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

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Tour Information

Key Details

  • Mobile Voucher Accepted
  • Hotel pickup Available
  • Free Cancellation
  • Duration: 4 Hrs
  • Language:
    English
  • Departure Time :
    1:00 PM Hotel pickups commence approximately 30 - 60 minutes prior to this time, exact pickup time will be advised on reconfirmation.
  • Departure Details :
    Traveler pickup is offered
  • Return Details :
    Returns to original departure point at approximately 5pm
  • Cancellation Policy :
    For a full refund, cancel at least 24 hours in advance of the start date of the experience. Tours booked using discount coupon codes will be non refundable.

Overview

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.

Know More about this tour

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 (330395), the Byzantine Empire (3951204 and 12611453), the Latin Empire (12041261) and the Ottoman Empire (14531922). 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.
Please note: You may visit the Basilica cistern or Nakkas Cistern, Hagia sophia (Closed on Mondays; will be replaced with Chora Museum), Grand bazaar (Closed on Sundays; additional time will be spent at the other locations).

Inclusions

Local guide

Transport by air-conditioned minivan

Hotel pickup and drop-off

Entry/Admission - Hagia Sophia Museum / Church (Ayasofya)

Entry/Admission - Basilica Cistern

Exclusions

Gratuities

Food and drinks, unless specified

Additional Info

Confirmation will be received at time of booking

Not recommended for children aged 4 and under

Children 18 years and under must be accompanied by an adult

In the event of any museum closures, an alternative similar museum will be visited

Hagia Sophia will be closed on Mondays, should you travel on this day, you'll visit the Chora Museum instead

The Grand Bazaar is closed on Sundays and on religious holidays (September 1-4, 2017) should you travel on these days, you'll spend additional time at Hagia Sophia and the Basilica Cistern

Traveler Reviews

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  • 30-Sep-2019

    Had trouble contacting guide. Was told we needed to contact to organise hotel pick up. We got motel to ring and suppose to ring us back but never did. Motel rang again on day of activity and after getting recording up until 9.30 am (supppose to open at 9 am) finally told they would pick us up.

    Actual tour of sophia basilica and the cistern was good. However, did NOT appreciate wasting time/unscheduled half hour 'carpet rug' sales pitch. We were hoping for bit of a refreshment stop and told we were, only to have to sit through a sales pitch from local rug trader and only offered tea of coffee (I was dying for cold drink),

    This was then followed by rush through the bazaar and were almost subjected to another sales pitch by some local china bowl trader but we 'pulled the plug' and said we had had enough.

    Guide was informative and enjoyed the cistern and sophia hagia, bazaar was rushed and whole thing only took about 3-4 hours (at our request though as didnt want another sales pitch). Found this very annoying and not to standards, dont mind even 10 mins of trader promotion but to spend half hour or more was very annnoying, and we needed a proper refreshment stop.

  • 14-Jun-2018

    This tour was quite a bit of a disappointment.

    The visit to Hagia Sophia was a nice visit and the only real saving grace of the tour. However one should be aware that the time the guide shares information about the place is NOT substantial, and you are then left to your own devices. In many ways, I could have easily gone there on my own.

    The Basilica Cistern would have been fine... except the guide only shared some urban legends and did not bother sharing the true historic reasons for many of the things found in the cistern.

    Then came the uncomfortable part... a historic demonstration of turkish carpet weaving at a carpet shop. A poor excuse for what was in essence an extended sales pitch that took the better part of an hour. I had read earlier reviews so was prepared for it, but it did not make things any less uncomfortable for our entire group. The only saving grace was the air conditioning which provided some comfort from the heat. But this was easily the longest part of the entire tour and to have an entire sales team try to pressure you into buying a carpet is NOT the reason I booked it. The guide even warned us not to go back there alone later... if that means he wont get a commission if we do or if there is a more sinister reason, I have no idea... but hardly a good sign in any event.

    And finally the grand bazaar... this could have been a nice visit if not for our tour guide. At first he was nice and even showed us the way to shops... but he very deliberately tried to separate us even when we explicitly told him that we wanted to stay in a small group, something that frustrated him greatly it is easier to pressure someone into buying if they are separated after all. And when he showed us the way to shops he criticised us if we did not buy things immediately and could not accept that we would not buy anything in a store he had brought us to.

    In short, I do not recommend this tour and would suggest that if you want to see the Hagia Sophia and the other sites you do so on another tour or even on your own.

  • 01-Feb-2018

    It was a good tour the guide was informative. The historical references and the magnificent architecture at Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern leaves you spellbound. Good to book with a definite skip-the-lines experience. Long queues mostly at these popular monuments. Sadly, Grand Bazaar was closed being Sunday, however, the guide took us to the spice bazaar, more commonly called an Egyptian Bazaar.

  • 20-Jan-2018

    The guide was unhappy having only the two of us (not my fault). The tour was done in 2 hours instead of 4. I am sure he was knowledgeable but didn’t bother to till us anything if we don’t ask. Hagia Sofia was done in less than 25 minutes and it was the main reason I booked this tour. Not worth the m

  • 31-Jul-2017

    The guide was very knowledgeable in history of the sites and provided time for pictures. FYI - there is an option on this tour to see Turkish carpet manufacturing. Please note that there is not much direction inside the Grand Bazaar - the guide simply drops the group at one of the 20 gates and you are on your own in that maze of 4500 shops. Watch out for your belongings.

  • 01-Apr-2017

    A great guide and a special tour

  • 17-Mar-2016

    The tour was extremely well organised . The guide was very knowledgeable and friendly. This tour is highly recommended.

  • 27-Oct-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.

  • 21-Oct-2015

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

  • 19-Oct-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.

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