4.7
(187)

Hagia Sophia Tour: A Cathedral Turned into a Mosque

Only a few structures in the world can boast of a fascinating past and a transition of faith quite like Hagia Sofia Istanbul. 

Today, Hagia Sofia (Hagia Sophia) in Istanbul stands as an architectural masterpiece and a cultural heritage with a vast history. 

With its rising dome that captures everyone’s attention and its intricate mosaics that mesmerize you, the Hagia Sophia Mosque is a testament to human ingenuity and architectural marvel. 

Its remarkable journey from a Byzantine cathedral to an Ottoman mosque makes Hagia Sofia a unique and rare structure worldwide. 

This is the reason why more than 3 million visitors from around the globe from different faiths flock to get a glimpse of this one-of-a-kind attraction. 

So, let’s jump in and learn all about Hagia Sophia in Istanbul Turkey, so that you have a smooth sailing and a memorable visit.

Snapshot 

Opening Hours – 9 am to 7.30 pm 

Last Entry – 7 pm 

Time Needed – One hour

Hagia Sophia Ticket PriceUS $40 (TRY1224)/(6 years &above)

Location :-

Sultan Ahmed, Ayasofya Meydani No:1, 34122 Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey Get Direction!

What is Hagia Sophia? 

Hagia Sophia, officially the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, is a mosque and a major cultural and historical site in Istanbul. 

Its architecture and rich history reflect the unique interactions between Europe and Asia over the centuries.

Hagia Sophia’s fascinating history will intrigue all visitors as it used to be a former Byzantine Church.

In 1934, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul became a museum complex containing the tombs of five 16th and 17th-century Ottoman Sultans. 

It is located in the historic area of Istanbul and was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1985. 

As a World Heritage Site, Hagia Sophia is a symbol of cultural heritage that inspires awe and wonder in all who visit.  

Where is Hagia Sophia?

Hagia Sophia is located in Istanbul, Turkey. The exact address of Hagia Sophia is Sultan Ahmed, Ayasofya Meydani No:1, 34122 Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey. 

Open the Hagia Sophia location in Google Maps for easy navigation.

It is located in the European part of the city in the Sultanahmet area (old town), near Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. 

Hagia Sophia is located within a mere stroll of 15 minutes from many other unmissable attractions, such as the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and more. 

The Sultanahmet is a popular tourist area with plenty to explore and is filled with quaint alleyways and beautiful panoramic scenery.

It is well connected with various public transportation as well, so guests don’t have to worry much about connectivity. 

Due to its exquisite architecture and intriguing past, it also finds a place in the Most Beautiful Churches in the World.

Hagia Sofia Tours 

To explore Hagia Sophia, visitors need to buy a ticket. 

Plenty of Hagia Sofia tour tickets allow you access to the attraction and much more.

There is plenty to pick from– the simple and basic skip-the-line Hagia Sofia Tour ticket offers you the most at the cheapest price. 

Depending on what type of experience you are looking for and your budget, there is something for every traveler. 

So, let’s jump in and explore the list of the top five Hagia Sophia tour tickets you can purchase:

Hagia Sophia Skip-the-line tour 

Hagia Sophia Skip-the-line tour
Image: Viator.com

Travel back in time and immerse yourself in Hagia Sophia, a rare structure combining Byzantine and Islamic architectural elements. 

Beat the crowd with this incredible Hagia Sofia skip-the-line ticket to avoid the long queues. 

This is the perfect Hagia Sofia tour for travelers following a strict itinerary and wanting to explore as much of Istanbul as possible. 

Highlights 

  • A skip-the-line guided tour of the Hagia Sophia. 
  • Official Guide 

Price – US $40 (TRY1224) /adult ticket (6 years &above)

Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia Small-Group Tour 

On this guided walking tour, visit two of the most popular mosques in Istanbul, Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. 

Explore the bustling Sultanahmet neighborhood with your expert guide, hearing incidents of the rich past of Hagia Sophia. 

This Hagia Sophia guided tour is perfect for travelers who seek the history behind this exquisite architectural heritage.

Price – US $64 (TRY 2022)/adult ticket (9 years & above)

            US $32 (TRY 998)/Children ticket (3-8 years)

Hagia Sophia Mosque Ticket + Audio Guide + 1-hour Guided Tour 

Explore the historic Hagia Sophia, an architectural heritage, at your own pace with this unique audio-guided Hagia Sophia ticket to help delve deeper into details. 

For that missing personalized touch of an audio tour, you also get a complimentary one-hour guided tour of the Hagia Sophia by a professional tour guide who’ll help you understand the finer aspects of this extremely rare mosque. 

This Hagia Sophia tour is perfect for travelers who want to explore this beautiful place independently but also want a guided tour experience. 

Highlights 

  • A skip-the-line Hagia Sophia ticket. 
  • One-hour guided tour outside of Hagia Sophia. 
  • Audio guide app in 23 languages. 

Price- US $41(TRY 1303)/adult ticket 

Hagia Sophia Tour and Experience Museum Tickets

This exclusive guided entrance ticket lets you explore the Hagia Sophia with an experienced professional guide who’ll inform you about the fascinating past and the architectural details. 

Entry to the Hagia Sophia History and Experience Museum is also included, offering insight into the attraction’s history through beautiful exhibits. 

This Hagia Sophia Tour and Experience Museum Ticket is perfect for travelers who want a comprehensive tour of Hagia Sophia focused on its outer beauty and fascinating past. 

Highlights 

  • Hagia Sophia entry ticket (Fast-track optional upgrade available). 
  • Guided tour in front of the Hagia Sophia Mosque. 
  • Hagia Sophia History and Experience Museum entry ticket. 
  • Audio guide on your smartphone. 

Price – US $44 (TRY 2399)/adult ticket (up to 99 years)

Hagia Sophia History and Experience Museum

For those who only want to delve into the history and see the various exhibits must buy the Hagia Sophia History and Experience Museum tour. 

It includes an engaging audio tour to offer an enriching experience while you explore the complex at your own pace, understanding the significance and deriving your own meanings. 

The Hagia Sophia History and Experience Museum tour tickets are perfect for visitors who want to learn about actual history through intriguing and beautiful exhibits. 

Highlights 

  • Hagia Sophia entry ticket (Fast-track optional upgrade available). 
  • Guided tour in front of the Hagia Sophia Mosque. 
  • Hagia Sophia History and Experience Museum entry ticket. 
  • Headsets for audio guide in 23 languages. 
  • DSIGN Cafe 10% discount for coffee. 

Price – US $26 (TRY 814)/adult ticket (up to 99 years)

Hagia Sofia Opening Hours 

Hagia Sophia remains open throughout the year from 9 am to 7.30 pm without any exceptions. 

Hagia Sophia’s opening hours remain the same even on weekdays and weekends. 

The hours for summer and winter are the same, so visitors don’t have to worry about changing timings.

However, the praying area of the mosque remains closed to visitors for daily cleaning and maintenance purposes from morning prayer until 10 am. 

The visiting area of the mosque is closed between 12.30 pm and 2.30 pm on Fridays due to Friday Prayers. 

Waiting Time at Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia received more than 6 million visitors in 2023. Thus, it is one of the most popular attractions in Istanbul. 

Even though the ticket booth remains open till 7 pm, the ticket waiting lines can be pretty long. 

So, guests are advised to purchase their Hagia Sophia tour tickets online in advance to avoid the long queues and save time.

Hagia Sophia History 

Hagia Sophia started out as a cathedral in the region of Emperor Justinian I of the Byzantine Empire. 

He intended it to be a symbol of Christian supremacy and a testament to the might of the Byzantine Empire. 

When it was completed in 537 AD, it was formally called the Church of God’s Holy Wisdom. 

It was a monumental moment for the architects Anthemius of Tralles and Isidore of Miletus. 

They employed various innovative engineering techniques to create the largest dome in the world at that time.

Upon completion, it was the world’s largest interior space. It was also the first to employ a fully pendentive dome, putting a circular dome over a square room. 

It remained the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520. 

Hagia Sophia was the religious and spiritual center of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which was dedicated to the Holy Wisdom. 

In 1054, Humbert of Silva Candida delivered the excommunication of Patriarch Micheal I Cerularius, an act considered the start of the East-West Schism.

For a brief period from 1204 to 1261, it was converted to a catholic Cathedral under the Latin Empire before returning to the Eastern Orthodox Church again. 

In 1453, after the Fall of Constantinople, Mehmed the Conqueror converted Hagia Sophia into a mosque. 

It was the principal mosque of Istanbul until the construction of Sultan Ahmed Mosque in 1616.

Hagia Sophia underwent a drastic transformation upon its transition, and many of its church elements and features were removed.

New Islamic architectural additions such as minarets, minbar, mihrab, and more aspects were added.

The complex remained a mosque until 1931, when it was closed for four years. 

Hagia Sophia was opened in 1935 as a museum complex under the secular Republic of Turkey.

The Museum complex contains the tombs of five 16th and 17th-century Ottoman Sultans, including Mehmet III, Selim II, Murat III, Ibrahim I, and Mustafa I. 

A significant moment in the Hagia Sophia history came when UNESCO included it in the list of World Heritage Sites in 1985.

However, in July 2020, the Council of State annulled the 1934 decision to establish the museum, and Hagia Sophia was classified as a mosque. 

Today, Hagia Sophia is an architectural beauty that embodies the enduring legacy of empires, cultures, and religions that have left an indelible mark.

Hagia Sophia Architecture: Outer Facade

Hagia Sophia is a feat of architecture renowned for its innovative design and structural ingenuity.

It is an exemplary structure that combines elements of Byzantine and Islamic architectural styles seamlessly. 

The Hagia Sophia combines the three traditional basilical plans with the central dome plan in design. 

The structure has three internal and external naves: the central longitudinal space. The highlight of the structure is its giant dome. 

The dome’s height from the ground level is 55.60 m (182.4 ft) and the radius is 31.87 m (104.5 ft) in the north-south direction. It is 30.86 m (101.2 ft) in radius from the east to the west. 

The structure has a total of 104 columns, and the monumental main entrance is adorned with columns featuring intricate carvings.

The bells, altar, iconostasis, ambiance, and baptistery were removed from the Hagia Sophia when it was converted to a mosque. 

Islamic architectural elements, such as the minarets, a minbar, and a mihrab, were added during the Ottoman period. 

Above the minarets, the central dome of Hagia Sophia rises, capturing the attention of all visitors and taking a prominent place in the Istanbul skyline. 

A series of smaller domes and arched windows further crown the dome. 

The outer facade of Hagia Sophia has decorative elements such as intricate stonework, geometric patterns, and marble panels, adding to its architectural beauty and historical significance.

All the walls of the Hagia Sophia, except the ones covered by marble, have been decorated with exceptionally beautiful mosaics. 

Hagia Sofia Interiors

Just like the outer facade, the Hagia Sofia’s interiors are breathtaking, featuring ornate details and intricate carvings. 

Guests will be transported back in time as soon as they enter the visiting area, with centuries of history and culture well preserved in the mosque’s walls.

At the heart of the interior lies the giant main dome of over 55 m (180 ft), featuring mosaics and calligraphy inscriptions that pay homage to the divine. 

The seamless blend of Byzantine, Islamic and Ottoman artistic traditions is fully displayed here. 

Radiating outwards from the main dome are a series of smaller semi-domes and domed chambers, each supported by massive piers and columns. 

The beautiful mosaics in Hagia Sophia, ornate frescoes and marble panels are plastered throughout the walls, catching the guests’ attention. 

The ornate details will wow you and, at the same time, offer a glimpse into the rich spiritual and cultural heritage of Istanbul’s past.

The beauty offered by the interiors of the Hagia Sophia went to another level upon transition into the mosque by adopting Islamic architectural elements. 

This can be seen throughout the well-crafted marble floors, intricately ornate mihrab with delicate patterns, and carved capitals. 

The Hagia Sophia interiors consisting of complex corridors and chambers, are a testament to the beautiful and rich past.

Create a travel itinerary with the world’s highly regarded religious and cultural places having exquisite architecture and amazing history. Here is a list of Top 10 churches in the World. 

Read our detailed list of the best churches in Rome, Paris, New York, and Orlando as these are the most important cities having a rich selection of churches in the entire world

You should also know why should you visit churches and include them in your itinerary when exploring popular cities.

What Should You Wear on Your Visit to Hagia Sofia? 

Visitors need to respect the integrity and solemnity of the religious place, they are visiting. 

This holds true for Hagia Sophia and visitors need to be aware of general mosque visiting etiquettes.

Men and women must cover their heads and dress modestly, covering most of their bodies when entering the Hagia Sophia Mosque. 

Headscarves and body covers are available at the ticket booth if you aren’t prepared. Avoid showing skin to maintain decorum and etiquette. 

Clothes such as shorts, body-hugging suits, and skirts should be avoided as much as possible. 

Avoid wearing loud colors and prints, including distracting logos. 

Things to Explore Nearby Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia is located in Sultanahmet’s lively and vibrant neighborhood. 

There are plenty of amazing tourist attractions which you must add to your itinerary. 

Check out the list of must-visit attractions near Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. 

Blue Mosque 

Also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the Blue Mosque is known for its stunning blue tiles adorning the interior walls and its six minarets. 

It is located adjacent to Hagia Sophia, so visitors don’t have to go far, and it forms an absolute must-visit attraction on your visit to Istanbul.

Topkapi Palace 

Explore the opulent chambers, lush gardens and a world-class collection of art pieces at the historic residence of several Ottoman sultans. 

Nearly 400 years old, Topkapi Palace wraps history within its wall that fascinates travelers from around the globe. 

Basilica Cistern 

Just a short walk from Hagia Sophia, the Basilica Cistern is an ancient water reservoir built during the Byzantine Empire. 

It has fascinated travelers with its towering columns and mysterious atmosphere, which they can experience by walking in its dimly lit pathways. 

Grand Bazaar 

It is the focal point of the neighborhood of Sultanahmet. 

The Grand Bazaar is the world’s oldest and largest covered market. 

You should explore this vibrant and bustling market filled with narrow streets and numerous shops selling everything from handmade jewelry, textiles, souvenirs and much more. 

Spice Bazaar 

Known as the “Egyptian Bazaar,” it is a colorful market that will put your senses on overdrive. 

Feast your eyes and sense of smell at this market, browsing stalls that sell a variety of spices, Turkish delight, dried fruits, nuts and other culinary delights. 

Istanbul Archaeology Museum 

Istanbul is one of the most historic cities in the world that witnessed many empires and civilizations. 

Explore all its history at the three museums that feature impressive collections of artifacts, sculptures, and treasures spanning thousands of years. 

Hippodrome of Constantinople

Another must-stop spot adjacent to Hagia Sophia is the Hippodrome, which was once the center of Byzantine civic life.

Explore this historic monument that includes the Obelisk of Theodosius, Serpent Columns, and German Fountains. 

Sulyemaniye Mosque 

To witness the gorgeous skyline of Istanbul, filled with plenty of historical structures and contemporary attractions, visit the Sulyemaniye Mosque, located atop one of the seven hills of Istanbul. 

Witness the panoramic views of the city and the Golden Horn. Soak in the incredible vistas featuring exquisite architecture, serene courtyards, and beautiful gardens.   

For a comprehensive tour of the beautiful Istanbul, get a private guided tour of Istanbul to explore its beauty and famed architecture.

FAQs 

What does Hagia Sofia mean?

Hagia Sofia is a Greek word meaning “Holy Wisdom.” The name is also used in Latin as Sancta Sophia and in Turkish as Ayasofya. 

When it was completed in 537 AD, it was formally called the Church of God’s Holy Wisdom. This also ties to the meaning of Hagia Sophia. 

Get your Hagia Sophia tour tickets now to witness one of the rarest structures in the world that went through a transition unlike any other. 

When was the Hagia Sophia built?

The Hagia Sophia was built between 532 and 537 AD under the rule of Emperor Justinian I of the Byzantine Empire. 

It was intended to be a symbol of Christian supremacy and a testament to the might of the Byzantine Empire. 

But later, both its architecture and interior evolved and transitioned to get new elements throughout its history of more than 1500 years. 
Know about its architecture and interiors in detail. 

What is Hagia Sophia, and why is it so famous? 

Hagia Sophia is one of the rarest structures in the world, with a unique and fascinating history. 

This exemplary structure seamlessly blends Byzantine architecture and Islamic architectural styles, showcasing ingenuity and skill. 

Later, it was converted to a mosque under the rule of Mehmed the Conqueror. Thus, assuming its unique appeal.

Is the Hagia Sophia a church or mosque? 

Hagia Sophia has a fascinating past as it went through drastic transitions. 
It started out as a church when it was built in 532 AD. 

In 1453, after the Fall of Constantinople, Mehmed the Conqueror converted Hagia Sophia into a mosque. 

Later, in 1935, it was converted to a museum complex under the secular Republic of Turkey. 

In July 2020, the Council of State annulled the 1934 decision to establish the museum, and Hagia Sophia was classified as a mosque. Read about its fascinating history in detail.

Who is buried in Hagia Sophia?

Apart from being a mosque, the Hagia Sophia used to be a museum from 1935 to 2020. 

The complex remained a mosque until 1931, after which it was closed for four years. 

Hagia Sophia was opened in 1935 as a museum complex under the secular Republic of Turkey.

Besides this, the landmark features a Grand Dome, having intricate carvings and mosaics. 

Get your Hagia Sophia tickets to experience this beauty firsthand. 

Can tourists visit Hagia Sophia?

Yes, visitors can go to the Hagia Sophia. 

In fact, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Istanbul due to its fascinating past. 

More than 13 million visitors visited Hagia Sophia in 2022 to witness its beautiful architecture and learn about its intriguing past. 

Get your Hagia Sophia tour tickets to visit this gorgeous structure.

How much does it cost to go to Hagia Sophia?

Plenty of Hagia Sophia tours offer varied experiences for visitors at various price brackets.

For instance, the Hagia Sophia Skip-the-line entrance costs US $40 (TRY1224) for adults above the age of six. 

For access to museum exhibits and a comprehensive tour delving into the attraction’s history, pick the Hagia Sophia Tour and Experience Museum Tickets at US $44 (TRY 2399).

Featured Image : Stock photos by Vecteezy

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!