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Hagia Sophia

From The Marmara Pera
14 Min
50 min
Exterior view of the Hagia Sophia Mosque

Situated in the heart of Istanbul's historic center, the Hagia Sophia Mosque (known locally as Ayasofya) is a magnificent display of Byzantine architecture. With over a thousand years of history, it is widely recognized as one of the most significant cultural and historical landmarks in the world. 

In 532, Emperor Justinian, ruler of the Byzantine Empire, commissioned the construction of a Christian cathedral that would come to be known as the Hagia Sophia. The structure, which was consecrated in 537, was the largest building in the world at the time and its design was emulated for over a millennium, becoming an iconic symbol of the Byzantine Empire. After the Ottomans conquered Constantinople (now Istanbul) in the 15th century, the cathedral was transformed into a mosque by Mehmed the Conqueror. In 1935, it was turned into a museum, but it was converted back into a mosque in 2020. 

For almost 1,500 years, Hagia Sophia has been a witness to human history, standing tall through the fall of the Byzantine Empire, the Crusades, the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire, the formation of the Republic of Turkey, and many more significant events. It stands as a testament to the immense power of humanity, while also reminding us of our fleeting existence. With its grand, awe-inspiring and beautiful architecture, it remains one of the most captivating attractions in Turkey. 

Interior view of Hagia Sophia


Hagia Sophia was an architectural marvel ahead of its time, utilizing innovative engineering techniques such as the pendentive dome - a structural support that enabled the dome to sit on a rectangular base. As a Christian cathedral, it held the distinction of being the largest in the world until the completion of Spain's Seville Cathedral in the early 1500s. 


The Hagia Sophia's dome was the largest in the world until the construction of St. Peter's Basilica in Venice in the 17th century. Although the original dome collapsed soon after its construction, it was immediately rebuilt, and over the last 1,500 years, various parts of it have been replaced. The dome's apex is over 58 meters high, and a series of windows at its base allow light to filter throughout the space. 

Upper Gallery 

Initially reserved for the Byzantine Empresses, the horseshoe-shaped Upper Gallery houses some of the finest artwork in the entire Hagia Sophia Mosque. The Upper Gallery, which includes the Emperor Constantine and Empress Zoe mosaics, is currently closed for renovation. 


At the center of Hagia Sophia lies the nave, also called the main prayer hall. The nave is enclosed by a grand dome adorned with a blend of Christian and Islamic design, making it a truly magnificent space. This is where prayer takes place during designated hours. The early Christian mosaics adorn the walls of the nave, while a mihrab - a niche indicating the direction of Mecca - marks the mosque's apse.  

How to Visit   

Even as a functioning mosque, Hagia Sophia welcomes visitors, but respectful attire is required. Women should wear long skirts or pants and cover their hair, while men should also wear long pants. For those who don't have appropriate clothing, skirts and scarves are available for rent. 

If you're planning to visit the historic Hagia Sophia, keep in mind that it is open to the public from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm, with occasional closures during prayer hours. Even if you can't enter the nave during prayer hours, you can still visit the mosque. You can find more information about daily prayer times by visiting this link. 

Discover the Free Things to Do in Istanbul for an Unforgettable Experience! If you're in search of exciting adventures and remarkable sights, look no further. Istanbul offers a plethora of captivating activities that will leave you in awe. Explore the vibrant streets, indulge in delicious cuisine, and immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of this enchanting city. Don't miss out on the best things to do in Istanbul! 

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