Experience the Hagia Sophia

Experience the Hagia Sophia
The Hagia Sophia is one of Turkey’s most important surviving architectural wonders. Although once a church and also a mosque, the building is now a museum which is considered a must-see for visitors to Istanbul.
Ancient water storage, Basilica Cistern
Interior of Topkapi Palace
For it soars to a height to match the sky, and as if surging up from amongst the other buildings it stands on high and looks down upon the remainder of the city, adorning it, because it is a part of it, but glorying in its own beauty” Procopius, De Aedificis

Unique Things to See and Do near Hagia Sophia

  • Blue Mosque
  • Topkapi Palace
  • Hagia Irene
  • Basilica Cistern
The current structure is the building’s third incarnation. When it was first built under Emperor Konstantinos in 360, it was named Megale Ekklesia which means big church. After a public riot resulted in it being burnt down, it was rebuilt by Emperor Theodosius II in the fifth century, it became known as the Hagia Sophia, which means holy wisdom. That building too was destroyed during public riots and then rebuilt by Emperor Justinianos in the 6th century.

Although it occupies the same space as its two predecessors, it was built in a different architectural style overseen by some of the most important architects of that time.

For 916 years, it was used as a church, but when Istanbul was conquered by Fatih Sultan Mehmed, it became a mosque. But when Ataturk came to power in 1935, it was turned into a museum.

Visiting Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia is open every day. The winter visiting hours for the Hagia Sophia are from 9am to 5pm, with the final entry being at 4pm. During the summer, the visiting hours are between 9am and 7pm, with final entry at 6pm.

Passes are available at the box office in the museum.

Getting to Hagia Sophia

The museum is located in the European part of the city in the old town area which is called Sultanahmet . This area is home to many hotels, so if you are staying here, then Hagia Sophia is just a walk away.

For those staying elsewhere, the tram is an efficient way of getting here, calling at many of the major tourist sights. Those coming from even further afield can get the metro to either Aksaray or Zeytinburnu and then get the tram.

Did you know…?

During the East Roman period, the Hagia Sophia was the Empire Church and the place in which emperors were crowned.

Emperor Constantine IX

Did you ALSO know…?

The columns and marbles used to build the Hagia Sophia were taken from ancient cities around Anatolia and Syria – for example Aspendus Ephessus, Baalbeek and Tarsa.

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