Built in the 1550s on the orders of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, the Süleymaniye Mosque is the largest and most imposing mosque in all of Istanbul. A short walk away from the Grand Bazaar, this striking Ottoman building dominates the Third Hill. From this vantage point you can enjoy excellent views across the waters of the Golden Horn.
Designed by the renowned Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, the Süleymaniye Mosque was designed to outdo the grandeur and scale of the Hagia Sophia. Sinan borrowed Judeo-Christian design elements and one example of this is an allusion to the Dome of the Rock, which was built on the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. Sultan Süleyman regarded himself as something of a second Solomon, the famously wise king of Judah and Israel.
Although the mosque is not quite as large as the Hagia Sophia, it is still vast. Enter the light-filled, open space to see that its interiors are actually less decadent than most mosques in Istanbul. The use of tiles is minimized and there is just a subtle application of ivory woodwork.
Head to the vast courtyard with minarets at each corner on the west side. The main dome is 174 feet (53 meters) high, and at the time it was constructed it was the highest above sea level in the Ottoman Empire. The mosque complex also houses a hospital, medical school and primary school. You are welcome to visit the restaurant and steam baths. See the striking tombs of Süleyman and his wife Roxelana in the garden behind the mosque. The tomb of Mimar Sinan, who was the chief architect for several Ottoman sultans, is nearby, just outside the walls of the mosque.
The Süleymaniye Mosque is open to visitors daily and free to enter. The mosque still functions as a place of worship, not just a tourist attraction, so non-Muslim guests are advised to refrain from visiting when Muslims come here to pray. Prayer happens a few times a day and on Friday afternoons and is preceded by the call to prayer from loudspeakers.