By Justin Mays:
Istanbul is known for hundreds of different things, but if there is something mythical, characteristic and symbolic of this city, it is its mosques. There are about 3,000 and they are perfectly integrated with the urban environments. They are places of worship, with spectacular architecture, which are always shown as essential silhouettes on any postcard of the metropolis.
Unlike what happens in other cities, Istanbul's mosques have free admission, so that anyone interested can visit their interior for free. If you are thinking of visiting one, you should bear in mind that it is necessary to wear appropriate clothing to access the mosques, which means that no one will be able to enter with short pants or bare shoulders. In addition, women must cover their heads. Oh! And no shoes inside.
If this is your case, we propose below five essential mosques that you have to visit in Istanbul. We have no doubt that you will be amazed by its interiors. Enjoy!
The Blue Mosque, also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is the most important in Istanbul. It was built between 1609 and 1616 by Sultan Ahmed I, to later be inaugurated by Mustafa I in 1617.
It is a spectacular mosque, capable of endearing anyone. And it is not surprising, since its interior houses about 20,000 blue tiles. These tiles, which at the time were brought from the city of Iznik, in the Turkish province of Bursa, are located on top of the dome, creating a beautiful mosaic.
Other of the charms of this mosque is its more than 200 stained glass windows and the dozens of chandeliers that hang from the ceiling. This is a mandatory stop for anyone traveling or residing in Istanbul. It is the typical experience that one remembers for the rest of his life.
Hagia Sophia Mosque
The Hagia Sophia Mosque, or Ayasofya in Turkish, was built between 532 and 537. It is one of the most important symbols of Istanbul, not only for its aesthetics but also for all the history that accompanies it.
Originally, Hagia Sophia was built to be an Orthodox basilica. Later, it became a mosque and then a museum. However, on August 1, 2020, it was converted back into a mosque and has remained so for the past two years.
This mosque is located at the highest point of the metropolis, so it offers a privileged panoramic view of Istanbul. Its dome is about 30 meters in diameter and its interior has dimensions of about 70 square meters. It is almost impossible not to be captivated by the beauty and majesty of this monument.
The Süleymaniye Mosque is located on the third hill of Istanbul, in Fatih, and was built during the Ottoman imperial era. Until 2019, this was the largest mosque in the metropolis, but just at the end of that year the construction of the Çamlıca Mosque, which has a height of 107 meters, was completed.
This Fatih Mosque was built in 1550 by the architect Mimar Sinan, who presented this design as his largest construction. But the best thing about Süleymaniye is not only its size, but also that it stands out for its impressive central dome, which is about 47 meters high, and for its elegant interior, decorated in red and ocher tones.
The New Mosque is located in Eminönü, near the Galata Bridge and the Spice Bazaar, overlooking the Golden Horn. This mosque was built between 1597 and 1663 by order of the mothers of the sultans Mehmet III and Mehmet IV, after a series of political, religious and financial problems were registered.
The interior of this mosque is truly spectacular, as it is bathed in blue, gold and marble. The most special element of the New Mosque is the Íznit tiles that stain its walls with color, a special characteristic that distinguishes this monument from the others.
If you have the day off, do not hesitate to visit this mosque, and then explore the Eminönü area a bit, which has many other places of interest, such as the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market, among others.
You will surely recognize the Ortaköy Mosque easily, as it is known for being on the banks of the Bosphorus. It is possibly one of the most repeated postcards of Istanbul, and it is not surprising. This mosque was built between 1854 and 1856 by the order of Sultan Abdülmecit, with the intention of being the Great Imperial Mosque.
Although the most beautiful thing about this place is the views from the outside, going inside the Ortaköy Mosque is an experience that you cannot miss. After the visit, you can also enter the Ortaköy neighborhood, where you can also see the Aya Fokas Greek Orthodox Church and the Etz-Ahayim Synagogue.
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