Gracing the skyline of Istanbul, the Sultanahmet Mosque, better known as the Blue Mosque, is one of the finest examples of Ottoman architecture.
The iconic landmark owes its nickname to the wealth of blue ceramic tiles that adorn the majestic interior.
Commissioned by Sultan Ahmet I, it was built by famous architect Sinan disciple Mehmet Ağa and opened for worship in 1616. The mosque has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985 and is one of the most-visited attractions of the city.
In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know before your visit, including the history, entrance and opening hours
Things to do at Blue Mosque
Standing directly across from the Hagia Sophia, the magnificent Blue Mosque looks as if it was designed to compete with it.
Famous for its architectural beauty and old history, the exceptional monument is one of the top attractions of Istanbul you shouldn't miss.
Below is an Overview of the Landmark’s Highlights:
The courtyard of the Blue Mosque is almost the same size as the building itself. You can enter it through one of the three large gates.
The complex consists of many buildings, including a medrese, a soup kitchen, a caravanserai, a fountain, a hospital, sales halls and mausoleums. Not all of these buildings could prevail to this day.
Worth seeing is the mausoleum of Sultan Ahmed I and his wife and three of his sons. After the completion of the mosque, the Sultan was able to enjoy the view of the Sultanahmet Mosque named after him for only a year.
There is also a sundial and lots of great photo opportunities.
One distinctive feature of the structure are the six minarets. The Blue Mosque is the only mosque with six minarets ever built by the Ottomans.
It is said that they were the result of a misunderstanding between Sultan Ahmed I and the master builder Mehmet Ağa.
According to a saying, the Sultan had expressed his wish to have the minarets made of gold. The architect Mehmet Ağa misunderstood the Turkish word "altın" - for gold - as "altı" - the number 6, so he had six minarets built. The sultan then donated a seventh minaret to the al-Haram mosque in Mecca, making it once again the largest in Islam in terms of the number of its minarets. To this day, it is unclear whether the master builder considered the golden material too precious and whether the misunderstanding was intentional.
The elegant minarets still contribute to the silhouette and characteristic beauty of the city.
Inside the Blue Mosque, you can explore the interior, which is of such beauty that in its time, it outshone all previously built Ottoman mosques.
The building materials and interior decoration of the mosque were carefully selected. Hundreds of meters of precious silk carpets from the palaces' own weaving mills and crystal oil lamps from abroad were used.
Other objects you should not miss are:
- Iznik Tiles: Marvel up close at the famous blue tiles that gave the building its nickname. More than 20,000 blue and white floral-shaped tiles with over 50 motifs, made by craftsmen in the city of İznik, decorate the dome and the upper part of the walls.
- Windows: A total of 260 windows with unique patterns illuminate the interior. The colorful glass panes are modern replicas of the original Venetian glass.
- Dome: The Blue Mosque is famous for its graceful composition of domes and semi-domes, and its impressive yet harmonious proportions. The 43-meter-high main dome is supported by four pointed arches and four pendentives, resting on four ribbed columns almost 5 meters thick.
- Prayer Niche: The prayer room is almost square. A black Kaaba stone from the holy city of Mecca is in the Mihrab, the prayer niche, which is made of marble. Right next to the niche is the “Minber”, the pulpit for Friday prayers.
- Loge of the Quran Singers: The loge of the Quran singers in front of the pulpit is a true reflection of the singer’s loge in Mecca.
- Sultan’s Loge: To the left of the prayer niche is the imperial loge of the Sultan, where the sultan once said his prayers.
- Quran Verses: Various verses from the Quran and the words of the Prophet Muhammad adorn the high walls of the mosque.
4. Sultanahmet Square
Sultanahmet Square is packed with history and impressive evidence from the city’s rich past. It is the heart of the Historical Peninsula, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.
While you're here visiting the Blue Mosque, be sure to take time to explore some other Byzantine and Ottoman relics. This includes the German Fountain, Ibrahim Pasha Palace (now the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum), the Million Stone and the Hippodrome with its two Obelisks and the Serpentine Column.
If you are interested in the history of these structures, we recommend joining the guided tour Blue Mosque and the Sultanahmet Square. This 45-minute tour takes you through the ages of Istanbul and is a great introduction to the city, especially if it’s your first time in Istanbul.
What to Consider before Visiting a Mosque?
- Visiting Hours: Since the Blue Mosque is an active mosque, you should only visit it outside of prayer times. Some parts are closed to visitors during this time, especially during Friday prayer at noon. Prayer times are 5 times a day. You can check the times here.
- Shoes: Remember that when entering a mosque, visitors must remove their shoes. They are either carried in a plastic bag or left in the shoe rack.
- Dress Code: Knees, shoulders and upper arms must be covered. Women also cover their hair. If you forget to bring a headscarf, you can buy one at the entrance of Hagia Sophia.
- Pictures: Taking pictures is allowed, but don’t take pictures of people praying. Also remember not to make too much noise and be respectful.
- Entrance Fee: Entrance is free of charge. Those who wish can make a donation.
Entrance, Tickets & Tours to Blue Mosque
How to get to the Blue Mosque?
From Sultanahmet: The Blue Mosque is situated on Sultanahmet Square in the Fatih district of Istanbul, just across the Hagia Sophia.
From Taksim: Take the funicular F1 to Kabataş. At Kabataş Station, take the tram T1 and go 7 stops to Sultanahmet Station.
Frequently Asked Questions about Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque of Istanbul is located on the Sultanahmet Square in the Fatih district of Istanbul, just across the Hagia Sophia.
The Blue Mosque was built under Sultan Ahmed I between 1609 and 1616.
The Sultanahmet Mosque is also called the Blue Mosque because of the more than 20,000 blue and white flower-shaped tiles that decorate the dome and the upper part of the walls.
The Blue Mosque is a UNESCO Heritage Site and considered to be a masterpiece of Ottoman architecture. It is famous for its unique architectural style and its old history. Distinctive features are the six minarets and the blue Iznik tiles that adorn the stunning interior. Today, it is one of the most important landmarks of Istanbul and one of the must-see destinations.
No, the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia are two entirely different structures. Both are very important landmarks and must-see attractions of Istanbul. In fact, Hagia Sophia, which was originally built in the 6th century as a church, is located across from the Blue Mosque. Read more about Hagia Sophia in our complete guide.
Historical Facts & Info about Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque, or Sultan Ahmet Camii in Turkish, is one of the largest and most magnificent mosques in Istanbul. Sultan Ahmed I ordered the construction of the imperial mosque after the peace treaty with the Habsburg monarchy in 1606 and the defeat in the war with Persia in 1603-18.
The construction was to be a sign of Ottoman power. Until then, imperial mosques were built with the spoils of wars. However, Sultan Ahmed used the gold from the public treasury instead, which led to much criticism.
The location exactly opposite the Hagia Sophia is by no means a coincidence. The location of the Blue Mosque was chosen with care. The mosque was built on the site of the Great Palace, the palace of the Byzantine emperors. Some parts of the mosque even rest on the foundations of the old palace.
Mehmet Ağa, a disciple of the most important Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, was appointed for the construction. Construction began in 1609 and was completed in 1616.
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