Complete Guide to the Religious Places in Istanbul

Discover the most important Churches, Mosques and Synagogues of Istanbul at a walking tour.

Istanbul is filled with wonderful places of worship to discover.

Because Istanbul has been home to people from all types of religious believe, the richness of cultural and religious monuments and places of worship is not found anywhere else.

On this page, find details about the 3 main places of worship you can find in Istanbul: Mosques, Churches and Synagogues. Each category will provide you information about the most important religious monuments to visit in Istanbul.

To discover Istanbul's places of worship with a local expert, you can either book a local guide through our service below or listen to our audio guides of Istanbul. More details below.

Istanbul Blue Mosque and Sultanahmet Square

The City Embracing Three Religions

Turkey is a secular country, predominantly with Muslim population. As of 2021, there are 3,365 active mosques only in Istanbul. Islam became the state’s official religion in the 15th century with the Conquest of Istanbul by Ottoman Turks. 

Before the Ottoman Period, the Christianity was legalized first by the Roman Emperor Constantine, who moved the seat of the Roman Empire to Constantinople in 330 AD. Istanbul is the seat of the Othodox Ecumenical Patriarchate since the 4th century AD. Christian and Jew communities within Constantinople following the conquest of the city by Sultan Mehmed II, had been existed with the “millet system” all having their own laws and rules.

Below we have listed the most important, beautiful and historic places of worship in Istanbul divided under three categories: Churches of Istanbul, Synagogues of Istanbul and Mosques of Istanbul.

Places of Worship

Pick the type of place of worship you want to discover:

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1. Churches in Istanbul

At the beginning of the 4th century, the foundation of early Christianity was given shape in Constantinople, and paganism, which was leading at the time, decreased precipitously. The Havariyyun Church, St. Sophia and Hagia Irene were the first Christian churches in the city. 

Currently, there are numerous churches from different denominations in Istanbul such as Catholic, Lutheran, Orthodox, Armenian, Protestant and Syrian churches, which are used and run by the local Christian communities of Istanbul.

Find below a description of the most important churches of Istanbul.

Hagia Irene Museum (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Hagia Irene Museum in Istanbul in Turkey

Hagia Irene or Hagia Eirene, church of divine peace, is a former Byzantine church and today’s museum in Sultanahmet, on the grounds of Topkapı Palace.

Hagia Irene was built under the Roman Emperor Constantine I in the 4th century as the first church in Constantinople. This famous church in Istanbul is a UNESCO world heritage site since 1985.

When Hagia Irene Church had been burnt down during the Nika uprising in 532, Justinian I. reconstructed it. The second destruction by an earthquake was in 740. The Hagia Irene was built new under Constantine V.

After the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453, the palace guard of the Janissaries used Hagia Irene Church as a weapons arsenal. Ahmet Fethi Pasha, Marshal of the Arsenal, commissioned a museum in the church in 1846. The Hagia Irene is the only Byzantine church with an original preserved atrium.

Since 1973, the restored architectural monument has been used for classical concerts for its impressive acoustic atmosphere. 

  • Address: Aya Irini Müzesi, Cankurtaran Mah., Topkapı Sarayı 1. Avlu, Fatih, Istanbul
  • Phone: +90 212 512 04 80
  • Opening hours: Daily, except Tuesdays and May 1st. On the first day of religious holidays from 13.00.

Patriarchal Hagios Georgios Church

Hagios Georgios, the church of St. George, is an active Greek Orthodox church and seat of the Ecumanical Patriarchate since the sixth century. It could be considered the Vatikan of Orthodox faith. 

The church houses the pillar on which Jesus was believed to have been scourged in Jerusalem, the throne of the Patriarch and other sacred relics as well as beautiful mosaics that date back to the Byzantine period.

  • Address: Yavuz Sultan Selim Mah., Dr. Sadık Ahmet Cad. 19, Fener, Eyüp, Istanbul
  • Visiting hours: Monday - Satruday 8.30 - 16.00
  • Phone: +90 212 525 21 17

Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua  

Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua in Istanbul

Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua is a Roman-Catholic church in the Galatasaray neighborhood of Beyoğlu district. 

Originally built by the Italian community of Istanbul in 1724 the current building was built in 1912.

The Latin cross shaped basilica built with red bricks in Neo-Gothic style is the largest Roman Catholic church and one of the most beautiful in town at all.

In 1932, Pope Pius XI. raised the church to the rank of a basilica. In the same year, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, later to become Pope John XXIII, preached there. In 1967, Pope Paul VI celebrated in the basilica the first Holy Mass of a Pope on Turkish soil.

  • Address: Aziz Antuvan Bazilikası, Istiklal Cad. 171/A, Galatasaray, Beyoğlu, Istanbul
  • Divine Services: English everyday 8.00 except Sundays 10.00, English and Italian every Saturday 19.00, Italian and Polish every Sunday 11.30, Turkish Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday 19.00
  • Visiting hours: Monday - Staurday 8.00 - 19.30 and Sundays 9.00 - 18.30 except at prayer hours
  • Phone: +90 212 244 09 35 

St. Stephen Church

St. Stephen Church in Istanbul

The Bulgarian-Orthodox St. Stephen church in the Balat neighborhood of the Eyüp district was built in 1898 instead of the wooden predecessor and is famous for being made of prefabricated cast iron elements in neo-Gothic style.

All elements weighed around 500 tonnes. They were manufactured in Vienna and shipped across the Danube and the Black Sea to Istanbul.

The church is the seat of the Bulgarian exarchate, which was established in 1870, and with which the Bulgarian Orthodoxy disassociated from the Greek.

  • Address: Sveti Stefan Kilisesi, Balat Mah., Mürselpaşa Cad. 10, Fatih, Istanbul
  • Phone: +90 212 248 09 21

Hagia Triada Church

Hagia Triada Church in Istanbul

Hagia Triada, the church of holy trinity, is a Greek Orthodox church near Taksim Square. It was built in 1880 in neo-baroque style with twin bell towers, a large dome and a neo-gothic facade and is the largest Greek Orthodox church in town. 

The church with a very beautiful interior is in daily use by the Greek community of Istanbul.

  • Address: Aya Triada Kilisesi, Katip Çelebi Mah., Meşelik Sok., Beyoğlu, Istanbul
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2. Mosques in Istanbul

Istanbul was built on 7 hills just like Rome in Byzantine Period. These hills were surmounted by monumental religious churches in the Byzantine period. When Ottomans took over, they were replaced with monumental Imperial Mosques. 

Many of the most important mosques are of Architect Sinan who became the chief court architect and lived in 16th century. He is considered as the greatest master of Ottoman Empire’s architectural heritage with its revolutionary and genious works mostly in Istanbul.

When visiting a mosque, there are a few rules to follow:

  1. Women cover hair and shoulders. The dress covers the knees.
  2. Men do not wear sleeveless T-shirts and their pants cover their knees.
  3. Take off your shoes before entering the mosque. They are either carried in a plastic bag or left in the shoe rack.

Find below a description of the most important mosques of Istanbul.

Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque

The Hagia Sophia church of holy wisdom is a Byzantine church which is considered unique because of its magnificent architecture. The Hagia Sophia cathedral is part of the historic peninsula which is a UNESCO world heritage site since 1985.

Here are some Hagia Sophia facts: The predecessor, a wooden construction dating from 360, burned down in 404. A new building, completed in 415, burst into flames again in 532. The Hagia Sophia owes its present look to Emperor Justinian, who let it built for the third time between 532 and 537. The costs were 140 tons of gold.

Until the completion of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, Hagia Sophia was the largest Christian church in the world for 1000 years and some describe it as the eighth wonder of the world.

The interior of the church of Hagia Sophia is considered unique. The dome with its span of 32 meters is still the largest dome erected on four supporting pillars. It is adorned with beautiful, golden mosaics that are of inestimable value.

After the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror. Christian insignia were partially replaced by Islamic ones, icons were removed and the mosaics were partly destroyed or plastered.

At suggestion of Atatürk, who proclaimed the Turkish Republic in 1923, the Parliament decided to convert the Hagia Sophia mosque into a museum in 1934.

Finally, Hagia Sophia was declared as a mosque with a decree on 10th of July 2020.

  • Address: Sultanahmet Mah., Ayasofya Meydanı, Fatih, Istanbul
  • Phone: +90 (212) 522 17 50
  • Opening hours: Daily

Suleymaniye Mosque (UNESCO World Culture Heritage)

Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul Turkey - Istanbul Tourist Information

The Suleymaniye Mosque is one of the largest and most beautiful mosques in Istanbul. 

It was built by order of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent between 1550 and 1557 and is one of the masterpieces of the famous architect Sinan. The flagship object for the beginning climax of Ottoman architecture is UNESCO World Culture Heritage site since 1985.

Sinan was so sure of his constraction, that at the opening ceremony of the sacred building he promised Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, that the mosque with four minarets will stand upright as long as the world exists.

Inside the mosque, the red bolus was used for the first time ever. The 130 colored stained glass windows with calligraphy are also worth mentioning. From the backyard of the mosque you have a wonderful view of Istanbul.

  • Address: Süleymaniya Camii, Süleymaniye Mah., Prof. Sıddık Sami Onar Caddesi 1, 34116 Fatih, Istanbul
  • Phone: +90 212 455 32 12
  • Visiting hours: Daily 9.00-18.00, except at prayer times

Sultanahmet Mosque - Blue Mosque (UNESCO World Culture Heritage)

The Sultanahmet Mosque, commissioned by Sultan Ahmet I, was built by famous architekt Sinan disciple Mehmet Ağa in 10 years and opened in 1619. It is Istanbul's main mosque and a major work of Ottoman architecture.

Because of its wealth of blue and white tiles adorning the dome and the upper part of the walls, the mosque is better known as the Blue Mosque worldwide. 

One of the city’s major attractions, the mosque is UNESCO World Culture Heritage site since 1985.

The mosque has six minarets; only the Prophet's Mosque in Madina at ten and the main mosque in Mecca with nine minarets have more minarets than this one.

  • Address: Sultanahmet Camii, Sultanahmet Mah., Atmeydanı Caddesi 7, Fatih, Istanbul
  • Visiting hours: Daily 8.30-11.30, 13.00-14.30, 15.30-16.45, Fridays from 13.30
  • Phone: +90 212 458 44 68

Yeni Mosque (Valide Sultan Mosque)

Valide Sultan Mosque in Istanbul

The Valide Sultan Mosque with two minarets is commonly called New (Yeni) Mosque since the building replaced a fire ruin in 1663.

It is one of the most famous mosques in town, because it is located in the Eminönü neighborhood of the Fatih district, next to the Egyptian Bazaar, near the Galata Bridge, frequented by millions of tourists every year.

In particular, the colorful Iznik tiles inside the building and the dome are outstanding examples of Ottoman architecture.

  • Address: Yeni Camii (Valide Sultan Camii), Rüstem Paşa Mahallesi, Yeni Cami Caddesi 3, Eminönü, Fatih, Istanbul
  • Visiting hours: Daily 9.00-18.00, except at prayer times

Fatih Mosque

Fatih Mosque in Istanbul

The Fatih Mosque is named after the conqueror of Constantinople, Sultan Mehmet II.

On the grounds of the mosque, a hill towering out of the city, stood the Apostle Church, the second largest church in the city, which served as the seat of patriarchy in the first years after the Turkish conquest.

At the request of the Sultan, the seat of the Patriarchate was moved to the Pammakaristos Church. After the demolition of the Apostle Church which was a ruin since the 4th Crusade the construction of the Fatih Mosque could be started in 1461 to be finished in 1470. It was the first monumental project in the Ottoman imperial architectural tradition.

The mosque with two minarets owes its present appearance to the reconstruction and restoration after the devastating 1766 earthquake.

Sultan Mehmet II is buried in a tomb within the mosque complex.

  • Address: Fatih Camii, Ali Kuşçu Mahallesi, Hattat Nafiz Caddesi 6, Fatih, Istanbul
  • Visiting hours: Daily 9.00-18.00, except at prayer times

Eyüp Sultan Mosque

Eyüp Sultan Mosque in Istanbul

The Eyüp Sultan Mosque is located in Istanbul's Eyüp district at the northern end of the Golden Horn. For Muslims, it is a particularly sacred place and ranks fourth after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem.

The mosque and the whole district is named after Ayyub al-Ansaris (Turkish Eyüp Ensari). Eyüp was a companion of the Prophet Muhammad and a highly respected member of the early Islamic leadership.

The first mosque in the area was commissioned by Sultan Mehmed II five years after the conquest of Constantinople in 1458. The mosque was badly damaged during the 1766 earthquake. There upon Sultan Selim III. commisioned the tear off of the mosque except for the two minarets, to build a new mosque, which opened in 1800.

  • Address: Eyüp Sultan Camii, Merkez Mahallesi, Camii Kebir Caddesi 1, Eyüp, Istanbul
  • Visiting hours: Daily 9.00-18.00, except at prayer times

Ortaköy Mosque

The Ortaköy Mosque is a mosque in Istanbul's Beşiktaş district close to the Ortaköy pier. It was built in order of Abdülmecids I. from 1853 to 1856 in Neo-Baroque style.

In 1894 the mosque with two minarets had to be renovated after an earthquake. In 1960, the foundation was strengthened. After a fire in 1984 it had to be restored again.

Ortaköy mosque is one of the city’s best known mosques because millions of tourists can see it on the obligatory Bosphorus cruise.

  • Address: Ortaköy Camii, Mecidiye Mahallesi, Mecidiye Köprüsü Sokak 1/1, Ortaköy, Beşiktaş, Istanbul
  • Visiting hours: Daily 9.00-18.00, except at prayer times

Mihrimah Sultan Mosque

The Mihrimah Sultan Mosque was donated by Mihrimah, daughter of Sultan Süleyman I,  and built by Otttoman architect Sinan between 1546 and 1548. 

Due to its location directly at the ferry terminal it is also called Pier Mosque.

The mosque was built as a four-pillar mosque with a square layout, two minarets and three half-domes, the central dome of the mosque has a diameter of ten meters.

Mihrimah Sultan Mosque is a landmark and popular meeting ponit in Üsküdar district.

  • Address: Mihrimah Sultan Camii, Mimar Sinan Mahallesi, Üsküdar, Istanbul
  • Visiting hours: Daily 9.00-18.00, except at prayer times
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3. Synagogues in Istanbul

In order to visit the synagogues in Istanbul, you must register at the chief rabbinate and obtain a visit permit. The best way to do that is to fill the contact form available on the website of the Chief Rabbi few weeks before your scheduled visit.

During the procedure, you will need a photocopy of your ID card or passport. You have to show your permission and identification when entering the synagogues.

Visiting day and time will be assigned to you after approval. Find below the most important synagogues to visit during your trip to Istanbul :

Ahrida Synagogue

A Sultan Decree of 1693 indicates that Ahrida Synagogue already existed before the conquest of the city by the Ottomans in 1453 and took its name from Ohrid in Macedonia, from which came the Romani Jews who had built the place of worship.

It is not only one of the oldest synagogues in town, but with a capacity of 500 people one of the largest, too. The community later expanded through the influx of Jewish refugees from Spain and Portugal, which also had architectural effects during renovations. 

The main building is an interesting example of Istanbul Baroque architecture from the Ottoman "tulip era". The building, which was destroyed by the Great Fire of Istanbul on July 24, 1660, was rebuilt on May 10, 1694. After further fires and earthquakes, the church was renovated in 1709, 1823, 1840, 1881, 1893, 1926, 1955 and 1992. 

The pulpit of the synagogue resembles the bow of a ship. Some believe that this form should be reminiscent of Noah's Ark. Others say that it symbolizes the Ottoman galleys that brought the Sephardes from Spain to the Ottoman Empire. 

  • Address: Ahrida Sinagogu, Ayvansaray Mahallesi, Kürkçü Çeşmesi Sokak 9, Fatih, Istanbul
  • Telephone: +90 212 523 47 29

Neve Shalom Synagogue

Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul

The Neve Shalom Synagogue is the main synagogue of the Sephardic Jews, seat of the Chief Rabbinate of Istanbul and the largest synagogue in Turkey at the same time. It is located just 160 meters from the Galata Tower.

Built on the grounds of the former 15th-century Spanish Aragon Synagogue due to the growing Jewish population of Galata, the place of worship was ceremoniously opened on May 25, 1951 and is a fine example of modern architecture from the early days of the Turkish Republic.

In the dome of the synagogue hangs an eight-ton chandelier, the windows were designed at the Mimar Sinan Art Academy and made with valuable stained glass from England.

Neve Shalom means "oasis of peace". But peace came to a sudden end in 1986 and 2003, when sneaky bomb attacks on the temple were perpetrated.Today the synagogue is behind a concrete wall and can not be seen from the street.

  • Address: Neve Şalom Sinagogu, Bereketzade Mah., Büyük Hendek Cad. 39, Beyoglu, Istanbul
  • Telephone: +90 212 292 03 86
  • E-Mail:

Aschkenasi Synagogue

Ashkenazi Jews first came from Germany in the 14th century and settled in Galata. This synagogue was founded in 1900 by Askenasian Jews of Austrian origin and is the largest and only active of the three Ashkenazi synagogues that once existed in this area.

With its European facade, it differs from all other synagogues in Istanbul. The interior of the the synagogue located near the Galata Tower, unites elements of Christian and Islamic architecture.

The large dome that covers the center of it is decorated with stars. The chandeliers were brought from Vienna. Many inscriptions in the synagogue are written in German. It is one of the rare synagogues with two women's balconies.

A copy of the handwritten Old Testament is kept in the place of worship which seats around 400 people.

  • Address: Aşkenazi Sinagogu, Müeyyedzade Mah., Yüksek Kaldırım Cad. 3, Beyoglu, Istanbul
  • Telephone: +90 212 243 69 09

Etz Ahayim Synagogue

Etz Ahayim means tree of life. Many synagogues from Byzantine and Ottoman times bear this name. Therefore, the date of foundation of this synagogue in Ortaköy can not be determined exactly. All that is known is that it was renovated during the 17th century and destroyed and rebuilt after the "Second Great Fire of Istanbul" in 1703. During the Yom Kippur celebrations in 1914, the synagogue suffered the same fate.

When many Jews moved to Ortaköy, Ulus, Etiler and Akatlar in the early 1990s, the too old and outdated synagoge was renovated reopened in March 1994.

The Etz Ahayim Synagogue is under preservation order since November 27, 1960 and is used by both the Ashkenazi and the Sephardic communities.

  • Address: Etz Ahayim Sinagogu, Ortaköy Mah., Muallim Naci Cad. 6, Beşiktaş, Istanbul
  • Telephone: +90 212 260 18 96

Beth Israel Synagogue

In the 1940's, as the Jews fleeing from the Nazis multiplied the Jewish population in the Şişli-Osmanbey-Nişantaşı triangle, the community sought a suitable location for a larger synagogue. It was not until the beginning of the 1950's that they found what they were looking for and in 1952 they opened the Bet Israel synagogue. 

The synagogue gained worldwide sad fame on November 15, 2003, when two suicide attacks by the Turkish El Khaida branch "Ebu Hafsa el-Mısri Tugayları" were perpetrated on it and the Neve Shalom Synagogue in Beyoğlu. The massive detonations killed 28 people, including six Jews, 17 Muslims and the assassins themselves. 240 people were seriously injured.

  • Address: Bet Israel Sinagogu, Cumhuriyet Mah., Efe Sokak 4, Osmanbey, Şişli, Istanbul
  • Phone: +90 212 292 03 86
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