Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque)

The nickname of this 17th-century structure refers to the brilliant color of its tiled interior.

As one of the most striking features of the Istanbul skyline, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is awe-inspiring in size and scope. More often called the Blue Mosque, it was built under the rule of Sultan Ahmed I of the Ottoman Empire and completed in 1616. The original architect’s vision was to build a great religious site with prominent Islamic features.

Walk from the Hippodrome to get a captivating view of the Blue Mosque. Gaze up at the six tall minarets and the terraced domes that rise up to the building’s center and you will see that the designer succeeded splendidly in his efforts to impress.

Pass through the stone wall that surrounds the mosque into the courtyard. During the fasting month of Ramadan this courtyard is buzzing after sunset. Inside, the mosque houses the tomb of its founder, who died just a year after his masterpiece was completed. Inspect the madrasa, used as theological school, and the hospice. The most striking feature, however, is the tiled interior: More than 20,000 blue ceramic tiles with over 50 different tulip designs gave this mosque its nickname.

The upper reaches of the building are painted blue and the sunlight is shattered by hundreds of stained-glass windows, a mesmerizing sight.

The Blue Mosque is only a short walk from the Sultanahmet light rail and metro station in the Old City. Entry is free, but as in any religious building, respect and discretion are expected from all visitors. Be quiet, and remove your shoes and put them in the plastic bag provided at the entrance. Females are asked to cover their heads and scarfs are available at the entrance. Flash photography is prohibited. If you wish, you can make a donation to help pay for the maintenance of the Blue Mosque as you leave.

The Blue Mosque still functions as a place of worship, so its doors are closed to non-worshippers during the five daily prayer times. On summer nights you can listen to a historical presentation and watch a spectacular light show. Check the official website for the best time to visit.

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