Guided Hagia Sophia Tour

Guided Museums Tours

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Are you ready to explore 1500 years of history with Hagia Sophia?

Hagia Sophia is one of the most visited attractions in Istanbul! It will amaze you with its magnificent architecture, history, and ambiance.You will feel the Christian and Islamic history lay there side-by-side while discovering Hagia Sophia!

Visiting Hagia Sophia with Istanbul Tourist Pass’s informative guides will make everything easy for you! Skipping the lines with Istanbul Tourist Pass will make you feel privileged and support you to make the best of your time in Istanbul!

Check out our Guided Tours Timetable and add Hagia Sophia to your Istanbul itinerary today!

About The Guided Hagia Sophia Tour

Mobile ticketing - No need for printed voucher, we're digital!

Duration - 60 Minutes  Check Time table to see starting times

Instant confirmation - The tour doesn't require a reservation in advance.

Guide - English

 

Highlights 

Discover Hagia Sophia with a local guide

Learn More About Hagia Sophia stories and legends!

Enjoy the view of Marmara Sea and the Bosphorus Strait

Learn the magnificent history of Hagia Sophia!

 

Includes

Entry to Hagia Sophia

Professional English speaking tour guide

 

Covid-19 precautions

Safety - All areas that customers touch are frequently cleaned

Social - Distancing is maintained in museums

Mask - Wearing mask is mandatory during museum visit

Limited Visitors - To reduce crowds, the number of visitors is limited

 

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.


Hours & Meeting

Mondays: 10:00, 14:30

Tuesdays: 10:15

Wednesday to Sundays: 10:00, 10:30, 14:30

The approximate duration is 60 minutes

Please meet your guide at the meeting point 10 minutes before the tour start time.

Click for Meeting Point's Picture.

On 29-May (Sunday) Hagia Sophia will be closed due to political visit until afternoon 10:00AM and 10:30AM tours won't be operate

View Timetable

How To Get There?

Where to meet

The tour starts at the main bus stop for BUSFORUS ISTANBUL at Sultanahmet Square. Look out for the red double-decker buses. It's about 50 metres in front of the Hagia Sophia.


Getting there

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.

Our guides carry a white flag with Istanbul Tourist Pass logo.

Get Directions

Important Information

The guided tours are performed in English.

The tour starts at the main bus stop for BUSFORUS ISTANBUL at Sultanahmet Square. 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.

Remember to wear modest clothing (arms and legs covered). Women must cover their hair with a scarf. If you forget to bring your own scarf, you can buy one before you enter.

The museum is only open for half a day on the first day of Ramadan and the Sacrifice Festivals.

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Hagia Sophia Mosque Tour is Included in Istanbul Tourist Pass®️ with English speaking Professional Guide.

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All About Guided Hagia Sophia Tour

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!”


Roman & Byzantine Period

Hagia Sophia was a symbol of the Byzantine where the Istanbul (Constantinople) was the capital at the time. The current form of this magnificent place was re-built by the order of the Emperor Justinian I, as the world’s largest cathedral. And the church was completed in the 6th century even though it was a dream to see its opening. Today, its still known for its Byzantine mosaics.

Perception is more than everything and the structure of the dome had a divine perception on the visitors that it’s suspended from heaven. The windows are very close to each other and decorated with golden mosaics. As light enters from the windows and hit the golden mosaic it makes a spiritual imagination from heaven.

For a few decades Hagia Sophia was under the control of the Catholics, till the Byzantine took back the city in the 13th century.


Ottoman Period

The building reflects every religious change over the centuries by the emperors that ruled these lands. In 1453, by the Ottoman conquest, Hagia Sophia became a mosque with an addition of a great chandelier, minaret and a mihrab which shows the direction of Mecca. The two identical minarets on the western side were likely commissioned by Selim II or Murad III and built by renowned Ottoman imperial architect Sinan in the 1500s.


Turkish Republic Era

In 1934, the President of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk secularized the building and in 1935 the building was turned into a museum for visitors. Today, the building serves Istanbulites and visitors from all around the world as a home for prayers.


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. In 2020, it became a mosque once again and now it is open for prayers.


Hagia Sophia Facts

  • In Greek, Sophia means Wisdom. In English, the Hagia Sophia is also called the church of Holy Wisdom.
  • Even though there were two more churches that were accepted as Holy Wisdom, only the Hagia Sophia remains today as not destroyed.
  • While turning into a mosque, the alter, the bells, sacrificial vessels and iconostasis were all hidden by a veil.
  • Hagia Sophia was designed by a mathematician, a scientist and a physicist.
  • The dome of the Hagia Sophia is huge, in the world only Pantheon in Rome has slightly a bigger dome than the dome of Hagia Sophia.
  • In 1935, the first President of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk ordered Hagia Sophia to be converted into a museum.
  • Hagia Sophia is an inspiration for other mosques in Istanbul as well. One of them is the Blue Mosque.
  • Hagia Sophia has 40 windows in the area where worshippers sit and it is the famous spot known as reflecting the mystical light.
  • Hagia Sophia was accepted as an important site for 1000 years for the Eastern Orthodox Church.
  • Hagia Sophia has both Christian and Islamic influences and features as a museum.
  • When Hagia Sophia was a church, 50-foot silver iconostasis were decorating inside.
  • It was very difficult to build the dome of the Hagia Sophia. Due to its weight, the walls began to lean outward. and supportive walls were built to strengthen the dome.
  • When Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque by the Sultan Mehmed II., many Christian mosaics and frescoes were plastered over to highlight the Islamic figures.
  • Hagia Sophia is so huge and gigantic that it can be visible from miles away.
  • The stone cannonballs which were used by Mehmet the Conquerorcan be seen at the entrance of the Hagia Sophia.
  • Due to its historic importance and the architectural issues, Hagia Sophia was constructed over fault lines. An earthquake can tear the structure down. The building needs to be repaired and strengthened.


Hagia Sophia Architecture

With its gigantic structure, Hagia Sophia presents the harmony of Byzantine architecture, Christian mosaics, and Islamic figures. With all the details and impressiveness, the builders of Hagia Sophia left to the world a great mystical heritage.

The building may seem like it is almost square but the great semi domes at east and west prolong the effect of the roof, making it appear to be rectangular. There are three aisles separated by columns with galleries above and great marble piers rising up at either end to support the dome. The dome and the column capital are the highlights of the building.

The dome is enormous as its like hanging from the heaven. The windows at the bottom of the dome are closely spaced, visually asserting that the base of the dome is insubstantial and hardly touching the building itself. The windows are so narrow and they make the sun lights hit the golden mosaics that creates an inspiring and divine atmosphere in the basilica.

The column capitals are also worth seeing as they make the architecture of Hagia Sophia unique. The capital is a derivative of the Classical Ionic order via the variations of the Roman composite capital and Byzantine invention. For example the basket capital has an important work of handcraft. Decorative detailing shows the grandiosity of the carving technique. The stone is deeply drilled, creating shadows behind the vegetative decoration. Moreover the amazing carving techniques can be seen on the other parts of the building. It’s also making a dilemma how these delicate decoration details stay unspoiled for years. There is no doubt that renovations and repairing are continuing to make the building alive.


Hagia Sophia Mosaics

Art historians consider the building’s beautiful mosaics to be the main source of knowledge about the state of mosaic art in the time shortly after the end of the Iconoclastic Controversy in the 8th and 9th centuries. Unfortunately the earliest mosaics are unknown due to destruction that is so called iconoclasm. By the reestablishment of Orthodoxy, the mosaics were seen again as a start of the known figures on the building and continued rising during Basil I and Constantine VII.

Many of the beautiful mosaics were removed or shipped to Venice during the fourth crusade in 1204. In 1453, after the Ottoman control in Istanbul (Constantinople) and the transition from church to a mosque, the mosaics were again covered and plastered to hide the Christian and Orthodoxy figures; Islamic figures and architectural items were placed. The mosaics were uncovered by Fosatti Brothers during the restoration and made copy for a record of the mosaics. But they still remained covered until 1931 when a restoration and recovery program began under the leadership of Thomas Whittemore.

The most famous mosaic is the Imperial Door Mosaic in Hagia Sophia. This door belonged only to the emperors and it was once the most splendid entrance to the church. The mosaics depict Emperor Leo VI with a halo over his head, giving proskynesis - an act of respect - to Christ, who is sitting on a jeweled throne. With his right hand, Christ is blessing the emperor, and his left hand is holding a book written “Peace be with you. I am the light of the world” on it. On both sides of Christ, there are figures in the roundels. One of them is His Mother Mary and the other is Archangel Gabriel. This image is intended to show the timeless power of emperor and his subjects blessed by Christ.


What is inside Hagia Sophia?

There are a lot to see in Hagia Sophia from top dome to the floors and the walls. Inside Hagia Sophia, there are columns, doors, marbles and different other artifacts from earlier civilizations dating back to the 5th century BC.

Mosaics are marvelous and the building is so gigantic that makes you feel so small. The massive wooden door is the Imperial Door that only the emperors and his family could enter to the basilica as mentioned above. The door is also rumoured for being made from the wood of Noah’s Ark.

Mosaics are great representations of the Byzantine period. After the transition to a mosque, the mosaics were covered and plastered. Thanks to the covering the mosaics are in superb condition even today with golden details. One of the famous mosaic emperor Leo VI sitting on his knees before Christ and other one is the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus on her lap. There are 4 seraphim (God’s guardian angels with 6 wings) mosaics on the 4 pendentives that carry the dome.

There is also marble door on the upper gallery for entrance and exit to the chamber meetings. On the upper floor there is a library built by the order of Sultan Mahmut I. It is a rectangular room, half of the walls are decorated with marble and the other half are topped with iznik tiles. The east wall hangs the finest example of “Osmanlı tuğrası” (an Ottoman calligraphic signature for Sultans) of Sultan Mahmut I.

The tombs of Ottoman Sultans and family can be seen in the museum section of Hagia Sophia as well. As Hagia Sophia welcomed three different religions, namely first Pagan religious beliefs, then Christian Orthodoxy and finally Islam; the Hagia Sophia has a unique place in humanity’s history of faith.

There are other rumors that make Hagia Sophia even more mystical. The legend goes that there are underground tunnels that connect the Hagia Sophia with the Princes’ Islands. One can never know if this has any truth to it, but it is up to you to discover this and more in Hagia Sophia.


What is Little Hagia Sophia?

Little Hagia Sophia is a church located close to Blue Mosque and it takes the similar architectural details as the grand Hagia Sophia as it is built during the Byzantine period by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian.

It’s name was taken after the Ottoman rule when it was turned into a mosque. The Ottoman style of decoration is the major impact that changed its interior design. It no more features the Byzantine figures or the golden mosaics in the dome but some beautiful elements from the 6th century remained on some parts of the mosque such as the Byzantine column capital or the irregular octagonal floor plan. Still yet, you are sure to enjoy the blend of an Ottoman-Byzantine church/mosque in Little Hagia Sophia.

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By having the Istanbul Tourist Pass®, you can visit more than 60+ attractions in Istanbul. You can save huge amount of time and money by not waiting in the long queues or paying fees at the entrances of the museums or for other facilities and activities. You can buy the Istanbul Tourist Pass®️ for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 or 10 days. So many attractions are available with Istanbul Tourist Pass®️ such as Topkapı Palace, Hagia Sophia, Dolmabahçe Palace, Sapanca Lake daily tour, Dinner on the Bosphorus, Istanbul Airport Shuttle etc. included in the pass. For more details and updated attractions available with the pass can be found on website.

Guided Hagia Sophia Tour Frequently Asked Questions

What Does Hagia Sophia Mean?

From the Greek history, Hagia means Holy and Sophia means Wisdom. Literally it becomes Holy Wisdom. In Latin it’s Sancta Sophia.

When Was Hagia Sophia Turned Into a Mosque?

Hagia Sophia was opened as a museum in 1934 by the decision of the Council of Ministers. Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque on Friday the 24th of July, 2020

Why should I Visit Hagia Sophia?

It’s worth to see Hagia Sophia with its magnificent appearance and architecture with harmony of Christianity and Islam. Moreover, Hagia Sophia was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985.

Can I Visit Haghia Sophia Without a guide?

Yes, Haghia Sophia is a mosque you can get in without a guide except during the praying hours but we recommend to join Guided tour for learn more about the history.

What Should I Wear in Hagia Sophia?

Since it is a mosque with many people praying daily, make sure you wear modest clothes and a headscarf. Also shorts and revealing clothes are forbidden while visiting the Mosque. You should remove your footwear whe you enter, and put it in a bag.

Can I Visit Hagia Sophia Now?

Yes. Hagia Sophia is open for tourist visits at the moment. Nevertheless, you cannot visit the mosque during prayer hours. Istanbul Tourist Pass includes a guided tour of Hagia Sophia with pre-scheduled time.

Where Can I Meet with the Guide?

You can find meeting location at "Hours & Meeting" section, our guides carry a white flag with the logo of Istanbul Tourist Pass®

When I Can Join the Hagia Sophia Tour with a Guide?

You can find tour hours at "Hours & Meeting" section. Please meet your guide at the meeting point 10 minutes before the tour start time.

Hagia Sophia Opening Hours

Hagia Sophia Mosque is open all day throughout the week.Best time to visit Hagia Sophia would be the morning hours, between 9AM and afternoon.That is because during these times, prayers are not held and you can explore the mosque without any interruptions

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