4 star rating: Recommended 50 Reviews

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  • Location:Istanbul, Turkey
  • Duration:4 hours (approx.)
Get a glimpse of Istanbul's fascinating Imperial legacies on this half-day sightseeing tour with an expert local guide. First visit Hagia Sophia, once one of the largest basilicas in the world and now the second-most visited museum in Turkey. Venture below ground to the ancient Basilica Cistern, which once supported the Great Palace of Constantinople, and hone your haggling skills at the bustling Grand Bazaar, one of the world's largest and oldest covered markets where you can shop for jewelry, spices, leather goods and souvenirs galore.


  • 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
  • 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

Your Imperial Istanbul tour starts with pickup from your hotel in the early afternoon. Traveling by minivan, your guide will spend five hours showing you the fascinating history and culture of Turkey's largest city.

Delving into Istanbul's ancient past, you'll learn that this city served as the capital of a whopping four empires: the Roman Empire (330–395), the Byzantine Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin Empire (1204–1261) and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922). Strategically located along the Silk Road, linking Europe and the Middle East, Istanbul has been fought over for thousands of years.

Your first stop is Hagia Sophia, a former Greek Orthodox church built in the 6th century by the Roman Emperor Justinian. The seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Hagia Sophia was one of the largest basilicas in the Christian world, and was converted into an Imperial mosque after the Ottoman conquest. Today it is a magnificent museum revealing Istanbul's complex layers of history and featuring stunning Byzantine mosaics. Join locals and visitors alike as you explore the second-most visited museum in Turkey with your guide, who'll explain what you see.

Just a few paces from Hagia Sophia lies the Basilica Cistern, your next stop. The largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city, the Basilica Cistern was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I to provide a water filtration system for the Great Palace of Constantinople.

Back above ground, head to the Grand Bazaar to practice your bargaining skills at one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. The original market was erected in the 15th century, shortly after the Ottoman conquest. Today you'll find a dizzying array of local treasures at more than 3,000 shops spread across 61 streets. Browse jewelry, leather, pottery, spices, carpets and more, and soak up the atmosphere of this cultural hotspot as your guide leads you through.

Your tour ends with hotel drop-off.

Customer Reviews

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!

5 star rating: Highly Recommended September 2014

Very professionally organized and executed.
Tour guide attentive and well read on subject matter.
Administration of payment and communication with us by VIATOR was extremely good and high appreciated bu us.

5 star rating: Highly Recommended July 2014

Once again, this tour was well organised, great, friendly and knowledgable guide Sevilay.We skipped all the long queues in the sun and were able to pack more into the day...thank you Viator!

5 star rating: Highly Recommended April 2014

We had a fantastic time on this tour! Tibet, our guide was brilliant and full of character one of the most funny, witty people I've met. She knew the history behind the amazing, gorgeous places we visited on this tour. The tour was executed pace fully and enough free time to relax and absorb the culture and atmosphere. Must see places in Istanbul! Thanks Tibet! Thanks Viator!!

5 star rating: Highly Recommended March 2014

It was so amazing and nice trip with tour gauide...i appriciat viator service.

Thanks viator and keep it up!!

5 star rating: Highly Recommended January 2014

The tour guide was friendly and knowledgable. She took us to see the historical sites and described the history behind each site. In the Grand Bazaar, she helped us to good shops for our souvenirs.

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Tour code: 3795IST06


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