One of the 17th century’s most important architectural masterpieces, the Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii), also known as the Blue Mosque, spectacular design strikes visitors from the moment they lay eyes on it. Construction of the mosque began in 1609 on the orders of Sultan Ahmed I, and was completed in 1616 by the architect Sedefkâr Mehmet Ağa. With its magnificent dome and six minarets, the Blue Mosque is an indispensable part of the Istanbul skyline with its extraordinary beauty. Although the hospital, caravanserai and kitchen have not survived, the most important part of the complex is the mosque, which is usually entered by the north entrance. The Sultans would enter the mosque with caution, tilting their heads to avoid the chain on the door. This chain represents the omnipotence of Allah and symbolizes equality for all that enter the mosque. The marbles in the inner courtyard of the mosque are known to have been brought from all corners of the world. The mosque is more commonly known by Westerners as the “Blue Mosque” because of the blue tiles covering the interior. The reason being that the interior of the mosque is covered with more than 20 thousand tulips, lilies, carnations and blue-white Iznik tiles. The moment you walk inside, you’ll be struck by the spacious, airy atmosphere of the building, which is in no small part due to the 260 windows which allow light to flood in. Mimber is embossed and decorated with gilded inlaid, and the mihrab is decorated with marble with cypress motifs. The magnificent doors and window shutters used pearl and ivory inlaid wood. The huge chandelier inside the mosque is now illuminated with bulbs but was designed to carry oil lamps. This building is the perfect combination of powerful aesthetics and architectural mastery, so be sure you take the chance to visit one of the most important buildings in the Islamic world. It is located in Sultanahmet, Istanbul’s most touristic district. It is always a joy to watch the seagulls flying around the mosque, especially when illuminated by evening light.
Hagia Sophia Mosque
The Hagia Sophia, built as a monumental cathedral by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian between 532-537 A.D., is at the center of Istanbul with a history of almost 1,500 years.
Utilized as a cathedral until 1453, the Hagia Sophia – still considered the oldest cathedral in the world – was converted into a mosque after the Conquest of Istanbul[CG1] . While some of the mosaics in the Hagia Sophia had already been destroyed during the eighth and ninth centuries A.D. (during the Byzantine iconoclasm periods), many remaining mosaics were hidden under a layer of whitewash after its conversion into a mosque. The Hagia Sophia, which in 1935 acquired museum status with the decision of the Council of Ministers, again became a mosque in 2020 and opened to worship.
The Hagia Sophia is among the world’s most important architectural landmarks. The structure covers a large area, featuring a domed basilica with only four pillars – a technical and aesthetic revolution in terms of architectural history. The Hagia Sophia was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985 and its complex structure, along with its mosaics and unique examples of calligraphy, continue to inspire a sense of wonder.
Set in Sultanahmet, Istanbul’s historic Old City, and surrounded by other significant monuments, the Hagia Sophia continues to be a living testament to the past for new generations. If your path leads you to Istanbul, then you will most certainly want to see the magnificent Hagia Sophia Mosque.
Eyüp Sultan Mosque
The Eyüp Sultan Mosque is one of the most important religious centers in the country and the first mosque to be built after the conquest of Istanbul. This mosque was named after Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, a friend and flagbearer of Prophet Mohamed who died during the siege, more than 1300 years ago. The complex was built in 1458 by Fatih’s request; The mosque consists of a mausoleum, a madrasa, hamam and baths. The building, which lost its uniqueness in the renovation works, saw major damage during the earthquake of 1766. Sultan Selim III had the whole building pulled down and constructed from scratch. It was built for the second time by a team under the leadership of the architect Uzun Hüseyin Ağa and it opened for worship on 24 October 1800. The interior of the mosque is the symbol of splendor with its honey-colored walls, turquoise rugs and a huge-sized chandelier. Over time, Eyüp Sultan Mosque has become not only a religious symbol but also an important social center as it carries significant spiritual value for all Muslims. When you enter the mosque from the courtyard lined with sycamore trees, you can feed the pigeons that flock there. The Eyüp district takes its name from the mosque, and the building has become more than just a place of worship, as it plays an integral role in local social life and is particularly busy during Ramadan and other festivals.
Süleymaniye Mosque (Süleymaniye Camii) was built in the name of Suleiman the Magnificent, the longest-serving sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and is the eternal resting place of Suleiman and his wife Hurrem. A classic work of Ottoman architecture, Suleymaniye Mosque is located in the Fatih district of Istanbul and is one of the largest monuments that graces Istanbul’s unique skyline. Mimar Sinan designed the building, and he himself believed it to be his finest work. Part of a larger complex, the splendor and majesty of the building is simply undeniable. The genius of Mimar Sinan still inspires admiration today, and he constructed the mosque between 1550 and 1557. It’s considered the pinnacle of both architectural prowess and Ottoman style. As you enter the mosque, you will be struck by the spaciousness and magnitude of this simple structure. The 7-hectare complex of the mosque was once a madrasa, a bath, a library and a soup kitchen. Many historical events are symbolized by numbers in Suleymaniye Mosque. The four minarets are symbolic of the fact that Suleiman was the fourth sultan of the Ottoman Empire after the conquest of Istanbul. The 10 şerafe of the mosque refer to his being the 10th Sultan who has sat on the throne. It is known that the 4 pillars represent the four caliphs of Islam. The walls of the mosque are decorated with marvelous Iznik tiles. The windows and mimber are pearl inlaid wood. Mimar Sinan employed two special techniques in the interior architecture of the mosque. He left sufficient space between bricks to ensure that the structure would have wonderful acoustics. Which also created and airflow to direct the smoke from the candle lamps to the openings, so as not to pollute the clear air in the mosque. Do not miss the opportunity to see this great work, a grand display of Sinan’s talent and grace, which truly completes the Kanuni era. Especially during Ramadan, there isn’t a more delightful spot to enjoy the blessed iftar meal in the mosque garden.
Camlica Mosque, the largest mosque built in the history of the Republic of Turkey, opened for worship in March 2019 and can hold up to 63 thousand people. Selatin mosques (mosques that were commissioned by Sultans) are emblems of Istanbul. Camlica Mosque is a continuation of this legacy, blending Ottoman-Seljuk architectural features with modern styles. Visible all over Istanbul, Camlıca Mosque’s 6 towering minarets emerge from its magnificent structure. The 72-meter-high dome of the mosque represents 72 nations living in Istanbul. The dome of 34 meters diameter represents Istanbul. And atop the main dome, the finial stands, 7-meters 77 cm, and 3 meters 12 cm wide; weighing 4.5 tons, making it the world’s largest finial. More than just a place of worship, the Camlıca Mosque is home to museums, art galleries, libraries, conference halls, art workshops and car parks.
Bayezid II Mosque
Bayezid Mosque is one of the first examples of classical Ottoman architecture in Istanbul, built by Sultan II. Bayezid, 50 years after the conquest of Istanbul, making it the oldest mosque in Istanbul. Located in the famous Byzantine period in Theodosius Square, it was ordered to be built by a sultan and is also the oldest to preserve its authenticity. Unlike the era’s tendency to opt for a more symmetrical design, the tomb, schools, guesthouses, madrasa, kitchen, bath and caravanserai of this huge complex of buildings are arranged in somewhat of a more disparate configuration. In the 16th century, renowned Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan added an arch to support the mosque, and despite floods, earthquakes and even being struck by lightning, it’s reached the present day almost perfectly preserved. No wonder it’s regarded as a symbol of the Ottoman Empire’s strength! Here you can find a blend of the Ottoman past and Istanbul today; traces of byzantine heritage and a feel of Ottoman traditions and daily life.
Arap Mosque, located in Karaköy Galata, is the oldest mosque in Istanbul, and the first mosque to resound the call to prayer, dating back to 717. In those years, the Arab Muslim army resided in Istanbul for 7 years and worshipped at the Arap Mosque. The soldiers were later sent away on orders to Şam, the Mosque was then converted into a church by nuns. The minaret as we know it today was once a bell tower. After the 1453 conquest of Istanbul, the mosque returned to its original state with added embellishments of an altar and pulpit, taking the name Arap Mosque.
Dolmabahçe Mosque (Bezm-i Alem Valide Sultan Mosque)
Built in the 19th century, Dolmabahçe Mosque, stands out with its western and baroque architectural features. Built by architect, Nigoğos Balyan, who has signed many works of the Ottoman Empire. This charming mosque in Dolmabahçe neighborhood was built in 1852 on the orders of Bezm-i Alem Valide Sultan, the wife of Sultan Mahmud II. When she died, her son Abdülmecid I oversaw its completion in 1855. The architect, Nigoğos Balyan, clearly incorporated Western influences in its design, and the use of stone and marble gives the mosque an elegant yet powerful character. Between 1948 and 1961, it hosted the Maritime Museum, and after the museum moved to its new location, the mosque underwent restoration work. After the restoration was carried out by the General Directorate for Foundations, Dolmabahçe Mosque (Dolmabahçe Camii) doors once again opened as a place of worship. Rounded windows and other Baroque elements add to the palatial feel of the building, and it’s sure to leave you impressed.
Ortaköy Mosque (Büyük Mecidiye Mosque)
This mosque is officially named Büyük Mecidiye Mosque (Büyük Mecidiye Camii) but is more commonly known as Ortaköy Mosque (Ortaköy Camii). Along with the Dolmabahçe and Çırağan Palaces, Ortaköy Mosque was the work of the Balyan family, the Armenian architects Garabet Amira Balyan and his son Nigoğos Balyan. In this part of the Bosphorus, the Balyan family, which has built buildings such as Dolmabahçe Mosque (Bezm-I Alem Valide Sultan Mosque), Dolmabahçe Palace and Çırağan Palace, have greatly contributed to the aesthetics of the city with its neo-baroque style. The mosque’s windows are among its most striking features. They are significantly larger than those of other mosques in the city, and the way they reflect the light from both the sun and the waters of the Bosphorus is truly beguiling. The names of Muhammad and the first four caliphs were written by Sultan Abdülmecid himself. This unique mosque in the Ortaköy district of Istanbul is full of architectural delicacy and photo opportunities. It is a pleasure to gaze upon the Ortaköy Mosque, while on a Bosphorus tour.
Fatih Mosque is the first monumental structure built after the conquest of Istanbul, and the first place to resound the Turkish call to prayer. Constructed between 1463 and 1470, the building of the Fatih Mosque (Fatih Camii) was an important step in turning Istanbul into an Ottoman city. Atik Sinan is the architect of the giant complex Fatih Sultan Mehmet. The original building was a milestone in Ottoman architecture, however earthquakes in 1509, 1557 and 1754 rocked the mosque, and the one in 1766 left the structure damaged beyond repair. After the earthquake, Sultan Mustafa III ordered the rebuilding of the mosque in 1767, and the structure completed by the architect Mehmet Tahir Ağa in 1771 is the Fatih Mosque we see today. The mosque carries the traces of classical Ottoman architecture, with a huge 26-meter wide central dome and 22 smaller domes, and four pillars. The layout of the mosque reveals a turning point in the development of Turkish architecture. On the kiblah side, behind the mosque, is the tomb of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, which is well worth taking a look at. It’s said that there’s an underground passage leading from the burial chamber of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror which extends from the tomb right to the mosque’s mihrab. As a sign of respect, the octagonal, domed tomb only contains the remains of the sultan himself. As you explore the mosque, be sure to notice the Baroque decorations and embellishments – these wouldn’t have been present in the original. The mosque and its courtyard are busy throughout the day, as the complex is more than just a place of worship, it’s a hive of social activity, located in Fatih.
Yeni Mosque / Valide Sultan Mosque
Along with Galata Bridge and the Spice Bazaar, this mosque and its complex are one of the most important landmarks in the Eminönü district. Designed in Ottoman taste, Yeni Mosque is the last mosque of its size to be commissioned by a sultan. Of all the Ottoman mosques, it took the longest to build. Construction began in 1597 and wasn’t completed until 1665. It was built on the request of Sultan Murad III’s wife Sultana Safiye and was completed thanks to the great efforts and charity of Turhan Hatice Sultan, Mehmed’s mother. One of the first largest mosques to be constructed on the shoreline of Istanbul, Yeni Mosque, is garnished with two minarets and 66 domes, and houses a fountain within its lovely courtyard. The grand dome at the heart of the mosque, has four pillars and 4 half domes on the haunches. Some other distinguishing features of the mosques are the cloisters on its side facades and 3 balconies on each minaret. The beautiful stained-glass windows are framed by white marble made of mimber and ornamented by mother of pearl inlay. The walls embellished with tiles add to the striking beauty of the mosque. Inscripted above the windows you will find Mustafa Çelebi’s verses and emins. Yeni Mosque is part of the Istanbul’s historical shopping district, and is attached to the Spice Bazaar, where you can find bird feed shops and feed the flocks of birds.
Kılıç Ali Paşa Mosque
Kılıç Ali Paşa Mosque was built in honor of Captain Kılıç Ali Paşa, in 1580, by the renowned architect of the day Mimar Sinan, though it would prove to be one of his last works. In the Tophane district, the complex includes the mosque, a public fountain, a madrasa, mausoleum and hamam. The building of the mosque was ordered by the 16th-century Italian-born Ottoman admiral Kılıç Ali Paşa. Since it was built for a seafarer, the mosque was constructed on reclaimed land, though today it appears to be much further inland than it once was because of the huge amount of reclamation which has occurred in the area over the centuries. The beautiful, seemingly ostentatious tiling and calligraphy inside the mosque, sets the building apart from Mimar Sinan’s previous, more understated works, and it’s clear that he tried to synthesize the layout found at Hagia Sophia with the Ottoman understanding of architecture. The mosque is an important structure in terms of reflecting an architect’s desire for change. The niche of the mosque, similar to the Bursa mosques and the Iznik tiles around it, reflect the Ottoman architectural taste. Mimar Sinan’s understanding of aesthetics extended to the complex’s hamam, where you’ll find beautiful porticoes and fountains, and it’s regarded as one of the best Turkish baths in the city. So be sure to take the time to see Kılıç Ali Pasha Mosque and its complex, take in its magnificence, and enjoy one of the last works of a celebrated architect.
Mihrimah Sultan Mosque
Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, which is one of the most striking buildings in Üsküdar, Kanuni Sultan Süleyman commissioned Mimar Sinan to build it for his daughter, Mihrimah Sultan. The mosque is one of Mimar Sinan’s earlier pieces, but you’ll see the aesthetics and techniques he used in later projects at work here too. For the first time Sinan used some technical and aesthetic elements to be applied in his later works. It’s for this reason that the building is regarded as an important milestone in his development as a master architect. For the first time, Sinan used the half domes that would become his signature mark. In fact, there’s a mosque of the same name in the Edirnekapı region which was also the work of Mimar Sinan. However, as much as there is to say about the design of the building, there’s an interesting story behind it too. When the sultan’s daughter Mihrimah came of marrying age, Mimar Sinan himself was a suitor, however her mother, Hürrem Sultan had set her heart on another match. It was through this building that Sinan expressed his unrequited love. He succeded in intertwining both aesthetic beauty with mathematical precision. The name Mihrimah means “sun and moon” in Farsi, and Sinan built the two Mihrimah Sultan Mosques in such a way that on the 21st of March, during the equinox, the sun would line up directly behind the one in Edirnekapı and the moon directly behind the one in Üsküdar. The mosque’s fountain is one of the best places to watch the beautiful scenery of Istanbul.
Molla Zeyrek Mosque
In a former life, the Zeyrek Mosque (Molla Zeyrek Camii) was the Pantokrator Monastery, belonging to the Byzantine period and was built on a wide terrain with terraces on a hill overlooking the Golden Horn. After the conquest of Istanbul, a madrasa was established in the building. The madrasa was named after a student of the school, Molla Zeyrek Mehmed Efendi. Later it was completely converted into a mosque. It wasn’t until later that it was completely converted into a mosque. It was only in 1966 that the Directorate of Foundations took on the task of restoring the building fully, and you’ll find that one of the most striking features of the church is the incredible decoration of its floor. Molla Zeyrek Mosque is one of the greatest Byzantine masterpieces that survived the test of time, along with the Haghia Sophia. The mosque is also the second largest church from Byzantium in Istanbul after the Hagia Sophia.
A turning point in Ottoman architecture, Nuruosmaniye Mosque (Nuruosmaniye Camii) was designed by the architects Mustafa Ağa and Architect Simeon (Simeon Kalfa). Construction began in 1748 and was finished in 1755. As the first mosque to be built during a time of westernization, and in the Ottoman Baroque style, it holds a special place in Ottoman architectural history. This blend of Ottoman and Baroque forms was the beginning of a major change in Ottoman architecture. It is part of a complex consisting of a mosque, a fountain, a library, two public fountains, a madrasa, a tomb, a café, and a shop, which is very different from the complexes of the classical period selatin kind. The mosque is located close by the Column of Constantine (Çemberlitaş) and the entrance of the Grand Bazaar (Kapalıçarşı), and over history, its courtyard was somewhat of a social gathering place for locals, which is still true to this day. The Rococo decorations, a total of 174 windows and prominent mihrab really set it apart from the more traditional Ottoman mosques of Istanbul. It was also the first mosque to have iron used in its construction, and its 26-meter-wide dome is one of the largest in the city; in the dome, there is an inscription “Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth.” The mosque also acted as a center for scientific study, and as much as the building itself, it’s also well-worth setting aside some time to take a look at its 5,000-piece library. It is also worth mentioning that the name of the Nuruosmaniye Mosque stands for both the Sultan and the Ottoman’s splendor. You can find this mosque in the Çemberlitaş district of Istanbul.
Firuz Ağa Mosque
Firuz Ağa Camii is located at the point where Sultanahmet Square and Divanyolu Street intersect. The mosque itself was built in 1491 by Bayezid II’s head treasurer, Firuzağa. The dome structure of the mosque reminiscent of the classical period, is a typical example of Turkish architecture before the conquest of Istanbul and the influence of Hagia Sophia. With its elegant dome resting on 8 square hoops and a 3-marble cloisters, it possesses a single minaret, in keeping with the Bursa tradition. The minaret is uniquely on the left side of the mosque. The grave of Firuz Ağa, famous for his charity, is also in this mosque.
Piyale Paşa Mosque
Mimar Sinan was responsible for designing the mosques dedicated to three different Admirals in Chief – Sinan Paşa Mosque in Beşiktaş, Kılıç Ali Paşa Mosque in Tophane, and Piyale Paşa Mosque in Kasımpaşa. Commissioned by the Admiral in Chief Derya Piyale Pasha, the Derya Piyale Paşa Mosque (Piyale Paşa Mosque) was built as an Islamic-Ottoman social complex on the shore of a valley that was once Kasımpaşa. Piyale Paşa Mosque is now far more inland than it would have been. Including the courtyard complex, the complex was completed in 1573 and covered a total of 22,500 square meters of land. Sadly, its madrasa, lodge, school and bazaar no longer exist. The rectangular mosque’s six 9-meter-wide domes are really eye-catching, as is the mihrab, which is decorated with attractive İznik tiles.
Rüstem Paşa Mosque
This grand mosque was built in Eminonü, for Grand Vizier Kanuni’s son-in-law Rüstem Paşa. The Rüstem Paşa Mosque, which was built by the sea by Mimar Sinan, in 1561. The tiling is a real decorative feat and adds a vibrancy and beauty to the interior. Coral colored tiles adorn the walls, a decoration usually used in sultans’ mosques. Blue colored and cobalt colored tiles were more commonly used. You will hardly believe your eyes when you walk inside, as it’s a real testament to how architecture is as much about aesthetics as it is about technical accuracy. This structure is very modest in the city where the mosques are built with 2 minarets. You can see the outline of Süleymaniye and Rüstem Paşa from the Galata Bridge, they are an integral part of the district’s skyline.
Atik Ali Paşa Mosque
This mosque, built in Çemberlitaş, is one of the first examples of Ottoman architecture in the city. Built About fifty years after the conquest of Istanbul it was commissioned by and named after Ali Atik Pasha, Grand Vizier during the reign of Sultan Bayezid II. It was built in 1496, and its complex consisted of five sections, of which only the mosque, madrasa and mausoleum survive today. During the earthquakes which struck Istanbul in 1648 and 1766, the mosque’s dome was completely destroyed, its minaret was damaged, and its original structure became deformed. Despite all this, the mosque still beguiles visitors with its impressive appearance. The understated interior of the mosque is beautifully complimented by the sunlight which floods through the 16 windows in its dome creating a mystical atmosphere. This beautiful work of architecture, Atik Ali Paşa Mosque, is located at one of the most important intersections of Istanbul and still plays a key role in local social life. Even on a hot summer’s day, the mosque’s garden stays cool, and is the perfect place to escape the heat.
Atik Valide Sultan Mosque
The final masterpiece of the great architect Mimar Sinan, the Atik Valide Sultan Mosque, was built in 1583. Located in Üsküdar, the central dome and two minarets bestride the horizon. The Atik Valide Sultan Mosque complex is intricate and accentuated by the Nurbanu Valide Sultan dome, which is perfectly placed in a rather complicated layout. The deliberately asymmetrical layout is tied in with a unique structure and ornamentation. Valide Sultan complex is comprised of a mosque, hamam, madrasa, caravanserai, dervish monastery, hospital, and a separate primary school, and is one of the largest in Istanbul. Today, only the mosque and the hamam are in use. Sycamore trees adorn the courtyard of the rectangular shaped mosque. The mosque can be entered through three different entrances. The mihrab part of the mosque is adorned with six domes and beautiful İznik tiles. The large wooden gates of the mosque are coated with mother of pearl and minbar with fine carved marble. We recommend you enter the mosque through the impressive archway at Tekkeönü Sokak. Take a nice stroll through the courtyard of the mosque and admire the stone column gallery and the tall sycamore trees. Also examine the Ottoman gravestones with Arabic inscriptions. Take in the gorgeous views next to the marble dome in the center of the courtyard.
Suleiman the Magnificent’s favorite son, Şehzade Mehmed, died in 1543 while returning from a military campaign, and the sultan had this mosque built in his memory. It was constructed between 1543 and 1548 by Mimar Sinan during his period of apprenticeship and was one of his first steps on his journey to becoming among history’s most recognized architects. Şehzade Mosque is a rare example of splendid simplicity. Mimar Sinan accomplished the Renaissance dream of a half-dome, which you can observe up close. It also features two minarets and is a fitting tribute to the young Şehzade, who lost his life at the age of 22. The techniques used in the building of this mosque would later inspire those later built throughout the 17th century. Şehzade Camii, is located in the district Fatih.
Yeraltı Mosque (Underground Mosque)
Yeraltı Mosque, also known as Kurşunlu Mahzen Mosque, is located in Karaköy. Entrances to the mosque can be found on Kemankeş Street and Karantina Street. The mosque is not entirely underground but due to sloping stairs on Karantina Street, you need to bend down to enter. That is where the Yeraltı Camii got its name from. In order to prevent any intruders from entering the Golden Horn, there was a chain attached to a tower. Older sources claim that his tower, also known as the Galata Fortress, was demolished during the Ottoman rule of Istanbul. During a siege in the 7th century, Vehb Bin Hüseyre and Süfyan B. Member were deemed as martys and secretly buried in the cellars of the tower. In 1640, their skeletons were found in the cellars, and a tomb was built, which you can visit today. In 1757, Sadrazam Köse Mustafa Paşa converted the tomb into a mosque.
Sancaklar Mosque, located in Büyükçekmece, is not your ordinary mosque, it a modern masterpiece. Sancaklar Mosque was designed with the true spirit of Islam in mind, aiming for true simplicity and modesty. For this and its incredible design it won many awards. You leave your ego at the door as you descend down the courtyard stairs into the mosque, which becomes one with the Earth. The interior design of the mosque is minimalistic and leans from ostentatiousness that may be found in more classical works. The crevices along the Qibla wall of the mosque grace the area of worship and allow sunlight to drift into the space. Sancaklar mosque, is not just a place of worship, it also offers a generous library.Purchase your flight ticket to Istanbul, the home of the centuries old Ottoman Empire and famous mosques’.