Hagia Sophia (Guided Tour)
#3 in Istanbul
Hagia Sophia: Church, Mosque & Museum
Welcome to Hagia Sophia, where 1500 years of Christian and Islamic history can be seen side-by-side.
Once the great cathedral of Constantinople and later an imperial mosque of the Ottoman Empire, this former centre of worship for Christians and Muslims is now a unique museum for the world.
Wonder at the the incredible height of the famous dome and the amazing architecture, see the glittering remains of the original gold mosaics and learn about the history of this icon of Istanbul.
Check out our Guided Tours Timetable and add Hagia Sophia to your Istanbul itinerary today!
Hours & Schedule
- Monday: NO TOURS - the museum is closed
- Tuesdays: 10:00, 10:30 and 14:00
- Wednesday to Sunday: 09:00, 10:00, 10:30, 11:00, 14:15 and 15:00
The approximate duration is 60 minutes
Please meet your guide at the meeting point 10 minutes before the tour start time.
How To Get There?
Where to meet
The tour starts at the main bus stop for the Big Bus Tour Company at Sultanahmet Square. Look out for the dark red double-decker buses. It's about 20 metres (65 ft) in front of the Hagia Sophia Museum.
To get to Sultanahmet Square, take the T1 Bağılar - Kabataş tram and get off at Sultanahmet station. Walk towards Hagia Sophia and keep an eye out for the Big Bus stop.
- The guided tours are performed in English.
- The tour starts at the meeting point which is the Big Bus Company bus stop in Sultanahmet. Click "Get Directions" above to find the location on Google Maps.
- The tour doesn't require a reservation in advance.
- Istanbul Tourist Pass holders do not pay admission at the Hagia Sophia Museum.
- Children will be asked to present their passport at the entrance to confirm their age.
- Please note that this attraction cannot be accessed directly by presenting the digital Pass at the museum. You need to enter with the tour guide.
- The museum is only open for half a day on the first day of Ramadan and the Sacrifice Festivals.
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The most striking feature of Istanbul's history undoubtedly is that it was the capital of three universal empires: the Roman Empire, Byzantine and the Ottoman Empire. In the 4th century, the Roman Empire expanded. Thanks to its strategic location, Istanbul was chosen as the new capital instead of Rome by Emperor Constantine the Great. The city was rearranged for over six years and the city walls were expanded. Temples, official buildings, palaces, baths, and the hippodrome were built during that period. It was officially announced that the city was the capital of the Roman Empire in 330 A.D. Among the people, the city has been called "Police" throughout its history. It is understood that the emperors after Constantine the Great continued their efforts to beautify the city. The first churches in the city were built after Constantine’s reign.
Visit Hagia Sophia Museum and dive into its history and explore this unique structure with Istanbul Tourist Pass’ advantages.
Who built Hagia Sophia?
After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, Istanbul became the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) for many years. The city was rebuilt in the Byzantine period. The magnificent city walls of Istanbul were built by Emperor Theodosius II. In the sixth century, the city had more than half a million inhabitants and another Golden Age was experienced under the rule of Emperor Justinian. Hagia Sophia, which has survived until today, is an architectural work that was built during this period. Hagia Sophia, one of the unique and surviving monuments of the world's architectural history, also has an essential place for art history. The famous Hagia Sophia is recognizable by its masterpiece artworks.
History of Hagia Sophia
The first Hagia Sophia was built as a basilica with a wooden roof, stone walls, and three naves on the ruins of the Temple of Artemis in the north-south direction with the influence of Byzantine architects and scientists who visited the Eastern cultures. According to a Byzantine manuscript of the 9th century, the architect of the first Hagia Sophia was named Efratas. Although there are no remains of this temple today, the stamps of Megale Ekklesia in the warehouse of the Hagia Sophia Museum are thought to belong to this first temple.
The roof of Hagia Sophia was burned during an uprising in 381. Later, because of the rebellion in 404, it was completely burned. By order of Theodosius II, construction of the second Hagia Sophia began in 408 and the church was opened in 415. This second church was destroyed by the Nika Rebellion in 532.
After this uprising, Hagia Sophia was built for the third and last time. This structure, which has survived since its construction, is the third structure. The construction process started in 532 and the church was opened in 537. According to sources, on the day of the opening of Hagia Sophia, the emperor Justinian entered the temple and, referring to the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, said: “O Solomon! I surpassed you!” You can join Istanbul Tourist Pass’ tours for a unique journey into the history of Hagia Sophia.
Who turned Hagia Sophia into a mosque?
The last Orthodox ritual in Hagia Sophia was held on 28 May 1453 to encourage the Byzantine army. Statesmen and the public, including the Emperor, attended this service. A day later, Fatih Sultan Mehmet, who entered the city in the afternoon, came to Hagia Sophia, got down from his horse and entered the Hagia Sophia for a while. Fatih Sultan Mehmet ordered the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
During the Ottoman period, in the 16th and 17th centuries, the mihrabs, pulpit, and sermon were added to the Hagia Sophia. The most crucial change in the mosque's exterior was the addition of four minarets. The restoration works started by Fatih Sultan Mehmet in Hagia Sophia during the Ottoman period were continued by the later Sultans. The most essential repairs in Hagia Sophia were made by the Swiss Fossati Brothers between 1847-1849 by order of Sultan Abdulmecid. One of the most essential Ottoman additions to the structure was the library, built by Sultan Mahmud I in 1739, between the two pillars in the southern part of the building.
Hagia Sophia served as a mosque in Istanbul until 1934. On 9 September 1934, the official newspaper of the state, Cumhuriyet newspaper, announced that Hagia Sophia would become a museum. It was determined that the entrance fee would be 10 kurus on 21 November 1934 and the decision was completed on 24 November 1934 by the Cabinet. In 1985, Hagia Sophia was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Hagia Sophia Museum: An Attraction Point
Today, Hagia Sophia Museum is one of the most visited attractions in Istanbul and perhaps the foremost one. You can visit the Hagia Sophia Museum and visit the museum's website if you would like to find out more information. If you wonder where is the Hagia Sophia museum, rest assured that it is in the best place in the city. Everyone visiting Istanbul will visit Hagia Sophia, which is a pearl of the historic peninsula in which it sits. It stands in the most important place overlooking the Marmara Sea and the Bosphorus Strait in the city of Istanbul, which brings together continents and civilizations. Today, the Hagia Sophia continues to exist as a symbol of bringing civilizations together and, despite all the controversy, it keeps historical importance.
Are you ready to experience this unique structure with Istanbul Tourist Pass’ experience in the city that unites civilizations and continents? You can buy Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace guided tours in Sultanahmet. You can easily walk from the Hagia Sophia to the Grand Bazaar. However, you need to use Istanbul Airport Shuttle or the transfer service to go from Istanbul airport to Hagia Sophia.
Would you like to explore the Hagia Sophia with free tours of Istanbul Tourist Pass and turn your Istanbul trip into an unforgettable experience? Famously spanning two continents, Istanbul has so much to offer its visitors and Istanbul Tourist Pass is the platform to plan&save and organize your group tours. With the benefits of Istanbul Tourist Pass, you can have Free Access to 35+ Attractions & Services including Guided Museum Tours, Dinner Cruise, Istanbul Hop-on & Hop-off Bus and more… If you want to have fun, you can go to Xtrem Aventures Istanbul show with the opportunities that Istanbul Tourist Pass offers you. The event is suitable for both children and adults. Or, if you are looking for something cultural, the Pera Museum Tour is waiting for you in Beyoglu in all its glory.
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