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

Duration: 4 hours
Destination: Turkey, Turkey, Istanbul

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  • 4 hours
  • Istanbul
  • E-Voucher
  • Lowest Price
  • Cancellable


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.

This is a typical itinerary for this product

Stop At: Kapali Carsi, Kalpakcilar Cad. Sorguclu Han No: 22, Istanbul 34126 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.

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).

Duration: 1 hour

Stop At: Hagia Sophia Mosque, Sultan Ahmet, Ayasofya MeydanI No:1, Istanbul 34122 Turkey

St Sophia

Duration: 1 hour

Stop At: Basilica Cistern, Alemdar Mahallesi, Yerebatan Caddesi, No:1/3, Istanbul 34410 Turkey

Basilica Cistern

Duration: 1 hour

  • Local guide
  • Transport by air-conditioned minivan
  • Hotel pickup and drop-off
  • Entry/Admission - Hagia Sophia Mosque
  • Entry/Admission - Basilica Cistern

  • Gratuities
  • Food and drinks, unless specified
  • 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
  • Not wheelchair accessible
  • Infants must sit on laps
  • Not recommended for pregnant travelers
  • Most travelers can participate
  • This experience requires a minimum number of travelers. If it’s canceled because the minimum isn’t met, you’ll be offered a different date/experience or a full refund
  • This tour/activity will have a maximum of 14 travelers
  • Face masks required for travelers in public areas
  • Face masks required for guides in public areas
  • Face masks provided for travelers
  • Hand sanitizer available to travelers and staff
  • Social distancing enforced throughout experience
  • Regularly sanitized high-traffic areas
  • Gear/equipment sanitized between use
  • Transportation vehicles regularly sanitized
Departure Point

Traveler pickup is offered

Departure Time

1:00 PM

Voucher info

You can present either a paper or an electronic voucher for this activity.


4 hours

For a full refund, cancel at least 3 days in advance of the start date of the experience.

User's Reviews


28 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 La Vacanza Travel 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.

Mattias R

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.

Fatimah A

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

Hanna Z

22 Nov, 2017

I booked a day tour of Istanbul last week, the day before the tour, Neon Tours cancelled it, they asked me to cancel my booking on La Vacanza Travel website where I had initially made the booking and they said they would reimburse me. I'm still waiting for their refund. They are not replying to my messages.

User's Picture Gallery


Basilica Cistern

Most impressed with the recycled pillars and capitals !


Hagia Sophia

Awe inspiring


Hagia Sophia

The Hagia was a highlight





Am Goldenen Horn

Blick auf die Süleymaniye-Moschee


Istanbul - Goldenes Horn

Blick vom Galataturm aufs Goldene Horn und die Altstadt


Hagia Sophia

Juxtaposition of religions


Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia


Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia


Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia


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