople. Built by the Roman Emperor Justinian, learn how this basilica reigned as the largest in the Christian world before the Ottoman empire captured and converted it into an imperial mosque. A museum since the early 20th century, walk through its impressive dome structure and observe beautiful Byzantine mosaics. Listen as your guide explains the intricate history of the second-most visited museum in Turkey.

Nearby, cruise underground to the Basilica Cistern which was used as a water filtration system by the Byzantine Empire in the 6th century. Marvel at the immense size of the largest of hundreds of old cisterns in Istanbul. Gain insight into the importance of this cistern as your guide explains how it served the Great Palace of Constantinople.

Return to the surface and make your way to the oldest and largest canopied markets in the world - the Grand Bazaar. Since the 15th century, when the Ottomans began their reign, this market has been a cultural and trade center for jewelry, pottery, spices, quality leather goods, and fine carpets. As you explore some of the 61 streets and 3,000 plus shops, stop to ogle local treasures and if you want haggle for a souvenir.

Once you leave the bustling market, follow your guide to your minivan and finish your tour with a transfer back to your hotel.

Please note: On Mondays, the Hagia Sophia is closed and will be swapped with Chora Museum, you may visit the Nakkas Cistern or Basilica Cistern, and the Grand Bazaar is closed on Sundays, so extra time will be allocated to the other two landmarks.

Customer Reviews

5 star rating: Highly Recommended October 2015

A really good tour. Guide informative, efficient and helpful.

5 star rating: Highly Recommended October 2015

Great way to visit all the important historical sites of Istanbul! We were picked up from our hotel in a nice minibus and taken to meet the group who were on the full day tour. Tour guide was very knowledgeable. Make sure you each lunch before the tour begins, otherwise when you arrive at the Grand Bazaar there are plenty of places to grab a doner.

5 star rating: Highly Recommended October 2015

This is worth taking as they take you to the major sites and our guide also told us about the hippodrome which was very interesting!! We had been looking for it on our own but couldn't find it. Our guide was very knowledge about the tour!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Glad we took it!!

5 star rating: Highly Recommended September 2015

Very knowledgable tour guide Would recommend to everyone

5 star rating: Highly Recommended September 2015

Excellent tour and guide.
We took the half day tour which was just right. Our guide was friendly and informative and let us go at our own pace.
Well worth the money.
And yes, we did buy a carpet....
Thank you.

5 star rating: Highly Recommended September 2015

We lucked out with a private tour - only the two of us. Guide was friendly, knowledgeable and informative. All three sites are worth visiting, we had no wait because our guide had tickets, and we went directly in to both the Hagia Sophia and Basiillica Cistern even though there were extremely long lines. Worth it to book a tour! Our guide helped us to wind out way through the Grand Bazaar and had some good tips for us. This tour enhanced our visit to Istanbul.

5 star rating: Highly Recommended June 2015


5 star rating: Highly Recommended June 2015

A great half day tour of some of the more important sights in Istanbul. We were picked up at our hotel in a comfortable small bus and had Gulay as our guide. She was wonderful, very informative and she took care of our small group 4 at every turn. I highly recommend this tour for a fun, exciting look at Istanbul.

5 star rating: Highly Recommended June 2015

Great tour. Excellent tour guide.

5 star rating: Highly Recommended December 2014

This tour was amazing!

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Tour code: 3795IST06


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