Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii)#1 in Best Things To Do in Istanbul
Sultan Ahmed I was determined to build a mosque that rivaled the nearby Hagia Sophia, and most would agree that he accomplished this task – or, at least, came close. Since the early 1600s, the Blue Mosque has been quite the sight to behold, with an array of domes, semidomes and minarets (or narrow towers). It's also one of the biggest tourist draws in Istanbul.
Visitors say this mosque offers "stunning architecture inside and out." It can, however, get busy, so consider arriving early. And remember, the Blue Mosque is an active religious site, so dress conservatively. Women should wear headscarves, as is custom. If you forgot to bring one, you can borrow one from the mosque.
The Blue Mosque is located in the Sultanahmet area of Fatih. It is within walking distance of several Bagcilar-Kabatas tram stops, as well as must-visit locales like the Grand Bazaar and the Basilica Cistern. The property is open 24 hours a day but closes six times daily for calls to prayer. Exact prayer times are dependent on the sun's position; an updated schedule is offered on Namaz Vakti's website. There is no admission fee, and restrooms, a cafe and a gift shop are available inside. For more information, visit the Blue Mosque's website.
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#2 Hagia Sophia Museum (Ayasofya Müzesi)
Tourists flock en masse to the Hagia Sophia Museum for its stunning architecture, glorious interior views and historical significance. Built between 532 and 537, the building was a church for nearly a thousand years. It then served as a mosque from 1453 until 1935, before becoming the secular museum that it is today.
Once the biggest cathedral in the world, the Hagia Sophia is considered the magnum opus of Byzantine architecture. Some visitors say the building is symbolic of the eclectic history of Istanbul itself, with beautiful Christian mosaics alongside brilliant Islamic calligraphy. Others simply describe it as a "must-see" attraction. However, a few caution that the property's exterior is currently undergoing renovations, so scaffolding may appear in your photos. Another negative: the long lines to get inside.
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