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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 19 February, 2024
Expert travel writer: Dana Facaros

A masterpiece of Byzantine architecture, this world-renowned 6th-century marvel encapsulates the essence of the lost Ottoman Empire in stone.

With a great dome and marble columns adorned with frescoes and glittering gold mosaics, the Church of the ‘Holy Wisdom’ was the last major creation of classical antiquity and the centre of the Byzantine world for 1,000 years. Initially a cathedral, then a mosque, it’s now a museum as well as a functioning mosque – and a must-see in Istanbul.

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 13+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

Take the tram to the Sultanahmet station; from there, it’s just a short walk.

There a number of local operators who offer guided tours of the Hagia Sophia, usually as part of a wider old-town tour – useful for skipping the queues, although some tours do feel rushed. Just make sure you climb up to the gallery for views down over the interior and to see the best mosaics.

Women need to cover their heads, shoulders and knees.

When to do it

The mosque is open all year round, seven days a week, except during prayers (half an hour after the call to prayer). Also avoid the main services on Friday mornings and early afternoons, unless you’re a Muslim.

If you can go early in the day, when it first opens, to avoid the queues and the crowds. Or go a couple of hours before closing, as the crowds disperse and the lights come on. Also try to avoid July and August and weekends and holidays throughout the year, when it’s packed.

Who to go with: organised tours

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

Istanbul Classics and Highlights! Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi and more!

Istanbul

Istanbul Classics and Highlights! Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi and more!
This tour is a must in Istanbul with a small group! You will begin the day with the Roman / Byzantine Hippodrome, where the chariot races were organised and take place. Blue Mosque the only mosque with six minarets. Next, you will see the German Fountain - a gift of Kaiser Wilhelm. Hagia Sophia - The Church of Divine Wisdom is the highlight of this day. Following the visits your guide will take you to Nakkas Cistern and give you a presentation of old Istanbul and demonstration of Turkish Handicrafts and Grand Bazaar for thousent of shops. Magnificent Topkapı Museum is the big one, the most important museum of Turkey and Balkan Peninsula. First, second, third and fourth courtyards; the Audience Hall, Divan-the High Court,Treasury, gardens, kiosks. Hagia Irene Church. Your lunch will be served en route in a local and authentic restaurant where you will be able to taste various types of local tastes. To see these things with a great guide. Well, you will never be quite the same again.

Price: $125

Min age: 1

Rating 4.95 / 5 [309 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Morning Istanbul: Half-Day Tour with Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Hippodrome and Grand Bazaar

Istanbul

Morning Istanbul: Half-Day Tour with Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Hippodrome and Grand Bazaar
Enjoy this 4 hours tour with visits to the highlights of the old city. Firstly visit the magnificent Byzantine church of St Sophia. After here continue to Hippodrome, the former centre of sporting and political activities in Constantinople and the Blue Mosque, amazing blue tiles from 16th century. Final visit of the morning is to the Grand Bazaar.

Price: $88

Min age: 0

Rating 4.35 / 5 [80 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Istanbul: Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia Small-Group Tour

Istanbul

Istanbul: Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia Small-Group Tour
Join a small-group walking tour of the two most famous monuments in Istanbul: the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. Benefit from pre-reserved tickets for the Hagia Sophia Enjoy a scenic stroll around Sultanahmet and witness the local life with a professional guide. Experience the splendor and charm of Islamic architecture in the Blue Mosque. Discover the history and culture of the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires. Get tips from your guide at the end of the tour to continue exploring Istanbul independently.

Price: €31

Min age: 0

Rating 4.48 / 5 [54 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Hagia Sophia Tour

Istanbul

Hagia Sophia Tour
- All Tours are organized by a travel agency by Tursab - Skip the long line & Fast track entrance - This is a boutique & vip small group Guided tour - 12 years of experience - Licensed and Nationwide Tour Guide - After the tour you can stay inside as much as you like to - The entrance fee of Hagia Sophia museum is not included to this tour. Our guests will pay for the ticket ( 25 euro pp or 850 liras ) at the entrance. - The best Hagia Sophia tours

Price: $50

Min age: 18

Rating 4.94 / 5 [39 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Topkapi Palace with Harem and Blue Mosque Guided Tour

Istanbul

Topkapi Palace with Harem and Blue Mosque Guided Tour
Istanbul’s Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace are two of the city’s unmissable cultural and historic sites. Focusing on these two places will allow you to concentrate on their beauty and unique histories at leisure, without rushing on to other sites. Save time by skipping the ticket line in Topkapı Palace with priority access, definitely a bonus whether it’s your first time in Istanbul or you’re a repeat visitor.

Price: €21

Min age: 7

Rating 4.97 / 5 [38 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Destination guides

1

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Istanbul

Marmara Region, Turkey

Large illuminated mosque at night with sea in background

Exotic, inexhaustible and dynamic – East meets West head-on in this mesmerising city metropolis, famed for its extraordinarily rich history, superb food and shopping, and mind-blowingly magnificent, over-sized mosques.

Round-ups

1

Round-ups that include this experience

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