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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. You will be amazed by the stunning architecture of the cistern during the tour. 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. 

Best of Istanbul Combo: Basilica, Topkapi & Hagia Sophia

2. Best of Istanbul Combo: Basilica, Topkapi & Hagia Sophia

After signing up for this experience, your name will be on the list for each of the monuments for 3 days. Be free to visit at the available times, gathering at the meeting points in front of the museums to skip the line with an authorized English-speaking guide. 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.

Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Skip-the-Line Guided Tour

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

5. 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 ( if the option is chosen), 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: Best of the City Private Full-Day Walking Tour

6. Istanbul: Best of the City Private Full-Day Walking Tour

This private experience is the perfect introduction to Istanbul for first-time visitors. Enjoy a guided full-day tour to discover the best of the city. The tour can be fully customized to suit your needs, simply tell your guide what interests you the most.  Visit the historic Hippodrome, the exquisite Blue Mosque and the iconic Hagia Sophia. Experience the lavish lifestyles of the Ottoman Sultans with a tour of Topkapi Palace, or browse the colorful stalls of the Grand Bazaar. The choice is yours. Benefit from pickup and drop-off at your centrally-located hotel. With your private guide you’ll enjoy priority entrance to all the sights, so standing you won’t waste time standing in queues.

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

7. Istanbul: 1, 2 or 3-Day Private Customizable Guided Tour

Explore Istanbul according to your own interests on a tailor-made sightseeing tour. Meet your guide at your hotel or port and work together to create an itinerary that suits you best, leaving you satisfied that you have seen all of Istanbul. On 1st day, marvel at monuments from the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, such as Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar, Hagia Sophia and Byzantine Cistern. On 2nd day, take the public ferry to Bosphorus to see both Istanbul’s European and Asian sides. From here, visit Dolmabahce Palace, Taksim Square, Istiklal Street, Galata area and the Spice Market. On 3rd day, guide takes you on a walk through the streets of Fener-Balat neighboorhood. Enjoy a cable car ride and soak up views of Pierre Loti Hill, then visit Iron Church, and see the Suleymaniye Mosque. You can create your own itinerary with your tour guide on tour day, to have an idea, here you can see our suggested tour itineraries are below; Day 1 - Hagia Sophia, Hippodrome Square, Byzantine Cistern, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Hagia Irene Church, Sogukcesme Street, Grand Bazaar Day 2 - Spice Market, Bosphorus Cruise, Dolmabahce Palace, Taksim Square, Istiklal Street, Cicek Passage, Galata Tower (from outside) Day 3 - Suleymaniye Mosque, Fener and Balat Districts, St. Stephen Church (Iron Church), Pierre Lotti Panoramic Hill, Rahmi Koc Museum (or alternative options)

Istanbul: 3 Day Skip-the-Line Ticket to Main Attractions

8. Istanbul: 3 Day Skip-the-Line Ticket to Main Attractions

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. Fridays only at 10:00 AM 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

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

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

Explore the highlights of Istanbul on this 1-3 day walking 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 attractions 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. Dedicated to the Hagia Sophia or "divine wisdom," it is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture. The Blue Mosque, officially known as the Sultanahmet Mosque, has striking blue tiles that 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 is a relic from the glory days of the great Ottoman Empire. The former palace once 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 into 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 eight marble columns. The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. With hundreds of small handicraft 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 it 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 two-kilometer walk down to the Tunel Galata Tower area. See this and more depending on which length tour option you select. Your guide will work with you to create an itinerary that suits you, leaving you satisfied that you have seen all of Istanbul.

Istanbul: Basilica Cistern & Grand Bazaar Tour with Entry

10. Istanbul: Basilica Cistern & Grand Bazaar Tour with Entry

Get to know Istanbul on a guided tour of the Basilica Cistern, and enjoy skip-the-line entry. Wander around the “Subterranean Palace” and learn about its history. Continue by visiting the Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest covered markets in the world. Opt to visit a hammam at the end of the tour. Begin at the famous Basilica Cistern and travel back in time on a tour led by a local guide. Benefit from skip-the-line entry and head in faster. See the underground pillars and learn about Byzantine architecture. Walk on the wooden walkways over the water until the famous upside-down Medusa head. Continue to the Grand Bazaar to explore its intricate geography and swarming passageways. Make your way through this ever-changing maze with knowledge from your guide about the oldest shops, exotic goods, and talented craftsmen. Delve into the treasure trove of Turkish artisan crafts. Choose to complete your experience with a visit to a Turkish bath, which is still a major part of the local culture. Benefit from your guide's roadmap on how to enjoy a traditional Hamam package to the most: washing, traditional body scrubbing with a handwoven washcloth, a foam wash, and a massage.

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What people are saying about Basilica Cistern

Overall rating

4.5 / 5

based on 1,209 reviews

This was our first time in Istanbul. We came in on a Princess Cruise. Our guide Mehmet was absolutely amazing. He contacted us the day before to arrange the meeting time and place. He was right there once we walked out of the cruise terminal holding a sign with our name. He greeted us warmly and asked us what we wanted our day to look like. We told him, this is where you were born & raised, please show us what you would like us to see. We saw all the main attractions but the highlight was when Mehmet took us to the Pudding Shop for lunch. We had authentic Turkish food that was fantastic. We then headed to the bizarre when Mehmet navigated us to a shop to get spices, fruit nuts & incredible teas. We highly recommend Mehmet. He was so lovely and kind and he made our trip beyond anything that we could have imagined.

This was a fantastic tour! Istanbul is a wonderful city and Ekrem was an outstanding guide. The tour was well organized, covering all the main sites such as Aya Sofia, Topkapi palace, Dolmabahce palace and more . Ekrem was very knowledgeable and provided us with interesting historical and cultural insights, all in perfect English. He was also kind and patient in answering all of our questions. He was flexible, adjusting the program to avoid the rain, beat crowds and for us to spend more time at the Grand Bazaar (which we loved!). He also suggested great food and was very helpful in guiding us on how to use the tram and find our way around the city. Overall, my husband, adult daughter and I highly recommend this tour - be sure to ask for Ekrem as your guide!

Changed entrance after restoration with smaller passageways but was a good experience. Sone new art installations which I personally found were out of place. Overall worth a one time visit

The cistern experience was very interesting. I came last year and it was closed for renovations so being able to see it this time with the guide was very helpful.

We had a wonderful time. Ozgur was a fantastic guide. He was very knowledgeable, helpful and friendly.