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Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya)

Once a church, then a Byzantine cathedral, later a mosque and now a monument, this iconic building is a national treasure.

As one of the finest architectural marvels, as well as one of the largest churches, in the world, Hagia Sophia is Istanbul’s most famous landmark. The building you see today represents many cultures.

Known in Turkish as “Ayasofya” (Sacred Wisdom), Hagia Sophia has been of major religious importance to the region, and for various faiths. The church was first commissioned by the Romans and was opened in A.D. 360 before becoming Constantinople’s main Christian place of worship. After riots destroyed the building not once but twice, a new basilica was eventually built in the sixth century, and the Hagia Sophia became the center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

When the Ottoman Empire took control of Constantinople in 1453, Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque. Its Christian features were covered or removed, and new Islamic features were added. Shortly after the Turkish Republic was proclaimed, Constantinople became Istanbul and the mosque was closed. The national monument is now open to the public as a museum.

With its four spectacular minarets and its grand central dome, the Hagia Sophia dominates the Istanbul skyline. Enter the church via the western portal. From the exonarthex, five portals open into the narthex. Admire ninth-century mosaics and 10th-century frescos from the Christian faiths. Note that the dome is decorated with Islamic inscription of verses from the Quran. The eastern corner of the gardens house the mausoleums of several sultans.

Since the Hagia Sophia is Istanbul’s leading cultural treasure, there are often long lines outside. However, visitors rarely have to wait more than half an hour to get in. Refreshments can be bought from a number of different cafés in the square.

Hagia Sophia is located in the Old City, and is accessible by public transport. The building is open daily, except Mondays. Visiting hours are longer in summer. Buy your entry ticket at the museum’s box office. Consider renting an audio guide to get a better understanding of the educational and cultural value of the Hagia Sophia.


Guide to Exploring around Hagia Sophia


Map

Lodging Near Hagia Sophia

See all 1,907 Hotels near Hagia Sophia
$123
Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel

Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel

Divanyolu Cd. Alemdar Mah., Istanbul
4.2
of 5, from 434 reviews
5.0 out of 5.0

Located in Old City, this luxury hotel is within a 5-minute walk of German Fountain, Basilica Cistern, and Hagia Sophia. Cagaloglu Hamami and Cemberlitas Bath are also within 5 minutes.

$94
Sura Design Hotel and Suites - Boutique Class

Sura Design Hotel and Suites - Boutique Class

Divanyolu Cad. Ticarethane Sok. No:45, Istanbul
4.2
of 5, from 337 reviews
5.0 out of 5.0

This family-friendly Istanbul hotel is located in the historical district, within a 5-minute walk of Basilica Cistern, Hagia Sophia, and Cagaloglu Hamami. Hippodrome and Blue Mosque are also within 10 minutes.

$110
White House Hotel Istanbul

White House Hotel Istanbul

Alemdar Mah Catalcesme Sok No:21, Istanbul
4.8
of 5, from 137 reviews
4.0 out of 5.0

Located in Old City, this hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Cagaloglu Hamami, Basilica Cistern, and Hagia Sophia. Hippodrome and Blue Mosque are also within 10 minutes.

$79
Arden City Hotel - Special Class

Arden City Hotel - Special Class

Alemdar Mah Kazm Ismail Gürkan Cad No2, Istanbul
4.3
of 5, from 210 reviews
4.5 out of 5.0

Located in Old City, this luxury hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Cagaloglu Hamami, Basilica Cistern, and Hagia Sophia. Hippodrome and Grand Bazaar are also within 10 minutes.

$287
Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet

Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet

Tevkifhane Sokak No. 1, Istanbul
4.9
of 5, from 153 reviews
5.0 out of 5.0

Located in Old City, this luxury hotel is steps from Sultanahmet Square and Hagia Sophia. Basilica Cistern and Blue Mosque are also within 10 minutes.