21-02-2023 - History

Most Popular Historic Mosques You Must Visit in Istanbul

Istanbul is one of the most culturally rich and diverse cities in the world thanks to its deep history which is comprised of many empires, cultures, and religions. Because of this, you can find numerous historically significant sites here, from churches to various museums to fortresses. But there is no doubt that the influence of the Ottomans in Istanbul was the most significant, so there are many old mosques that still stand today. Since these are some of the most interesting parts of the city, we prepared this guide so you don’t miss these amazing historic mosques in Istanbul.

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Hagia Sophia Mosque


Hagia Sophia is now serving as an active mosque before. It was converted into a museum before but you can see many church parts of the building as well as many Islamic artworks and relics inside. Nonetheless, Hagia Sophia is one of the most famous attractions in the world for a reason. It is no wonder that this cornerstone of architecture is considered the 8th wonder of the world. Built-in the 5th century as the Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal cathedral, this magnificent monument witnessed two of the largest empires in the history of mankind. It is said that Hagia Sophia alone changed the course of architecture and stayed as the largest cathedral in the world for around 1000 years. When Mehmet the Conqueror took Istanbul, he converted this place into a mosque. In 1931, it became a museum and then it was converted into a mosque again.

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Since it is an active mosque right now, you need to have long pants or skirts, and women must cover their heads with a scarf or a hat. You don’t need to bring them with you, you can just borrow them at the entrance. And one final note, you’ll take your shoes off before entering the mosque because it is covered with carpet. So you may need to choose your socks accordingly.

Inside, the historical mosque parts like the minbar, mihrab, low-hanging chandeliers, and Islamic inscriptions still catch the eye easily. Other than that, you can see many amazing relics and artworks, like urns, columns, and doors. There are countless amazing Christian mosaics on the walls too.

Hagia Sophia is a place where you can miss too much if you are not with an informative guide with you. That’s why we have an amazing Hagia Sophia Guided Tour for you to enjoy this place at its best.

Blue Mosque


Easily one of the most famous mosques in not only Istanbul but the whole country as well, Sultanahmet Mosque still draws thousands of visitors from all around the world each month. Famously known as Blue Mosque amongst tourists, it gets this name from the beautiful blue Iznik tiles that decorate the inside. Built in 1616 during the reign of Sultan Ahmed, this mosque is a marvel no matter where you look at it from. Like other imperial mosques of Istanbul, it was built as a complex, so it also includes a madrasah, Sultan Ahmed’s tomb, and a hospice. This grand monument has six minarets and five main domes. Its entire design is perfectly symmetrical. Inside, you will see the peak of Ottoman mosque architecture as the atmosphere and the artistic value of this mosque are simply unparalleled. This mosque is definitely one of the most important parts of the Old City of Istanbul.

Blue Mosque is under construction in 2023 so right now it is not possible to see inside but, with our guided tours to Byzantine Hippodrome you will learn a lot about this beautiful historical mosque as well.

Suleymaniye Mosque


Designed by Mimar Sinan for the famous Ottoman emperor Suleiman the Magnificent, Suleymaniye Mosque is one of the top mosques in Istanbul. It was built in 1557 at the highest point of the historical peninsula. It has a very large courtyard at the entrance with a fountain at the center. While walking to the entrance in this yard, you get to see the amazing exterior built with marble, granite, and porphyry along with its large dome and four minarets. When you get inside, you will be amazed just like you would in any other imperial mosque. The main dome, decorations on the walls, the spherical design, religious inscriptions, and the low-hanging large chandelier; of them play a role in creating a unique atmosphere.

We have created an audio guide for you to listen to during your visit to Suleymaniye Mosque. In this audio guide, you will find out the history and important information about the structure.

Rustem Pasha Mosque


Another spectacular work of Mimar Sinan, Rustem Pasha Mosque was built for the grand vizier of Suleyman the Magnificent, Rustem Pasha, who was also the husband of one of the daughters of Sultan Suleyman. The main feature that sets it apart from other old mosques in Istanbul is that it is built above the street level, on top of a series of shops. These shops supported the mosque both physically and financially.

Inside, the Rustem Pasha Mosque is known for its use of Iznik tiles. There is a great number of Iznik tiles in use here, so much so that no other mosque uses these tiles as much as Rustem Pasha Mosque. These tiles have more than 80 different patterns for different sections of the interior. All in all, it is one of the most beautiful mosques in Istanbul.

Mihrimah Sultan Mosques


There are two Mihrimah Sultan Mosques in Istanbul. While that may seem confusing, learning the amazing story behind this fact will transform this confusion into bewilderment.

These two mosques were made by the famous chief Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan at the request of the daughter of Sultan Suleiman, Mihrimah Sultan. The mosque in Uskudar was built on a high hill while the one in Edirnekapi was built in a rather unknown place. The interesting thing is, in Persian, Mihr-u Mah means “sun and moon”. Knowing this, Mimar Sinan built the mosques in such locations that every year during April and May, sunsets down behind one of the mosques and the moon rises behind the other.

Apart from this amazing story, the mosques are magnificent as they are examples of Mimar Sinan’s earlier works. Mihrimah Sultan Mosque in Uskudar is the smaller one. It has one big main dome like most of Sinan’s works and 3 semi-domes. Its thin minarets, various Islamic scriptures, and great interior design definitely stand out. Mihrimah Sultan Mosque in Edirnekapi is a bigger mosque with a courtyard. This courtyard is surrounded by semi-open corridors with an ablation fountain in the middle. Its inside is more decorated and modern, caused by the restorations.

New Mosque


While its name may make it seem like this mosque is new, its history goes back more than 4 centuries. Its construction was ordered by the wife of Sultan Murad III, Safiye Sultan, in 1595. But due to conflicts in the court about the mosque’s economic implications, the construction was stopped midway through 1603. After this, the mosque gradually decayed and was mostly destroyed in the Great Fire of Istanbul in 1660. It was completed by the Turhan Sultan, who was the mother of Sultan Mehmed IV. Since Turhan Sultan was the second Valide Sultan to have a part in the construction of this mosque, the mosque was named “Yeni Valide Sultan Camii” (New Valide Sultan Mosque), but this gradually shortened to Yeni Camii (New Mosque).

In terms of aesthetic value, this mosque is one of the best historic mosques in Istanbul. This large building looks beautiful from the outside, especially with the yellow lighting that turns on around it after the sun sets. Its 66 domes and semi-domes along with its 2 minarets stand out from the rest of the city. Since it is an imperial mosque, it was built as a complex, which also included a primary school and a spice bazaar.

The inside of the mosque is breathtaking as the natural lighting provided by the countless windows makes it so that every piece of art on the walls is clearly visible. Iznik tiles of various colors create a colorful sight while Islamic calligraphy plates stand out amongst the detailed walls of the interior. When you take all of these into account, New Mosque is definitely among the Istanbul Classics.

There is so much to do in Istanbul’s every corner. For you not to get lost among these thousands of things we have gathered the most popular and the best attractions for you in the Istanbul Tourist Pass®. We differ in service quality, customer care, and our guide team. Choose the best, and buy your Pass today.

FAQ

What is the oldest mosque in Istanbul?

Hagia Sophia Mosque is the oldest mosque in Istanbul. There is also the Arap Mosque one of the oldest mosques in Istanbul. These mosques are both converted into mosques from Roman churches after the conquest of Istanbul.

How many famous mosques are there in Istanbul?

There are 3.469 mosques in Istanbul by the end of 2022.

What are the two main mosques in Istanbul?

Hagia Sophia Mosque and Blue Mosque are the two most popular mosques in Istanbul. Istanbul Tourist Pass® has great guided tours to both.

Which is older Hagia Sophia or Blue Mosque?

Hagia Sophia is much older than Blue Mosque. In fact, Hagia Sophia is one of the oldest still-active buildings in the world.

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