Sightseeing

Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque (Tickets, Pass, Card, Guide)

Hagia Sophia is known in Turkish as Ayasofya and was formerly named the Church of Divine Wisdom. Hagia Sophia is a former Orthodox Christian patriarchal basilica, later a mosque in the Ottoman Empire, then a museum, and now again a mosque in Istanbul. Hagia Sophia is a well-known landmark in Istanbul and a remnant of the Byzantine Empire.

The monument has undergone several restorations, but much of its original form remains today. A visit to the mesmerising Ayasofya is a must if you are travelling to Istanbul. Because the Hagia Sophia is one of the greatest buildings in the world. Learn more about its history, architecture and the most up-to-date information for your travel.

1. Hagia Sophia Facts

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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One look at Hagia Sophia Istanbul and you will know why it is one of the most exquisite buildings in the world. Hagia Sophia is a great place to visit due to its rich history and unique architecture. It rises above other structures as a masterpiece of beauty. Here are some facts to help you grasp why Hagia Sophia is so spectacular;

  • Hagia Sophia means “Holy Wisdom” in Ancient Greek. You may wonder how to pronounce Hagia Sophia. Hagia is pronounced as ‘Hai-yuh’. Pronouncing Sophia is pretty easy: It’s ‘suh-fee-uh’. I hope it helps!
  • It is named for its great dome, which was the height of human achievement at the time it was built. It was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly one thousand years. Ayasa is considered one of the greatest architectural feats and has inspired many other historic buildings throughout Europe.
  • The Hagia Sophia was listed as a world cultural heritage site by UNESCO in 1985.
  • The interior space is monumental due to its sheer size and grandeur. It has the capacity of allowing 3-4 thousand people to pray at the same time!
  • The building is composed of 107 columns and a dome with a height of about 55 metres.
  • It is known that Hagia Sophia was the first building with both a central dome and basilica work.
  • Hagia Sophia was built in such a way that the light would fall on the floor through windows placed high up in the dome, illuminating the entire interior.

2. History of Hagia Sophia

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Hagia Sophia mosque has been destroyed, rebuilt and undergone restoration several times throughout its history. Originally, the building was an Orthodox Christian church and an important artifact of Christianity. First construction of Hagia Sophia occured in 360, and it is said to be ordered by Emperor Constantine I. But unfortunately it received severe damages because of the fire in 404, and didn’t survive until nowadays. The Second Hagia Sophia was built by Emperor Theodosius in 415. Both the first and the second Hagia Sophias were ruined due to the riots.

For the third time, it was rebuilt during the reign of Emperor Justinian in the 6th century, who wanted it to be spectacular. It was built by architects Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles with rapid progress between 532-537. Therefore, it also has taken place among the fastest constructions!

Hagia Sophia was an Orthodox Church from the time it was built in Byzantine Period until the conquest of Constantinople by Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror in 1453. Before that, there was a short period of time when Hagia Sophia was under Catholic control in the 13th century, after it was seized by the crusaders during the fourth crusade. After the conquest in Ottoman period, there were additions to the once great church such as minaret, minbar and mihrab to be used as a Hagia Sophia Mosque.

Hagia Sophia remained a mosque until 1935 in the Republic of Turkey it was made into a museum. Recently, in 2020, by the decision of the Turkish Government it was made into Hagia Sophia Mosque again.

Even columns and other elements were imported from ancient cities including the ones located throughout the Mediterranean. If you would like to get to know ancient cities in Türkiye better, then please visit this article.

The architectural wonders you see today are mostly from this third version. There has been some damage in the texture of Hagia Sophia over years due to the earthquakes or so. However, these damages were fixed with restorations successfully. The building was expanded several times.

3. The Hagia Sophia Architecture

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The Hagia Sophia Mosque will mesmerize you from top to bottom with its interior and exterior features. Hagia Sophia was the first church to have a pendentive dome, and contained the largest interior space at the time of its completion. The main dome of Hagia Sophia Mosque is particularly dazzling, and makes Hagia Sophia Mosque world famous. After the conquest of Sultan Mehmet, in order to obey islamic conventions some mosaics of Jesus, Virgin Mary and angels have been plastered over but there are still mosaics to be found that survived in Hagia Sophia architecture. Here are some of the parts you’ll see in Hagia Sophia.

Interior of this magnificent building includes: Mosaiques, Miniature art, Tile art, and Plates. The Exterior, on the other hand, will impress you with Fountain , Water dispenser, Tomb, Şadırvan, Sıbyan mektebi (old primary school), Library and reading room, Muvakkıthane – place to determine the time according to the astrology, Bath and Almshouse. The building has two semi-domes, in the main entrance and at the altar.

4. Hagia Sophia Istanbul Mosque Tour: Sailing Through Byzantium

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Touring Hagia Sophia is like taking a journey through time. So, please take your time to absorb it. Here is what awaits you in your Hagia Sophia tour.

Once you pass through the outer gate, you can enter Hagia Sophia. You will be amazed by the magnificent and gigantic entrance of Hagia Sophia. The mosaics above the entrance door are eye-catching.Then you pass through another door and find yourself in a long corridor. If you pass through the door on the right side, you are welcomed by the prayer area.

At this point we recommend that you take off your shoes when you enter and dress more modestly in advance. Inside, a huge area with a huge dome and chandeliers awaits you. Don’t forget to look at the dome and the mosaics on it. Because Hagia Sophia is known for its beauty and the mosaics that adorn its walls.

To save time, check out these tours to visit Hagia Sophia!

5. Location of Hagia Sophia

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Hagia Sophia is located in Sultanahmet Square, which is one of the most historic areas of Istanbul. Because of its location, you are in an ideal position to visit the Sultanahmet Mosque, Basilica Cistern and Topkapi Palace. They are within walking distance from the square. Add a relaxing stop to your travel route at Sultanahmet Square. Look around to see the fascinating beauties of Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque and Sultanahmet Mosque among the flowers and fountains.

The square also embodies the rich history of the Grand Mosque. You can see people from different countries around the square.

Location

6. How to get to Hagia Sophia?

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Metro: The nearest metro stop to Hagia Sophia is Yenikapı Metro Station. All you should do is take the metro, get off at Yenikapı Station. Then, you should get on a tram to reach Hagia Sophia. Take the T1 tram and get off at Sultanahmet stop.

Marmaray: To reach Hagia Sophia from Üsküdar, you can use Marmaray. You should get off at Sirkeci stop. Then take the tram. Get off after two stops.

Of course, you can get to this marvellous grand mosque by your private car or taxi.

P.S.: You should read our blog about public transportation in Istanbul to find out more!

7. Hagia Sophia Tickets

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You were required to pay an entrance fee when Hagia Sophia was a museum. But now, it is free to visit Hagia Sophia. Therefore, to visit Hagia Sophia tickets are no longer required. We recommend you not to visit it during prayer times in order to not to interrupt people praying.

8. Hagia Sophia Hours

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Hagia Sophia mosque is open to its visitors 24/7. Therefore, you can enjoy this architectural wonder and feel its ages-old-spirit any time you want and arrange your Hagia Sophia program accordingly!

9. Hagia Sophia Mosque & How Much Time Needed To Visit

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You’ll want to bring a lot of time to visit this historical and architectural wonder! How much time needed to visit Hagia Sophia Mosque depends on you. One hour would be enough for a quick tour, but if you want to observe each detail, then it can take several hours.

Check out one of the most loved Istanbul attractions by HeyTripster readers; 10 days Istanbul itinerary!

FAQ

Why is Hagia Sophia so special?

Hagia Sophia is a special and iconic landmark for many reasons. Originally built as a Christian church in 537 AD, it served as the principal church of the Eastern Orthodox Church for nearly 1,000 years. In 1453, it was converted into a mosque by the Ottoman Empire and remained so until 1935, when it was converted into a museum by the Republic of Turkey. Hagia Sophia is renowned for its architectural beauty and innovation, particularly its massive dome that was considered an engineering marvel at the time of its construction. It also features stunning mosaics and frescoes that reflect both Christian and Islamic influences. Today, Hagia Sophia is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and continues to be a beloved symbol of Istanbul's rich history and cultural heritage.

What is Hagia Sophia and why is it significant?

Hagia Sophia is a historic building located in Istanbul, Turkey that has served as both a Christian church and an Islamic mosque throughout its history. It was originally built in the 6th century as a cathedral by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I and was considered one of the greatest architectural achievements of its time. After the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople in 1453, it was converted into a mosque and remained so for nearly 500 years. In 1935, it was turned into a museum and opened to the public. Hagia Sophia is significant for many reasons. It is an important example of Byzantine architecture and art, showcasing intricate mosaics, frescoes, and other decorative motifs that reflect the cultural and religious traditions of its time. It is also significant as a symbol of both Christian and Islamic faiths, having been used as a place of worship for both religions at different points in history. Finally, it is significant as a UNESCO World Heritage site that attracts millions of visitors each year from all over the world.

Why did the Hagia Sophia collapse?

I'm sorry, but the Hagia Sophia has not collapsed. It is a historic structure located in Istanbul, Turkey that was built in the 6th century and has undergone several renovations and conversions throughout its history. In recent years, it has been converted from a museum back into a mosque, sparking controversy and debate over its preservation and cultural significance. While the Hagia Sophia has faced damage and deterioration over time due to natural disasters, wars, and neglect, it remains standing today as an iconic symbol of Byzantine architecture and cultural heritage.

Is Hagia Sophia the Blue Mosque?

No, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque are two separate buildings in Istanbul, Turkey. Hagia Sophia was originally built as a Christian cathedral in the 6th century and later converted into a mosque after the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1453. It was then turned into a museum in 1935 and recently reconverted to a mosque again in 2020. The Blue Mosque, on the other hand, was built as a mosque in the early 17th century during the reign of Sultan Ahmed I. While both buildings are iconic landmarks of Istanbul and feature stunning architecture and design, they have distinct histories and cultural significance.

How do I get to the Hagia Sophia Istanbul?

Getting to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is relatively easy. The site is located in the Sultanahmet neighborhood, which is easily accessible by public transportation or taxi. If you are taking public transportation, you can take the tram to either the Sultanahmet or Gulhane stops, both of which are within a few minutes' walk of the Hagia Sophia. Alternatively, you can take a taxi directly to the site. It's important to note that during peak tourist season, there may be long lines and wait times to enter the Hagia Sophia, so it's a good idea to plan ahead and arrive early if possible. Additionally, some areas of the site may be closed or restricted due to ongoing restoration work or other factors, so it's always a good idea to check ahead of time for any updates or changes to visiting hours or access.
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Betül Mulbay

Interested in languages and translation studies. Multilingual. Loves exploring different cultures. Also loves making the culture and beauties of Turkey closer to the world!
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