Istanbul ATTRACTIONS See all

Basilica Cistern

Atmospheric music, rosy flood lighting and the lilting sound of water lapping on marble – entering the Underground Cistern known in Turkish as Yerebatan Sarayi - or Basilica Cistern, is an experience that charms all the senses. Built to store ... 

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eddy

5 star rating: Highly Recommended
October 2016

Excellent full day tour with a wonderful guide. Got to see everything I wanted to see: Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern. Had a tasty Turkish lunch included in the price, and afterwards continued to the Grand Bazaar, Spice Market and took the Bosphorus boat tour. Due to the current situation in Turkey, there were absolutely no lines outside the attractions. However this is a city like no other, and shouldn't be missed.

Doing what: Small-Group Istanbul Tour: Skip-the-Line Hagia Sophia and Basilica Cistern, Bosphorus Cruise, Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar

Linda P

5 star rating: Highly Recommended
June 2016

Incredible Istanbul - This was an exhilarating day full of wonders and unforgettable experiences. Our guide Erkut was absolutely delightful. As advertised we visited the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Cistern, the Grand Bazar, the spice market and enjoyed a delicious Turkish lunch. Erkut provided just the right amount of information about the history of this fascinating city. Our cruise along the Bosphorous during the last part of the day was an excellent opportunity to sit and relax and exchange information.
Highly recommended for a full day of exploring Istanbul.

Doing what: Small-Group Istanbul Tour: Skip-the-Line Hagia Sophia and Basilica Cistern, Bosphorus Cruise, Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar

Winfried C

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.

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

James H

5 star rating: Highly Recommended
March 2015

Wow. This was a great tour. We learned the full history of Hagia Sophia. Our guide, Gülay knew every date and every detail. The Basilica Cistern was much different than I expected and enhanced by the knowledge of our guide. We had the opportunity to go to a private pottery showroom and have a personal demonstration. My favorite, was the Grand Bazaar. It is overwhelming, but our guide had a good knowledge of which vendors were reputable and helped us navigate. She should do shopping tours!

Doing what: Private Half-day Tour: Imperial Istanbul - Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern and Grand Bazaar

Nancy B

5 star rating: Highly Recommended
August 2013

Private guide picked us up on time, took us to the Hagia Sophia, Cistern, and Bazaar, gave us private time, and transferred us back to the hotel. Could not have been better.

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

edhadley

5 star rating: Highly Recommended
April 2013

I would recommend the full day tour, but we only had a half day available. Good tour guide and interesting tour. Suggest you copy what is on tour (its not on the voucher), as our tour guide would have left out the Roman Cisterns (which was a highlight), if I had not reminded her.

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

JOHN F

4 star rating: Recommended
March 2015

Yes it was interesting ,the history of the Hagia sofia mosque and basilica cistern Had a great history.but the carpet shop visit was unusual in istanbul there was a salesman describing how a carpet was made and a attempting to sell us a carpet should it be on the tour NO.the guide was helpful

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

bjrmr4u

4 star rating: Recommended
July 2014

For the Hagia Sophia and the Basillica Cistern I joined a group who had be on tour since that morning, but for the Grand Bazaar I had the guide (Sylvia?) all to myself which was a bonus She was able to give me undivided attention and we had a nice afternoon exploring the Bazaar. I would never had found my way out on my own!! Hagia Sophia and Basisillica Cistern were fascinating and the guide was able to explain to the group the history of both.

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

Erkki L Finland

3 star rating: Worth doing
September 2015

The Basillica Cistern and Hagia Sophia are a must. They are historically some of the most interesting destinations in the world. HS museum has a lot of christian history inside as well, perhaps even more than muslim.

However, our guide was very poor. Young abnoxious guy, who had limited information about the destinations and not so good english language as to be able to really communicate with his customers. He was criticizing our young daughter of 5 for bothering his concentration and insulting a person outside the group by making a useless remark in HS that you may not listen to my speech. Very poor behaviour.

Grand Bazaar can be nice, for someone, who has not visited it before. for us it seemed useless as well as the extensive carpet shop visit. However, the cistern under the carpet shop had a very interesting exhibition about the hippodrome. This and the texts in HS and other places were well executed in Istanbul and explained much better things than our guide.

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

Nicole L USA

3 star rating: Worth doing
June 2014

This tour is worth doing, especially to see Hagia Sophia. The Cistern was cool to see, but it's not a must-see. Grand Bazaar was cool to see, but, in my opinion, the Egyptian is way better priced with better quality items. I just felt like I was rushed on the tour, like the other tours I took in Istanbul.

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

Garry M United Kingdom

3 star rating: Worth doing
May 2014

Worth doing but may as well have gone on a tour with other people. One of the reasons for opting for the private tour was fact that other tours seemed to include some form of 'selling' visit eg to carpet maker. Having suffered this experience in both Marrakesch and Delhi it is something we wished to avoid. However the private tour we soon discovered also included just such a delight. We made it clear to the guide that we did not wish to do this. Consequently, rather than the 4 hours promised on the tour description, the whole experience ie Hagia Sofia, Byzantine Cistern and Grand Bazaar was over in under 3 hours. Our guide was a very pleasant young man but I felt perhaps lacked the sort of experience and knowledge we might have expected from a more mature person. Overall, therefore, a bit disappointing and not particularly good value for the £102 it cost.

Doing what: Private Half-day Tour: Imperial Istanbul - Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern and Grand Bazaar

Heather M

2 star rating: It was OK, but could have been better
July 2016

The tour we paid for was supposed to be a full day with a lunch and a cruise as well as all the other highlights. We were done before lunch. We did not get a lunch, a cruise or the Grand Bazaar or the Spice Bazaar. We only did the Hagis Sophis, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern and Hipodome. The young woman who was our tour guide was very knowledgable about the history and the part we did get was well done but I feel very ripped off with what I paid and what we got. I would not pay for a tour with you in the future because we have no recourse for what we spent and what we got for that. Maybe a communication breakdown in what we paid for and what was communicated to the local tour group.

Doing what: Small-Group Istanbul Tour: Skip-the-Line Hagia Sophia and Basilica Cistern, Bosphorus Cruise, Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar

Hannah S

2 star rating: It was OK, but could have been better
October 2015

Mixed review of the tour. It was extremely helpful to be able to skip all of the lines at the locations of our half-day Istanbul Tour, especially because it was raining the day of our tour. The tour guide was fairly knowledgeable, however, we could have received a bit more information, especially at the Grand Bazaar. Also, some information we were given on the tour has proven to be false. There, we were just delivered to the location and set free, without any explanation of its history. There was not much time for questions, and at each location, instead of guiding us through with accompanying information, the guide simply gave a quick explanation at the entrance and set us free after designating a meeting point. Also, in the middle of the tour, we stopped at a traditional turkish carpet-weaving demonstration, which started out interestingly, but then turned into a lengthy and fairly uncomfortable sales pitch. As students, we are clearly not in the position to be considering a purchase of a 50,000 rug. I would not doubt if the tour organization has some sort of agreement with the carpet company. It was disheartening that we spent more time in this sales pitch approx. an hour than the Basilica Cistern 15-20 mins and the Hagia Sophia 30-40 mins. Considering the minimal entrance fees that were waived with the tour, but the ease of skipping the lines, it is debatable whether the tour gives you enough bang for your buck.

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

Cheryl P Canada

2 star rating: It was OK, but could have been better
October 2015

The Hagia Sophia is an absolute must see and going with a tour means avoiding the long lineups. The Basillica Cistern was also worth a view. However those are the only good things I can say about this tour.
Our tour started quite a bit later than planned and our guide did not seem very enthusiastic about his work. He would give the group a short preamble before each site and then send us to wander on our own while he would wait for us at the exit. We also found out that the Grand Bazaar was closed due to a High Holiday and he led us to believe that he was taking us, instead, to see a second Cistern. In fact we ended up herded into a carpet shop where we were given a short demonstration of carpet making which was then to be followed-up by a major sales pitch. Many of us in the group felt conned. Three of us managed to escape and go instead to a local restaurant to grab a beer and some much need laughs. We did have to give up the free drive home, that was offered as part of our package, but not one of us regretted getting away. The Half Day Imperial Tour could have been very, very good, under different circumstances, but this particular day was not worth the money!

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

Diana M

2 star rating: It was OK, but could have been better
December 2013

2 stars because of the beautiful sites. The Hagia Sophia was especially beautiful in the snow. I was absolutely shocked, however, that the Blue Mosque was not included since it was a stone's throw away. Our guide was knowledgeable and kind at first, but became angry and sullen when we didn't want to visit a "traditional carpet shop", after that he walked ahead of us at a fast rate, and kind of ignored us. For a quarter of the price, if you are in the area (we were staying in Beyazit), just hop on the tram and see the sites yourself. Hagia Sophia and the Underground Cistern are beautiful---you don't need a whiny guide to ruin your day.

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

Maira

2 star rating: It was OK, but could have been better
November 2013

Even though the guide was very nice and informative, this tour could have been a lot better with minor management changes. The time management again was very desapointing and at the end it seemed this is not the guide's problem but the logistics of the company. First the tour happened in the morning, not the afternoon, which spoiled some plans I had made before. Than I was picked up even before the time arranged, and from my hotel to picking up a couple in another hotel until finally meeting the guide and arriving in the first attraction (Grand Bazaar) it took more than one hour, we spent a lot of time in the van stop in the middle of the city waiting things to happen. We spent too much time in the van and in the Grand Bazaar (the least interesting attraction of the tour), even though the guide rushed inside sometimes, we spent too less time in both Hagia Sophia and the Cistern. In total we had two hours for the three attractions. In the end I found out this time issue was due to the fact that they accomodated me in a group that had other places to go in the afternoon, which was rather annoying because I didn't want to make a tour full of attractions because I wanted to make sure I would have time to see it all, but it didn't make any difference since I was in a tour where things were rushed. The day after the tour I went back to Hagia Sophia because during the tour we missed an extremely important part of Hagia Sophia, which is the second floor where you can see the byzantine mosaic panels, this was very desapointing.

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

Tara J

1 star rating: I do not recommend this
June 2014

This tour was awful. We were picked up at our hotel at 1pm. Then we had to sit on a bench and wait for 1 hour for the morning group to finish lunch because they were running behind. The tour guide, I say this loosely because he barely spoke, took us to the Basillica Cistern. He gave us exactly 3 minutes worth of history about it then told us to meet him outside in 20 minutes. He then took us to the Hagia Sophia. At least we got a full 15 minutes of history out of him before he left us on our own and randomly pointed out places to go inside. We then went to the absolutely stupidest carpet demonstration that is such a scam. We rounded out the day at the Grand Bazaar. He pressured the group to stay longer than the tour time. This way he didn't have to drive anyone home. He again randomly started pointing which way our hotel was (Hotel Levni) and said it was about a 5-10 minute walk. Which was just a flat out lie. For two in shape women in their 30's it took us 25 minutes. I am so disappointed in Viator and will not be contacting you again. I just can't believe you would partner with such an awful local company.

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

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