Istanbul, Turkey, is home to some amazing architecture, history, and cuisine, but if there was one place that particularly stuck out to me during my stay, it would have been the Hagia Sophia Museum.
When you travel to this region of the world, you should visit this enormous Byzantine church or cathedral that has been converted into a mosque. It dates back to the 15th century.
Throughout its more than 1,500-year history, this majestic monument has served an essential role for three separate religious communities: the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Muslims. In modern times, the Hagia Sophia, also known as Ayasofya in Turkish, has been transformed into a museum that welcomes guests from around the globe.
The mosque in Istanbul’s historic neighborhood is easily accessible from everywhere in the city. Furthermore, if you love James Bond movies, you might find it interesting to know that “From Russia with Love” had a scene at Hagia Sophia.
History of Hagia Sophia – What is the Hagia Sophia Mosque?
The Hagia Sophia was constructed in 537 AD when Istanbul (formerly named Constantinople) served as the seat of the Byzantine Empire throughout the Middle Ages.
Hagia Sophia, which was once the biggest structure in the world, was an engineering masterpiece. For over a thousand years, it held the record for the biggest mosque in the world.
When Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1453, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque (which is when the four Islamic minarets were also added). The majority of the structure was saved, and Atatürk, the nation of Turkey’s creator, converted the mosque into a secular museum in 1935.
The Hagia Sophia must be visited as part of any journey to Istanbul, as I’ve already stated and will do so again.
What makes Hagia Sophia so special to me?
After visiting several churches and temples throughout the globe, the Hagia Sophia shines out as the best. Both inside and out, it is simply wonderful.
Over 3 million people visit the Hagia Sophia mosque each year, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visiting The Hagia Sophia Mosque
It’s a good idea to stroll around the exterior of Hagia Sophia before entering to get a better view of the massive dome, buttresses, and minarets.
These are massive in size, and Sultanahmet Square’s fountain offers one of the greatest vantage locations for photographing pictures.
You may also visit the Sultans’ Tombs on the Hagia Sophia grounds, a collection of three smaller dome-shaped structures decorated with elaborate Islamic themes and inscriptions.
Do not be discouraged from visiting Hagia Sophia by the lengthy lineups. The wait is well worth it to view this magnificent building. To enter the Hagia Sophia, there are two lines: one for purchasing tickets and another for entering the museum.
OPTION nO 1: MUSEUM PASS
I suggest visitors purchase the “Museum Pass Istanbul” in advance if they plan on seeing the museum freely. You may enter a number of the most famous museums in Istanbul for one low fee with this pass, but you only have 120 hours to utilize it. The Museum Pass Istanbul (TL85, or around AUD 40), if you start adding up all the different admission fees, is well worth it.
To avoid standing in the ticket queue, which is equally long as the line to enter and moves even more slowly, buy your pass in advance. Additionally, you will escape long lineups at locations like Topkapi Palace. The pass may be purchased online, however, you’ll note that the whole page is in Turkish.
Another of the museums on the pass where you may purchase the pass will have considerably shorter lineups. Additionally to some hotels, the pass may be purchased through automated kiosks and mobile sales vehicles.
OPTION nO 2: BOOK A TOUR
I discovered that signing up for a group trip was the greatest way to visit Turkey. We had a complete guide to us, so I didn’t have to bother about setting up transportation or lodging. Hagia Sophia was a stop on our trip, and since our guide had provided us with headphones, we could still hear him talking about it while we were wandering about.
Several tour firms provide guided tours of Hagia Sophia if you just plan on staying in Istanbul. You can now enter the building without waiting in the ticket line and solely in the security check queue.
Inside The Hagia Sophia Mosque
Its Byzantine architecture and history utterly fascinate me as I go over inside. Everywhere you turn, there is so much detail that it takes hours to properly comprehend the structure. The Hagia Sophia is a work of art, with mosaic embellishments, marble pillars, and paintings.
The first time you reach this enormous structure and proceed through the same hallways as Emperors and Sultans from earlier eras, it is an amazing sensation.
Being surrounded by old history gives you the impression that you have traveled back in time.
Remember to climb the stairs to the second level after visiting the first floor’s hallways so you can view beautiful golden mosaics of Biblical scenes and people that are still mostly undamaged from medieval times.
Additionally, from here, you can see the elaborate domed ceilings more clearly.
Interesting Facts about the Hagia Sophia
- The landmark is known as Ayasofya in Turkey.
- By definition, Hagia Sophia is the Church of Holy Wisdom.
- Islamic calligraphy plaques from the 19th century were constructed of wood.
- For 916 years, Hagia Sophia housed a Christian church.
- It was formerly the biggest dome on the entire planet.
Things to Know Before Visit
In all of Turkey, the Hagia Sophia is one of the most treasured sites. In light of this, it is crucial to bear a few things in mind before traveling. The following advice will help:
- Before you go into the museum, make sure to take your shoes off.
- Every day, excluding Mondays, the attraction is accessible to guests.
- For the sake of avoiding lineups, always purchase your entrance ticket in advance.
- Tripods are not allowed at Hagia Sophia. To avoid carrying one, be careful too.
- Don’t wear anything skimpy, not even shorts, and dress modestly!
- Always have your identification with you, along with a bottle of water.
Tickets Cost & Hours
The Hagia Sophia has a rather simple entrance.
If you want someone to explain these things to you when you go, you can hire a guide at the gate, but this is not required.
You can usually get tickets without any trouble and quickly, and then you may leave.
- Adults: 60 (USD 11.20)
- Youngsters: Free Entrance Under 9
- Summer Timings: 9 AM to 7 PM (April 15 – October 31)
- Winter Timings: 9 AM to 5 PM (November 1 – April 15)
One hour prior to closing, entrance is no longer permitted.
Ideal Season / Time to Visit
I’ve been to Istanbul a few times, and every time I’ve made an effort to see Hagia Sophia. Overall, I discovered that the winter season was the ideal time to visit Hagia Sophia. There were a lot fewer visitors, which made it easier to take pictures and less annoying to wait in lines.
It is preferable to go right before closing time if you wish to visit Istanbul at any other time of the year. Although most of the big groups will have already departed, do not forget that there will still be a queue. I suggest arriving approximately 1.5 to 2 hours before closure (5:00 pm).
Weekends and Friday mornings are not good times to visit Hagia Sophia. On Fridays, the Blue Mosque is closed until 2:30 p.m., therefore tour groups would often visit Hagia Sophia before going to the Blue Mosque. Additionally, Hagia Sophia receives both local and foreign tourists on the weekends, which increases its level of busyness.
Last but not least, remember that Hagia Sophia shuts at 5:00 p.m. on Mondays and that admittance to the museum closes 30 minutes before that time.
If you’re looking for other activities in Istanbul, Check out the Top 15 Beautiful Places to Visit in Turkey.
Location of Hagia Sophia
The structure is situated in Sultanahmet Square, Istanbul’s former historic district.
- The Hagia Sophia is around 45 kilometers away from Sabiha Gökçen Foreign Airport (SAW), which seems to be the airport of choice for many international flights into Istanbul (30 miles).
- Taking the HAVABÜS shuttle bus from the airport to Taksim Square and then hopping in an Uber for the last short ride from Taksim to Sultanahmet is far more affordable (and almost as quick) than taking a cab or Uber to go to the Hagia Sophia.
It is strongly advised that you visit the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace while you are at the Sophia.
From Sophia, it takes only 5 minutes to get there.