Hagia Sophia Museum (Ayasofya Müzesi)

#2 in Best Things To Do in Istanbul
Hagia Sophia Museum (Ayasofya Müzesi) picture
Emad Aljumah/Getty Images

Key Info

Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi, Ayasofya Meydani

Details

Churches/Religious Sites, Museums, Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
4.7scorecard
  • 4.5Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 4.5Atmosphere

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.

To visit the Hagia Sophia Museum, you'll need to buy a ticket, which costs 40 Turkish lira (or $11), or show your Museum Pass Istanbul card. (Wheelchair users and children 12 and younger get in for free.) Entrance fees include access to the building's interior, plus restrooms, a cafe and a gift shop. The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours between late October and mid-April. It can be found in Fatih's Sultanahmet neighborhood near the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace Museum and multiple tram stops. Find out more by visiting the Hagia Sophia Museum website.

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Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii)
Süleymaniye Mosque (Süleymaniye Camii)
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#1 Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii)

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.

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