Istanbul is an exciting mish mash of yesteryear decadence and dazzling urban innovation. This half Asian half European city of over 15 million, indulges travellers with astounding Byzantine relics, enchanting markets and a diverse array of architecture. Some of the most beautiful mosques in Turkey reside here. With over three thousand to choose from, which ones are worth the visit?
The Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque)
Finished in 1616, this ancient mosque is famous for its 20,000 intricate Iznik tiles adorning its inner walls that are, you’ve guessed it, awash with blue. Sultanahmet Mosque stands out from its Turkish cousins by having six slender towers instead of two or four. Legend claims that a misunderstanding is to blame for this unusual amount of minarets. This caused great controversy at the time due to Mecca being the only temple to possess six. Sultan Ahmet I, was even forced to add an extra tower to the capital of Islam.
Gazing out to the Sea of Marmara, this gigantic temple is still in use today. During the five daily prayer times it is closed to the public, so keep this in mind before you visit. Head to Sultanahmet Park for the best views of one of Istanbul’s most beautiful mosques.
This mosque Pierces the skies on the Golden Horn with an impressive dome of 53 metres. A stone’s throw away from the gates of Istanbul University, this spectacular structure is an emblem of the city skyline. Commissioned by the Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, Suleymaniye Mosque was one of the most important of the Ottoman empire.
Built in the 16th century by the great Ottoman architect, Mimar Sinan, Suleymaine Mosque served as much more than a place of worship. A hospital, library, madrasa (Islamic college), kitchen and hospice for the poor all featured within its grounds. A stroll around the grand courtyards and regal gardens, give you a real taste of imperial life. Keep your eyes peeled for the ivory-inlaid panels in Suleiman’s tomb, and the intricate tiling surrounding its entrance.
Relatively modest in design compared to its grand counterparts peppering the city, the beauty of this more modern structure works under the age-old mantra: location, location, location. Nestled on the very edge of the glimmering waters of the Bosphorus and with a backdrop of the Bosphorus Bridge, the placement of Ortaköy Mosque is truly breathtaking. The impressive design was carried out by Garabet Amira Balyan and Nigoğayos Balyan in 1856. The Armenian father-and-son architects also designed the incredible Dolmabahçe Palace.
Breaking away from tradition, and the unfortunately uncommon inclusion of a female designer, the breathtaking spectacle of Şakirin Mosque is the epitome of Turkish avant-garde. Opened to the public In 2009, the outer structure was designed by Hüsrev Tayla (male). The interior design was left in the capable hands of Zeynep Fadıllıoğlu, well-known for her glamorous work in chic clubs and luxury restaurants.
Although astounding from outside, a wander into its grand hall is highly advised. Featuring a turquoise mihrab (a niche in the wall) and a magnificent ‘dripping glass’ chandelier to represent the love of Allah raining down from above. Couple this with gilded stairs curving upwards into the tall ceilings, you’d be forgiven for thinking you had stumbled across a sci-fi set. Even though it’s a mere baby, it is easily one of the most beautiful mosques in Istanbul.
One of the oldest examples on this list started life as a Greek patriarchal cathedral of Constantinople. In 537 AD it was converted into a mosque by the Moors.
To this day Hagia Sophia is considered one of the greatest houses of worship. Every year thousands flock to this museum to see the pinnacle of 6th century Byzantine culture. Meander through its vast interior, illuminated by 40 arched windows, to savour what was once the biggest dome structure in the world. This title was taken by the Florence Cathedral 900 years later. This feat of Byzantine engineering is truly unmissable when on a trip to Istanbul.
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