Guided tour

Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Skip-the-Line Guided Tour

Activity provider: Istanbul Tourist Pass®
Guided tour

Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Skip-the-Line Guided Tour

Activity provider: Istanbul Tourist Pass®
Likely to sell out

From US$ 31.49 per person

Likely to sell out

On this 30-minute tour, visit the 4th-century Basilica Cistern and discover the mystery of Medusa heads from Greek mythology.

About this activity

Free cancellation
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Covid-19 precautions
Special health and safety measures are in place. Check your activity voucher once you book for full details.
Duration 30 minutes
Check availability to see starting times.
Skip the ticket line
Live tour guide


  • Visit the Basilica Cistern with your experienced guide
  • Listen to the story of Medusa Heads
  • Recognize a scene in the James Bond movie From Russia with Love
Full description
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.
  • Entry ticket to Basilica Cistern
  • Professional English-speaking guide
  • Hotel pickup
  • Tips

Select participants and date



Meeting point

Meet at the Sultanahmet BusForUs stop in front of the Hagia Sophia. Look out for the red double-decker buses. The guide will have a flag with the Istanbul Tourist Pass logo on it.

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Important information

What to bring

  • Passport or ID card

Know before you go

  • Please note: this attraction cannot be visited without the guide
  • All children will be asked to present their valid passport at the entrance of the museums in order to validate their age
Customer reviews

Overall rating

4.3 /5

based on 566 reviews

Review summary

  • Guide
  • Value for money
  • Service
  • Organization

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there is a separate queue for guided tour groups, so there still is some wait time, the guide was very friendly and funny, the guided tour itself consistent mostly of 5min introduction about the history of the cistern, and it was hard to understand the guide, due to lots of background noise, after this introduction the tour guide slowly walked through the cistern, open to questions from everyone of the group who approached him, but he told us we could also leave the group already and just walk around by ourselves.

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March 23, 2023

The skip the line was great, however the guide took us into the cistern before telling us anything about it which meant that most of us just couldn't hear anything. It would have been much better if he had of found somewhere quiet and told us all the info first as that meant that we couldn't hear anything he was saying. The cistern itself is quite incredible and really worth seeing.

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March 23, 2023

Had a great time exploring the cistern with Adam (Edem). He was very knowledgable and took us around all of the main parts of the underground area including the slaves’ tears column and the Medusa heads. He also took photos for us. This is an very easy 30 minute tour and a guide is advisable as there is limited info explaining the site’s significance.

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March 23, 2023

Product ID: 192903