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Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern: Our most recommended tours and activities

Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Tour and Skip The Line with Guide

1. Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Tour and Skip The Line with Guide

Discover the Basilica Cistern under the streets of Istanbul on a guided tour. Be amazed by the stunning architecture of the cistern during the tour and gaze at the Medusa Heads. Skip-the-line and avoid the long queue, as you follow your guide through history. Meet your guide in front of the exit gate of the Basilica Cistern and enter together. Skip the long lines and enjoy a highlights tour and learn interesting facts about the water cistern with an audio guide. Marvel at the engineering of the cistern while hearing the history with a downloadable audio guide. After your guided tour, stay and explore the building at your own pace. 

Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Skip-the-Line Guided Tour

2. Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Skip-the-Line Guided Tour

Visit the Basilica Cistern, built in the 4th century and enlarged in 532 AD, used as water storage during Byzantine times. Listen to your guide as they explain the mystery of Medusa heads from Greek mythology. Explore this cathedral-size cistern, built during the reign of Emperor Justinian I in 532 A.D. to supply water to the Great Palace. It stores up to 80,000 cubic meters of water, delivered via 20 kilometers of aqueducts from a reservoir near the Black Sea. Descend the fifty-two stone steps into the entrance of the cistern. The cistern is surrounded by a firebrick wall with a thickness of 4 meters, coated with a waterproofing mortar. Hear how the Basilica Cistern's water comes from the Eğrikapı Water Distribution Center in the Belgrade Forest and travels through the 971-meter-long Valens Aqueduct and the 115-meter-long Mağlova Aqueduct, built by the Emperor Justinian.

Istanbul: Topkapi, Hagia Sophia and Basilica Cistern Tour

3. Istanbul: Topkapi, Hagia Sophia and Basilica Cistern Tour

Join a guided tour to discover Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, and the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul. Benefit from priority admission at the museum ticket offices to skip the long lines and head in faster. Meet your guide in the Sultanahmet neighborhood at an easy spot and check out Istanbul's greatest monuments on a walking tour. Start with the Basilica Cistern, wander around the “Subterranean Palace” and learn about its history. See the underground pillars and learn about Byzantine architecture. Walk on the wooden walkways over the water until the famous upside-down Medusa heads. Next, visit the Hagia Sophia and witness the most significant site of the Greek Orthodox religion in Istanbul and learn how it was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. Explore the stunning monument with elements of a mosque and a church standing next to each other. Admire the basilica’s stunning dome and minarets, and countless mosaics, paintings, and Roman columns. Learn how the impressive İznik tiles were added over time in the Mosque, how the stunning Virgin Mary mosaic was made, and why the Ottomans chose to bury their sultans in the courtyard. Continue to Topkapi Palace to explore the splendor of the Ottoman Empire. Discover the complex of buildings, pavilions, and courtyards was a self-contained city, which most inhabitants rarely left. Explore the outer-terraced gardens and admire the view over the Golden Horn. Visit the Harem, ruled by the Queen Mother who wielded domestic and political power. The harem housed hundreds of women and family members as well as hundreds of eunuchs, who performed a wide range of duties. Admire cupboard doors inlaid with mother of pearl and tortoiseshell and stunning Iznik tiles with verses from the Quran. The tour ends with a visit to the holy relics and the imperial kitchens.

Istanbul: 1, 2 or 3-Day Private City Guided Tour

4. Istanbul: 1, 2 or 3-Day Private City Guided Tour

Discover the best of Istanbul on this 1, 2, or 3-day private tour that covers the major attractions, such as the Hagia Sophia Museum, the iconic Blue Mosque, the bustling maze of the Grand Bazaar, and the obelisk of the Hippodrome of Constantinople. A few of the possible attraction you'll visit on your tour include: The Hagia Sophia, a great architectural beauty and an important monument during the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. For many centuries, this was the largest church in the world, and it still boasts the 4th largest dome after St. Paul's in London, St. Peter's in Rome, and the Duomo in Florence. Dedicated to the Hagia Sophia or 'divine wisdom', it is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture. The Blue Mosque, more officially known as the "Sultanahmet" Mosque has striking blue tiles give it its more common name and make it one of Istanbul’s most iconic attractions. Located close to Topkapi Palace, Sultanahmet Mosque was considered the Supreme Imperial Mosque in Istanbul. Topkapi Palace, a relic of the glory days of the great Ottoman Empire. The former palace boasted a population of about 4,000 people at its peak and was home to 25 sultans over a period of 400 years. Located on a promontory overlooking the Golden Horn, it sits in tranquil gardens that provide shade from the blazing heat of the summer. Pop in to the museum to see the gorgeous Iznik tiles and the ornate stateroom of the harem, among other attractions. The Hippodrome is the former circus built in 203 AD by the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus. Three monuments from the original building remain, including the Egyptian Obelisk, the Serpentine Column, and the Constantine Column. Pause to look at the German Fountain of Wilhelm II, made from 8 marble columns. The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. With hundreds of small handcraft shops selling everything from handmade carpets to Turkish coffee, the atmosphere is electric, and it's a great place to try out your bargaining skills. The spice bazaar is located in Fatih. It's known as the Egyptian Market because during the Ottoman period, Egyptian exports were sold there. The Bosphorus is a narrow, navigable strait between Europe and Asia that connects the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea. Rumeli and Anadolu Fortresses are located at the narrowest point of Bosphorus. There are also magnificent Ottoman palaces and mosques along the Bosphorus. Keep an eye out for them. Built in the 19th century, Dolmabahce Palace was the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire and housed some of the last Ottoman Sultans. The palace site was created by filling in the small bay on the Bosphorus. This gave rise to its name — in Turkish, Dolma means "filled" or "stuffed," and bahce means "garden". Istiklal Street is brimming with life. There, you'll find a plethora of shops, restaurants, and bars, and from there, it's an interesting and scenic 2-kilometer walk down to the Tunel Galata Tower area. See this and more depending on which length tour option you select. Possible Itinerary for each day of the tour: Day 1: Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern, Grand Bazaar, Hippodrome Day 2: Spice Market, Bosphorus Cruise, Dolmabahce Palace, Taksim Square, Istiklal, Galata Tower Day 3: Suleymaniye Mosque, Chora Church, Fener/Balat Districts, Pierre Loti Hill

Istanbul: Hagia Sophia, Topkapi, and Basilica Combo Tour

5. Istanbul: Hagia Sophia, Topkapi, and Basilica Combo Tour

Be free to visit the Basilica Cistern, Topkapi Palace, and Hagia Sophia at any time for three consecutive days. Skip the ticket lines and browse through the fascinating museums at your own pace. Uncover the secrets of each location with the help of an informative audioguide. You can choose to visit all 3 museums in 1 day, or the three of them separately on different days. Once inside the museums, get tips on how to discover the museums in the best way. Afterward, you can stroll through the museums at your own pace as you listen to your audio guide app and explore for as long as you like. If you have any questions about the Hagia Sophia, the Topkapi Palace, the Cisterna Basilica, or Istanbul in general, please do not hesitate to ask your English-speaking tour guide.

Basilica Cistern & Hagia Sophia Combo Tour (English Guide)

6. Basilica Cistern & Hagia Sophia Combo Tour (English Guide)

See two of Istanbul's most famous sites with this combo guided tour of the Basilica Cistern and Hagia Sofia. Enjoy a guided tour inside both sites and save valuable time to see more of the city. Experience the freedom to visit both sites in one day or over two days. Skip-the-line at the Basilica Cistern and meet your guide at the entrance and avoid waiting in two lines to gain entry. Descend into the mysterious sixth-century water reservoir, and see a new side of Istanbul that you haven't seen before. Enjoy a 30-minute orientation tour of the museum, and then enjoy free time to stay as long as you like to explore the museum and learn more about the Cistern's history in Istanbul. Meet your guide for the Hagia Sofia at specific times in front of the world-famous structure. Enter with your knowledgeable guide and listen as they give a 30-minute tour of the museum before taking your time exploring the rest of the museum. Discover the Unesco heritage site at your own pace and enjoy an included audio app with more information about the site.

Istanbul: Skip-the-Line Basilica Cistern Guided Tour

7. Istanbul: Skip-the-Line Basilica Cistern Guided Tour

Enjoy a small group or a private guided tour In Istanbul to visit the Basilica Cistern. Skip the longest lines with priority admission at the ticket office, and start learning about the fascinating lives of the Byzantines sooner. Meet your guide in the Sultanahmet neighborhood and then stroll towards the Basilica Cistern. Wander together to the “Subterranean Palace,” where you’ll learn about Byzantine architecture and the area’s intriguing history as you gaze upon underground pillars. Walk on the wooden walkways over the water with an eye out for the famous upside-down Medusa heads. As you explore the interior of the famous cistern, learn how it was used both by the Byzantines and the Ottomans in history. Admire the stunning pillars and Roman arches built to support the huge empty space to store fresh water for Constantinople.

Istanbul: Basilica Cistern & Dolmabahçe Palace Combo Tour

8. Istanbul: Basilica Cistern & Dolmabahçe Palace Combo Tour

Get to the heart of two of Istanbul's must-see highlights, the Basilica Cistern and the Dolmabahçe Palace. Enjoy skip-the-line entry before taking a guided tour of both landmarks. Basilica Cistern Tour Times Mondays 09:00 , 12:00 Tuesdays 09:00, 12:00, 15:45 Wednesdays 09:00 Thursdays 09:00 , 12:00, 15:45 Fridays 09:00, 12:00, 16:30 Saturdays 09:00, 12:00, 15:45 Sundays 09:00, 12:00, 16:15 Basilica Cistern Tour Meeting Point: Meet with the guide in front of the Busforus Sultanahmet (Old City) Stop. Dolmabahce Palace Tour Times Mondays No Tours(Palace is closed) Tuesdays 09:00, 14:15 Wednesdays 14:00 Thursdays 09:00, 14:15 Fridays 09:00, 14:15 Saturdays 09:00, 14:15 Sundays 09:00, 14:15, 15:45 Dolmabahce Palace Tour Meetinh Point: Meet the guide in front of the clock tower in Dolmabahce Palace. Clock Tower is located at the entrance of Dolmabahce Palace after the security check. Skip the queues at the Basilica Cistern, located in the heart of the city center. Learn about its construction as a water supply for the Hagia Sophia mosque, the Great Palace of Constantinople, and fountains and baths throughout Istanbul. Marvel at its architecture featuring over 300 columns. Next, visit the Dolmabahçe Palace, an impressive European-style structure. With 285 rooms, this palace is one of the biggest in Turkey. Learn from your guide about its foundations in the Ottoman Empire, and its royal inhabitants throughout the decades. Your ticket includes access to the Palace's Harem section, the private quarters where the Ottoman sultan lived with his family.

Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Entry Ticket & Grand Bazaar Tour

9. Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Entry Ticket & Grand Bazaar Tour

Visit two of Istanbul's must-see highlights, Basilica Cistern and Grand Bazaar. Enjoy skip-the-line entry to Basilica Cistern with professional tour guide. Basilica Cistern Tour Times Monday 09:00 - 12:00 Tuesday 09:00 - 12:00 - 16:30 Wednesday 09:00 - 12:00 Thursday 09:00 - 12:00 - 15:45 Friday 09:00 - 12:00 - 16:30 Saturday 09:00 - 12:00 - 15:45 Sunday 09:00 - 12:00 - 16:15 Basilica Cistern Tour Meeting Point: Meet with the guide in front of the Busforus Sultanahmet (Old City) Stop. Our guide will hold the Istanbul E-pass flag at the meeting point and time. Busforus Old City Stop is located across the Hagia Sophia, and you can easily see red double-decker buses. Grand Bazaar Tour Times Monday 16:15 Tuesdays 16:30 Thursday 16:30 Friday 10:00 Saturday 16:30 Grand Bazaar Tour Meeting Point: Meet with the guide in front of the Cemberlitas Column next to the Cemberlitas Tram Station. Our guide will hold the Istanbul E-pass flag at the meeting point. Basilica Cistern is located in the heart of the historic city center. It is the giant cistern in the historical city of Istanbul. The Cistern is hosting 336 columns. The function of this outstanding construction was to enable drinking water for Hagia Sophia. Great Palace of Palatium Magnum and fountains and baths are located throughout the city. Listen the history of amazing Cistern from your tour guide. Imagine a market with more than 500 years of history, 64 streets, 22 gates, and more than 4,000 shops. Not only a shopping mall but also a manufacturing center. A place that you can lose yourself in history and mystery. That is the most significant and oldest market in the world. The famous Grand Bazaar of Istanbul. Learn how to bargain at Bazaar from your guide.

Istanbul: 3-Day Main Attractions Skip-the-Line Pass

10. Istanbul: 3-Day Main Attractions Skip-the-Line Pass

Enjoy hassle-free access to the main attractions of Istanbul. Get the most important information from a guide and benefit of an audio guide app. Meet your guide at the museums and get inside the fastest way. Inside each museum enjoy a 30 min. highlights tour with a local guide. After the tours and orientation tips stay inside the museums as long as you want and listen to the exciting stories and information in the included audio guide on your own smartphone. Saver Combo Ticket for Istanbul is valid for 3 Days: Your name will be on the list for 3 days. You can come to the meeting points at the available times and visit these top museums with your local guide. You can visit and experience all 3 museums and the Bosphorus cruise in one or more days. Hagia Sophia Meeting Times Daily at 10:00 AM, 11:30 AM, and 3:00 PM. (Except Fridays) Topkapi Palace Meeting Times Daily except Tuesdays at: 10:00 AM, 12:00 PM and 2:00 PM Basilica Cistern Meeting Times Daily at: 12:30 PM, 1:30 PM and 3:15 PM Bosphorus Cruise Departure Times: Daily at: 10:30, 12:45 PM, 2:45 PM and 4:45 PM

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What people are saying about Basilica Cistern

Overall rating

4.4 / 5

based on 1,688 reviews

The guided tour to Hagia Sophia, Topkapi, and Basilica Cistern was incredible. Our guide, Buse, was very helpful and informative. We learned a lot of new details regarding the sights thanks to her great way of passing information to the visitors. We totally recommend this tour!

Our Tour Guide Fatima was fantastic. We were met on time at our hotel, and the tour was tailored around my and my families needs / what we wanted to see and do. Fatima was amazing. Highly recommended.

everything was great and as expected, tour was very on time and we were able to skip the line. the explanations of our guide were spot on and she answered happily all our questions

Our tour guide was Bey nice! Knowledgeable and had a good sense of humor too!

It was really easy to get in. We skipped many lines!