Magnificent mosques in Istanbul

Anastasia Travelsia
Apr 23
Do you know that Istanbul has nearly 3000 mosques for you to choose and when I visited the top mosques in Istanbul, I got to say I was completely overwhelmed by everything.

With a one-of-a-kind history and location bridging Europe and Asia, there are certainly a lot of unique experiences to have in Istanbul. The first time I visited Turkey was in 2017 when I decided to spend some time in Istanbul to learn more about the famous mosques in the city. These included the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, as well as many other important mosques not widely known to the public.

I decided to share with you my top 8 for visit in Istanbul!

Hagia Sophia

This building is an icon of the city. It is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and is said to have “changed the history of architecture.”

It was the Greek Patriarchal cathedral of Constantinople back in the year 360 when it was built, then rebuilt as a Greek church in 532 to the structure we see today, and later converted into a mosque in 1453. Then in 1931, it was secularized and turned into the museum we see today.

Blue Mosque

Also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the Blue Mosque’s two most striking features are its 6 minarets and blue domed exterior. You’ll have to dress modestly and if you’re a woman you’ll need to wear a scarf over your head as this is still a functioning mosque.

Please ignore and avoid people who offer you to enter the mosque without queue up. Those people mostly will try to sell you something and take you to some shopping place. The best way is to line up and enter Mosque just like other tourists. Don't worry if the line looks very long, it will move very fast for sure.

It is called by Europeans as Blue because of its interior blue tiles which were used more than 20.000 pieces.

Let someone wash you in a Turkish bath

Sounds a bit awkward? Well, that’s because it is! Turkish baths – hamam – are a variant of the Roman baths with a focus on a more humid environment and steamy air. Basically a very classic spa, including relax in a hot marble stone, a full body scrub, a bubble bath and if you want to splash your money, a reinvigorating massage.

The extremely basic communication with the masseurs felt daunting sometimes. But overall it was a surprisingly good combination of relaxation and pain.

There are many hamams scattered around Istanbul to which local people go the most, which are usually cheaper. I decided to bet on a more high-end place and choosedHurrem Sultan Hamam. 1-hour massage there will cost about 90 USD for you. Not cheap but it great pleasure ))))

Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern is an underground colonnade space considered to be one of the most magnificent historical structures in the city, and still to this day is lightly flooded (reminiscent of its former use as a cistern). Even though its design was planned, most of the 336 marble columns are different since they were built with materials taken from various old buildings from the Roman Empire back in the 500s AD.

As you walk through the catwalks, you can see the beautiful, perfect reflection of the entire space in the calm waters, and hear the soft echoes of water drops and whispers.

Among columns, you’ll find two carvings of Medusa’s head used as column bases, as well as a column with tear-shaped engravings believed to have the power to make your wishes come true.

Gülhane Park

It is the oldest and one of the most expansive public parks in Istanbul. Gulhane Park means "Rosehouse Park" in Turkish and it is just a step away from Topkapi.

With hundred-year-old plane trees and open green spaces, this parkland is the perfect escape from Istanbul’s bustling streets. Wander wide paths next to rose displays and water features. Visit the statue monument to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first president of the Turkish Republic.

Get a taste of royal life at Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace is the largest royal residence in Istanbul and it served as the main residence of the Ottoman Sultans for almost 400 years.

The grounds are massive, but perhaps the most impressive part of it all are the Harem Apartments – a place with more than 400 rooms for the Sultan’s many concubines, wives, children, and extended family members.

Süleymaniye Mosque

The Süleymaniye crowns one of İstanbul's seven hills and dominates the Golden Horn, providing a landmark for the entire city. Though it's not the largest of the Ottoman mosques, it is certainly one of the grandest and most beautiful.

Commissioned by Süleyman I, known as 'the Magnificent', the Süleymaniye was the fourth imperial mosque built in İstanbul and it certainly lives up to its patron's nickname. The mosque and its surrounding buildings were designed by Mimar Sinan, the most famous and talented of all imperial architects. Tombs of Süleyman I and his wife is just outside the mosque's walled garden.

Test your bargaining skills at the Grand Bazaar

Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is a place for serious shoppers. With more than 3,000 shops and covering an estimated 61 streets, this place is dizzying yet so worth a visit. You’ll notice that some streets specialize in certain goods with those shops selling nothing but leather, silverware, carpets, ceramics or spices.

It's obligatory to drink lots of tea, compare price after price and try your hand at the art of bargaining. Allow at least three hours for your visit. Some travelers spend three days!