Beyond Hagia Sophia: Istanbul's Most Breathtaking Mosques

These Islamic places of worship are not only stunning examples of architecture and art but also reflect the religious and social changes that have shaped Istanbul over the centuries
The Sultanahmet Mosque has a large courtyard with a fountain and a collonaded arcade
The Sultanahmet Mosque has a large courtyard with a fountain and a collonaded arcadeShutterstock

Latest reports suggest travellers looking to explore the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey, are now required to pay an entrance fee to experience the 1,500-year-old religious and cultural marvel. As stated in an official announcement, foreign visitors seeking to visit the iconic site for cultural reasons will be charged USD 27. However, Turkish citizens intending to participate in worship at the mosque will continue to have free access.

While this fee may influence the decision of some tourists to visit, Istanbul offers a plethora of other mosques, each with its own unique historical, architectural, and cultural merits, and without an entrance fee.

Let's explore other notable mosques in Istanbul that offer visitors a glimpse into the city's diverse historical and architectural heritage without the need for an entrance fee.

Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque)

Located in the historic Sultanahmet district, this architectural masterpiece was constructed in the 17th century under the auspices of Sultan Ahmed I
Located in the historic Sultanahmet district, this architectural masterpiece was constructed in the 17th century under the auspices of Sultan Ahmed IShutterstock

The Sultanahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, is one of the most iconic landmarks of Istanbul. Located in the historic Sultanahmet district, this architectural masterpiece was constructed in the 17th century under the auspices of Sultan Ahmed I. The mosque faces the majestic Hagia Sophia, creating a striking historical and visual dialogue between the two.

The Blue Mosque wombs some of the most exquisite blue Iznik tiles that grace its interior walls
The Blue Mosque wombs some of the most exquisite blue Iznik tiles that grace its interior wallsShutterstock

The mosque gets its name from the exquisite blue Iznik tiles that grace its interior walls, showcasing some of the most exquisite specimens of Ottoman ceramic art. It also has a large courtyard with a fountain and a collonaded arcade. The interior of the mosque is equally impressive, with a huge dome, stained glass windows, chandeliers, and carpets.

The mosque is still used for prayer, but visitors can enter when it is not in session, as long as they remove their shoes and cover their heads and shoulders.

Süleymaniye Mosque

The mosque is a masterpiece of classical Ottoman architecture, built in the 16th century by the famous architect Mimar Sinan for Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent
The mosque is a masterpiece of classical Ottoman architecture, built in the 16th century by the famous architect Mimar Sinan for Sultan Süleyman the MagnificentShutterstock

The Süleymaniye Mosque is the second-largest mosque in Istanbul and one of the most magnificent.  It is situated on a hill overlooking the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus and was built in the 16th century by the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan for Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. It is a masterpiece of classical Ottoman architecture, combining elements of Byzantine and Islamic styles.

The Süleymaniye Mosque has four minarets and a large dome supported by four massive pillars and half domes. It also has a complex of buildings around it, including the tombs of the sultan, his wife Hürrem, and Mimar Sinan, as well as a madrasa, a hospital, a library, and a hammam.

Rüstem Pasha Mosque

The Rüstem Pasha Mosque is located near the Spice Bazaar in the Eminönü district
The Rüstem Pasha Mosque is located near the Spice Bazaar in the Eminönü districtShutterstock

The Rüstem Pasha Mosque is a hidden gem in Istanbul, located near the Spice Bazaar in the Eminönü district. It was built in the 16th century by Mimar Sinan for Rüstem Pasha, the grand vizier and son-in-law of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. What sets the Rüstem Pasha Mosque apart is its stunning array of Iznik tiles, enveloping virtually every surface—from walls to dome to columns—in a breathtaking spectacle of colour and design.

These tiles shimmer in a palette of vivid hues, intricately arranged to portray an array of floral and geometric patterns, a hallmark of Ottoman decorative art. The mosque also has a charming courtyard with a fountain and a portico. This relative seclusion means that the mosque is often less crowded, providing a more intimate experience for those who seek it out.

Ortaköy Mosque

Its architecture is a splendid showcase of the neo-Baroque style
Its architecture is a splendid showcase of the neo-Baroque styleShutterstock

The Ortaköy Mosque is one of the most picturesque mosques in Istanbul, located on the European shore of the Bosphorus, near the Bridge. Constructed in the 19th century by the esteemed Balyan family—who served as royal architects to the Ottoman Empire—this mosque was commissioned by Sultan Abdülmecid I.

Its architecture is a splendid showcase of the neo-Baroque style, distinguished by its elegant single dome, twin minarets, and a pristine white marble façade that gleams against the backdrop of the Bosphorus waters.

The mosque is a vantage point offering breathtaking views of the Bosphorus Strait and the majestic bridge, particularly enchanting at night when the lights create a magical tableau on the water.

Eyüp Sultan Mosque

Eyüp Sultan Mosque was built in the 15th century by the Ottomans, on the site of the tomb of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari
Eyüp Sultan Mosque was built in the 15th century by the Ottomans, on the site of the tomb of Abu Ayyub al-AnsariShutterstock

The Eyüp Sultan Mosque is one of the most sacred and revered mosques in Istanbul, located in the Eyüp district, on the Golden Horn. It was built in the 15th century by the Ottomans, on the site of the tomb of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, a companion of Prophet Muhammad who died during the first Muslim siege of Constantinople.

The mosque is a pilgrimage site for many Muslims, who come to pray and pay their respects at the tomb, which is covered with a green cloth and surrounded by a silver railing. The Eyüp Sultan Mosque complex is not only a place of worship but also a sanctuary of tranquillity, featuring an expansive courtyard adorned with a traditional fountain, a solemn cemetery, and a towering minaret that punctuates the skyline.

The mosque warmly welcomes visitors, offering a glimpse into the profound spiritual and historical confluence that defines this sacred space.  From the scenic vistas of Pierre Loti Hill, offering panoramic views of Istanbul, to the enchanting Eyüp Toy Museum that captures the innocence and wonder of childhood, and the Feshane Cultural Center, which hosts a variety of cultural exhibitions and events, Eyüp provides a rich narrative of Istanbul's past and present.

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