Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque (Ayasofya 2020 Guide with Insider Advice)

Last Updated on September 26, 2020

Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya in Turkish) can be considered as the best and the most visited sights in Istanbul together with the neighboring Topkapi Palace. Hagia Sophia is a former church and museum and declared as one of the world’s greatest architectural works and accepted as the 8th wonder of the world.


Built as a church in 325, Hagia Sophia was rebuilt in 537 and was converted into a mosque by Fatih Sultan Mehmet after the conquest of Istanbul in 1453.

Serving as a museum since 1935, a decree on 10th of July 2020 to formally declare the Hagia Sophia as a mosque, after Turkey’s administrative court annulled a 1934-dated decision that paved the way for the use of Hagia Sophia as a museum.

Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque (Ayasofya 2020 Guide with Insider Advice)

Hagia Sophia Facts

Istanbul’s, as well as the World’s one of most visited sights. So what lies behind?

  • The name “Hagia Sophia” means “Holly Wisdom” in Greek.
  • First built in 325 AD, collapsed 2 times and rebuilt 3 times.
  • Built in the year 532 AD, as the world’s largest place of worship.
  • Converted to a mosque after Ottoman Empire’s conquest of Istanbul in 1453.
  • Converted to a museum in 1935.
  • A decree on 10th of July 2020 to formally declare the Hagia Sophia as a mosque.
  • Declared as one of the world’s greatest architectural works.
  • Accepted as the 8th wonder of the world.

History of Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia’s current building is the third construction and has different architectural style due to the rulers of the city.


Roman & Byzantium Period

Hagia Sophia was first constructed in 325 for the great wish and will of the Emperor Constantine to move the capital of the Roman Empire to Istanbul.

After a big earthquake in 360, the construction restored by the Emperor Constantine and called as “the Big Church (Megale Ekklesia)”.

Until the period of Byzantium Emperor Justinianos (527-565), the building had many damages due to rebellions and big fires and so restored again and again.

And finally it is reconstructed in 5 years with the administration of the famous architects Anthemios (Tralles) and Isidoros (Miletus) under the order of the Emperor Justinianos.

Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque (Ayasofya 2020 Guide with Insider Advice)

Hagia Sophia has been the biggest church and constructed by the East Roman Empire and was used as a church for 916 years, as well as the place in which the emperors were crowned, until the Ottoman Empire’s conquest of Istanbul in 1453, by Fatih Sultan Mehmed.

Ottoman’s Period

After the conquest of Istanbul, Fatih Sultan Mehmed was converted the church into a mosque. Hagia Sophia than was used as a mosque for 482 years.


During the Ottoman Empire, the sultans gave Hagia Sophia a special value. Every effort has been made to protect and sustain Hagia Sophia, the symbol of the conquest.

Ayasofya Mosque Foundation was established by Fatih Sultan Mehmet.

The first minaret, pulpit and altar of Hagia Sophia was built with order of Fatih Sultan Mehmed. He also added a madrasah and library to the place where the building is located.

Sultan Beyazit II (1481-1512) added a mihrab of white marble and a minaret in the northeast corner.

Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566) presented the two lamps he brought from Hungary to Hagia Sophia.

During the period of Sultan Selim II (1566-1574), external retaining structures were added and strengthened by the famous Ottoman Architect Sinan to strengthen Hagia Sophia.

Sinan also made the dome extremely durable by feeding the gaps between the piers carrying the dome of Hagia Sophia and the side walls with arches.

Period of the Turkish Republic

After the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, Hagia Sophia was closed due to restoration work between 1930-1935.

In 1935, with the order of Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, and the decision of the Council of Ministers, Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum.

Hagia Sophia declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.

The part of the Hagia Sophia (named Hunkar Pavilion) was opened for prayers for the first time in October 2016, by the Presidency of Religious Affairs.

Finally a decree on 10th of July 2020 to formally declare the Hagia Sophia as a mosque, after Turkey’s administrative court annulled a 1934-dated decision that paved the way for the use of Hagia Sophia as a museum.

First prayer was held in Friday 24, July 2020.

What to See at Hagia Sophia

on the Exterior

You’ll see;

  • Sultan Tombs,
  • Elementary School,
  • Fountain,
  • Timing Room,
  • Public Fountains,
  • Minarets,
  • Buttresses,
  • Treasury Building (Skevophylakion),
  • Almshouse.

Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque (Ayasofya 2020 Guide with Insider Advice)

on the Interior

It’s like stepping into the holy world of Christianity and Islam, merged on the shell-like apse and under an impressive dome, in a mysterious and mystical ambiance, and a wide range of architectural and art works coming from thousands of years.

Such as the golden Christian mosaics and colorful frescoes from the Byzantine era. Hagia Sophia’s mosaics depict the Christian scenes.

Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque (Ayasofya 2020 Guide with Insider Advice)

The golden Christian mosaics we mention above are probably from the 10th century, and other famous one depicts Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

You’ll see and admire;

  • An impressive Dome,
  • Mosaics,
  • Calligraphic Panes,
  • Tiles,
  • Altar,
  • Minbar,
  • Sultan’s Loge, Muezzin’s Loge,
  • Omphalion,
  • The Library of Sultan Mahmud I,
  • Private Sections (“Maksure”),
  • Marble Cubes,
  • Wishing Column,
  • Gravestone of Commandant Enrico Dandolo,
  • Viking scripture,
  • Doors of Hagia Sophia.

Hagia Sophia Inner Look

current look as a Mosque

Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque (Ayasofya 2020 Guide with Insider Advice)

Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque (Ayasofya 2020 Guide with Insider Advice)

while serving as a Museum

Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque (Ayasofya 2020 Guide with Insider Advice)

Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque (Ayasofya 2020 Guide with Insider Advice)

Hagia Sophia Video Tour

while it was serving as a museum

Visiting Hours & Admissions

Opening Hours

Open every day

Ticket Price

* Entance to Hagia Sophia is FREE of charge

Visiting Hagia Sophia Tips

* Muslims and non-Muslims are all allowed to enter Hagia Sophia.

* There is no entrance fee when entering Hagia Sophia.

* You should remove your shoes before entering the carpets of the mosque.

* You are kindly requested to show respect to daily five prayers (check prayer times from here) in the mosque, not to make so much noise, not to run and stand in front of the people praying.

* Some parts of the mosque used by prayers are temporarily closed to the visitors on Friday worship at noon, as not to disturb.

* Women should wear a head covering when entering to Hagia Sophia. You are able to find head scarves at the entrance free of charge.

* Taking photos are allowed, however you should not take the photos of the people praying.

* Guided tours are made and highly recommended as Hagia Sophia has a history coming from thousands of years. As there is no entrance fee, guided tour prices dropped down.

* Better to know the each detail and story, and have a detailed look at the architecture, mosaics, the imperial dome, upper galleries and the decoration from the past and today with a guide.

* Plan at least 60 minutes for the visit. However, 90 minutes much better.

* Plan your day together with Topkapi Palace and Basilica Cistern as they are within walking distance from Hagia Sophia.

* Visit during the daylight, better in the morning, as natural light inside will make you admire the interior much better.

* Keep an eye out for unofficial guides (guides should have official badge on).

* Don’t pay attention, look in the eyes, and talk with beggars, in addition, people coming beside and ask for helping with guidance around or for money.

* Avoid weekends & Friday prayer at noon if possible, as it will be more crowded with the locals.

* Try the Tarihi Sultanahmet Koftecisi for lunch (about 150 mt. from Hagia Sophia), a popular and historical restaurant famous for its traditional meatball dish and dessert made of semolina. See location map.

* Check the weather forecast and plan your day for the sunniest one if possible.

Guided Tours

This is the best option we recommend especially for first time visitors. And we always recommend opting for an extended English guided tour offered exclusively by several historian guides of Istanbul.

When you book  you’ll get an email confirmation with meeting details (in front of the Hagia Sophia) and there your name being checked from the official guide’s list with your confirmation number.

See below the recommended Hagia Sophia guided tours.

Hagia Sophia only Tours

Hagia Sophia VIP Tickets with Audio App

This is offered by Istanbul Welcome Card and we highly recommend.

Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque (Ayasofya 2020 Guide with Insider Advice)The ticket includes:

  • Skip the line access to Hagia Sophia
  • Entrance fee and Hagia Sophia plan
  • Guiding service by official Hagia Sophia licensed guide
  • Audio App in 10 languages
  • Stay inside as long as you want

Price: €14

Hagia Sophia Meeting Hours: daily except Tuesdays at 10:00 and 16:00

Notice: Our website visitors will get 5% extra discount. Just click the red button below and make sure you see the discounted price on the official page.

Hagia Sophia VIP Tickets & Audio App


Hagia Sophia History Tour and Upper Galleries with Historian Guide

This is offered by Istanbul Welcome Card and we highly recommend. You’ll enjoy Hagia Sophia with one of the few historian guides available in Istanbul, who will tell you about each detail and story about the museum, and you’ll have a detailed look at the architecture, mosaics, construction, the imperial dome, upper galleries and the decoration from the past and today that tell the story of Hagia Sophia.

Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque (Ayasofya 2020 Guide with Insider Advice)Highlights:

  • Benefit from fast track entry
  • Skip the ticket lines and save 2 hours
  • Learn 30 min. from a official guide
  • Get the real sense of the Hagia Sophia
  • See all mosaics, galleries and details inside
  • Get to know the story of the buildings history
  • English speaking guide included

Ticket price: €29

Notice: Our website visitors will get 5% extra discount. Just click the red button below and make sure you see the discounted price on the official page.

Hagia Sophia Meeting Hours: daily except Mondays at 10:00 and 14:00

Hagia Sophia Sophia History Tour and Upper Galleries with Historian Guide


Combo Tours

This is also a great option we recommend especially for both first time visitors and budget travelers.

Majority of the tourists visit Hagia Sophia on the same day with Topkapi Palace and Basilica Cistern due to their proximity.

Combo tickets become a good choice if want to get them all with same ticket. You can pick one of the combo tickets.

VIP Combo Ticket for Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Basilica Cistern

This is offered by Istanbul Welcome Card and we highly recommend.

Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque (Ayasofya 2020 Guide with Insider Advice)The ticket includes:

  • Skip the ticket lines with an official tour guide
  • All entrance fees and english speaking tour guide
  • 30 – 45 min. Highlight Tour at each museum by official tour guide
  • Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace Audio App in 9 languages for IOS and Android
    (English, German, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Arabic, Chinese, Turkish)

Price: €39

Hagia Sophia Meeting Hours: daily except Tuesdays at 09:30 and 10:30

Topkapi Palace Meeting Hours: daily except Tuesdays at 11:30, 13:30 and 14:30

Basilica Cistern Meeting Hours: daily except Tuesdays at 15:30

Notice: Our website visitors will get 5% extra discount. Just click the red button below and make sure you see the discounted price on the official page.

Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Basilica Cistern VIP Combo Ticket


Tourist Passes

Istanbul has two major tourist discount passes. You can read more with our tips and comparisons on our Istanbul Welcome Card and Istanbul Tourist Pass pages.

Topkapi Palace is included at these passes below.


Istanbul Welcome Card Deluxe

Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque (Ayasofya 2020 Guide with Insider Advice)This is a travel discount card that is delivered to your hotel for FREE upon your purchase online, and will be ready to use at your arrival. You can also receive it from its stand in both two Istanbul Airports.

Istanbul Welcome Card Deluxe comes with Museum pass with Fast Track Entry to 9 museums & ticket for Bosphorus Cruise, 3 tours with a historian Guide (Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace & Harem, Basilica Cistern ), Public Transportation, Guide Book and Audio Guides for Istanbul and Free Hotel Delivery.

Buy Your Istanbul Welcome Card Deluxe


Istanbul Tourist Pass

Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque (Ayasofya 2020 Guide with Insider Advice)This is a digital travel discount pass that is delivered to your phone upon your purchase online, and will be ready to use at your arrival. It includes 35+ attractions and services including skip the line access and guided museum tours, dinner cruise, hop-on & hop-off Bus, airport transfer, and many more.

Buy Your Istanbul Tourist Pass


Alternative Tours & Buying Channels

Here we only suggest the proven ways and top rated ones with travelers’ comments. You can feel free to book one of the below top selling tours.

Free cancellation up to 24 hours before activity starts


How to Get to Hagia Sophia?

Location

Hagia Sophia is situated in the Sultanahmet neighborhood of Fatih district, Istanbul, along the Sultanahmet Sqaure, just across the famous Blue Mosque. See the location map.

Transportation

The most practical way to get to Sultanahmet is via Bagcilar-Kabatas tram (T1 line).

  • The closest tram stop is Sultanahmet.
  • Sultanahmet Square and most of the connecting roads are closed for vehicle traffic except tram and tour buses.
  • From Taksim, take the funicular to Kabatas (from taksim Square) or funicular to Karakoy (from Tunel square) and than take the tram.
  • If you stay at the Sultanahmet hotels, than you easily walk to the museum.

Check our Sultanahmet page to see how to get to Sultanahmet in details.

Contact Details

Address: Sultanahmet Square, Fatih, Istanbul
Tel: +90 212 522 17 50
Web: muze.gen.tr/muze-detay/ayasofya


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