7 Mosques Not To Miss While In Istanbul

7 Mosques Not To Miss While In Istanbul

Istanbul is famous for its Mosques and Ottoman architecture. As the capital of the Ottoman Empire since 1453 and the largest city in Turkey, Istanbul is home to over 3000 mosques.

This makes it overwhelming to decide which ones to visit, but here are seven of the most important mosques in Istanbul you should see based on their architectural character and historical context.

Ottoman Architecture in Istanbul

1. Sultanahmet (The Blue Mosque)

This 17th-century mosque, facing Hagia Sophia, is famous for its beautiful blue tile work ornamenting its interior walls. Its six slim minarets distinguish it from other mosques, which normally have two or four minarets.

It was built from 1609 to 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. Like many other mosques, it also houses the tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice.

While still used as a mosque, Sultanahmet is one of the most popular, and important, tourist attractions in Istanbul.

Sultanahmet is considered to be the last great mosque of the Ottoman classical period, as it is the culmination of two centuries of both Ottoman mosque and Byzantine church development.

It incorporates some Byzantine elements of Hagia Sophia along with traditional Islamic architecture.

Ottoman Architecture in Istanbul

2. Süleymaniye (the Magnificent)

The Süleymaniye Mosque is the second largest mosque in Istanbul, and one of the best-known sights not only in Istanbul, but all of Turkey.

This outstanding mosque was built in the 16th century by the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan for Sultan Süleyman the Magnificient.

It combines tall, slender minarets (typical of Ottoman architecture) with large domed buildings supported by half domes in the style of the Byzantine church Hagia Sophia (which the Ottomans converted into the mosque of Aya Sofya).

The design also plays on Süleyman’s ‘second Solomon’ ego, as it references the Dome of the Rock, which was built on the site of the Temple of Solomon. The courtyard is of exceptional grandeur with a colonnaded peristyle.

The tombs of the Sultan, his wife Hürrem, and Mimar Sinan are found within its compounds. It is the largest mosque in Istanbul with four minarets (but not the largest overall).

Ottoman Architecture in Istanbul

3. Yeni Cami (New Mosque)

This mosque was ordered by Safiye Sultan, who was the wife of Sultan Murad III. Construction began in 1597, but due to political troubles construction stopped halfway.

The partially constructed structure fell into ruins and was largely destroyed by a fire in 1660.

Later that year, the imperial architect Mustafa Ağa suggested that Valide Turhan Hadice, mother of Sultan Mehmet IV, should complete the project as a work of piety.

The mosque was finally finished in 1663. Today it is one of the most well-known mosques in Istanbul.

The interior of the mosque has great examples of Ottoman tile work, known as İznik tiles (blue tiles that bear the name of the town from where they are made) – but, the best samples of İznik tiles can be seen in Rüstem Pasha.

Ottoman Architecture in Istanbul

4. Rüstem Pasha

Rüstem Pasha is a mosque commissioned by a businessman, Grand Vizier (minister) of Suleyman’s court, and military man –bearing that same name– who spent his wealth raising public buildings, mosques, and charitable foundations.

It was built between 1561 and 1563, and it contains the best samples of İznik tiles in all Istanbul. Iznik Tiles are a distinctive signature of Ottoman decoration, which have a strong relationship with the politics, propaganda, and empire building of the period in Ottoman history.

Ottoman Architecture in Istanbul

5. Sehzade Mosque

The Şehzade Mosque, or “Prince’s Mosque”, was commissioned by Sultan Suleiman I in memory of his eldest son by Hürrem, Prince Mehmet, who died of smallpox at the age of 21 in 1543.

It was the first major commission by the Imperial Architect Mimar Sinan, which was completed in 1548.

It is considered by architectural historians as Sinan’s first masterpiece of classical Ottoman architecture.

Being the first major building by Sinan, you can still see he is developing his design techniques – like the columns being heavy, for fear of structural integrity.

Unlike the typical austere decoration of most mosques, this one is highly decorated with very elaborate patterns. For example, the two minarets have elaborate geometric sculptures in low bas-relief and occasional terracotta inlays.

Ottoman Architecture in Istanbul

6. Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia, famous in particular for its massive dome, is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and is said to have “changed the history of architecture.”

While it was built in 360 as the Greek Patriarchal cathedral of Constantinople, in 1453 it was converted into a mosque. That is until 1931 when it was secularized and turned into a museum.

It was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years.

The current building (third one to occupy the site) was originally built as a church around 532 on the orders of Emperor Justinian. It was designed by the Greek scientists Isidore of Miletus, a physicist, and Anthemius of Tralles, a mathematician.

Of great artistic value is its decorated interior with beautiful mosaics and marble pillars. At one point the temple itself was so richly and artistically decorated that Justinian proclaimed, “Solomon, I have outdone thee!”

Ottoman Architecture in Istanbul

7. Eyup

Being the first mosque built after the conquest of Istanbul, the great Mosque of Eyüp lies outside the city walls in Eyüp district.

It is located near the Golden Horn, at the supposed place where Eyüp, the standard-bearer of the Prophet Muhammed, died in the Islamic assault on Constantinople in 670.

Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, who hosted the Prophet Muhammad in his house when he moved from Mecca to Medina, is supposed to be entombed in it.

Even though today this mosque has gained significant importance and is considered as a place of pilgrimage for Muslims, it does not serve as a real pilgrimage place in Islam.

What other mosques would you suggest?

Lastly, if you’re looking to visit all these mosques among other important sights in Istanbul, I recommend checking Viator as they often have deals on tours in the city.

Also, before booking a hotel, I recommend checking the reviews and deals for the best-ranked hotels in Istanbul on TripAdvisor.

7 Mosques not to miss while in Istanbul

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26 thoughts on “7 Mosques Not To Miss While In Istanbul”

  1. I am very surprised to see Hagia Sofia included in your list of mosques. I do not agree with you, because Hagia Sofia was never meant to be a mosque.

    1. Martha – you are correct about that. Hagia Sophia was not meant to be a mosque, but it functioned as a Mosque for almost 500 years and it influenced the Ottoman architecture, serving as a precedent to the mosques designed during the Ottoman empire. Today, when you visit Hagia Sophia, it is presented as both, a Greek Cathedral and as a mosque. While not designed by Ottomans, it did have a great influence in their culture, hence why I’m including it here.

    2. Gladys Alicea

      But is a a mosque and soon will be open for prayers You like it or not, that mosque don’t Belongs to Greece , belongs to the Turks .

    1. Thanks Debbie! Oh yes, the architecture of the mosques in Istanbul (and beyond) is beautiful and so intricate in many ways. It’s interesting to see how religion is reflected in their architecture.

  2. Hagia sophia was never meant to be a mosque but it did become one. These days the Turks prefer to present it as a museum but that still does not deny its past. It could fit into a list of great churches or mosques within Istanbul.

    I was surprised to learn that there are actually three Hagia Sopias in Turkey, I visited the second one in Trabzon last week. Not as big or bold but still beautiful in its own way.

    1. You are correct Natalie! I wasn’t supposed to be a mosque. That is one of the reasons why I loved the interior space of Hagia Sophia. While it is a museum, you can see both styles of architecture and beliefs. It is a space combination that is not commonly seen in religious buildings.

      Oh wow, I didn’t know of the other two Hagia Sophias. I should google them then, 🙂

  3. Hello! Thanks a lot for preparing such a useful page.

    About 7th mosque Eyup, I would like to add some words to the sentence “Today it is considered as the second place of pilgrimage for Muslims after Mecca.” As you implied with the word “considered”, this place does not serve as a real pilgrimage place in Islam but it is one of the very important places. Beloved man who is supposed to be in the tomb, Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, hosted the Prophet Muhammad in his house when he moved from Mecca to Madina. That means he was so close to the Prophet Muhammad for sometime when he is alive. Like 12 apostles(disciples) of the Prophet Jesus. Therefore, he is one of the most respected persons in the Islam History.

    Again thanks for the information you published.

    1. About “Today it is considered as the second place of pilgrimage for Muslims after Mecca.” I’m sorry but this cannot true if the majority of Muslims in the world are not even aware of the existence of the Eyüp mosque. And the second place of pilgrimage after Mecca is Masjid al Nabawi then Masjid al Aqsa. These are the ones people wants to see for whatever the purpose

  4. Hi Norbert, as a person who lived in Turkey and visited Istanbul several times I got 3 mosques that I would highly, highly recommend. The first is the Fatih Mosque which was originally built by Mehmet II. It is such a large and beautiful mosque and though the decorations are simple the color pattern makes it look like the colors are dancing. The next is the Yavuz Selim Mosque. The dome is gigantic, 24.5 meters wide! Finally the Arap (Arab) Mosque. It is a huge mosque that is designed in the shape of a Gothic Roman Catholic Cathedral being that it was originally built as one. Built by the Genoese, it was turned into a mosque after Ottoman conquest of the city and later given to Spanish Muslim refugees for their worship, thus the name the Arab Mosque.

  5. Before Hagia Sophia turned into the museum, it was a great place for worship. However, there are plenty other places that people can pray in Istanbul and other city. Blue Mosque, Suleimaniye and others are great.

  6. ı must say, you should also see Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque is one of the best ones that is very well settled and located in Old City Istanbul It was built by Mimar Sinan who the famous arhitect.

  7. Wow sir great. I have wish to visit Istanbul from year, I love Bosphorus and Historical Mosques situated there. Moreover, Topkapi palace, Galata Tower and historical monuments! What a rickness Istanbul got, I love it so so so so much, would that I visit Istanbul at least once in my life. Love for Turks from this Pakistani.

  8. Sounds like You need to extend the list to top 15 mosques in Istanbul to visit , Norbert ! ; )
    So many beautiful buildings to see in this city , only got to see the Blue Mosque and topkapi palace when I visited but will spread my wings next time .

    thanks for the page

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