Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya), Istanbul

Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya), Istanbul (must see)

This monumental structure was once an Orthodox patriarchal Basilica, then a mosque, and now, finally, is a Museum in the city of Istanbul. It was built in the fourth century by Constantine the Great as a Church, and it has seen much of the changing ruling powers of Istanbul ever since.

Many people mistake it as being dedicated to Saint Sofia, but the church was, in fact, originally dedicated to the second person of the Holy Trinity, and its full Greek name is “Church of the Holy Wisdom of God”, with Sophia meaning “Wisdom”.

Before its takeover by the Ottoman Turks in 1435, the church housed many holy relics. It was converted into a Mosque by Sultan Mehmed II, and it remained a mosque for the next 500 years.

Located in the Sultanahmet neighborhood, Hagia Sophia is, without doubt, one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture and was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1985. It houses many decorations that make it distinctive and it is famous for its beautiful mosaics that decorate the entire structure.

Why You Should Visit:
Unique in it being both a church and a mosque, with respective symbols omnipresent.
Even if you are not familiar with Byzantine history, you will surely be impressed.
The multi-domed enclosure is so mesmerizing you can't take your eyes away from it!

Tip:
Should you want to visit multiple museums, buy a Museum Pass at the Museum of Turkish & Islamic Arts as there are few people in the line (the queues at the Hagia Sophia are usually enormous and it can take an hour or more to get a ticket). The Museum Pass (valid for 5 days) allows you to queue-jump and gets you into other museums/attractions as well.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-7pm, last entrance: 6pm (Apr 15-Oct 31); 9am-5pm, last entrance: 4pm (Nov 1-Apr 14)

This sight is featured in a self-guided walking tour of Istanbul, Turkey within the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" which can be downloaded from iTunes App Store or Google Play. Please download the app to your mobile phone or tablet for travel directions for visiting this sight. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) on Map

Sight Name: Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya)
Sight Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Sight Type: Museum/Gallery
Guide(s) containing this sight: Museums Tour   Roman Heritage Walking Tour II   Architectural Walking Tour   City Orientation Walk  

Walking Tours in Istanbul, Turkey

Create Your Own Walk in Istanbul

Create Your Own Walk in Istanbul

Creating your own self-guided walk in Istanbul is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Roman Heritage Walking Tour I

Roman Heritage Walking Tour I

Constantinople, being an imperial capital for over a millennium, still contains many important buildings and sites that show the greatness of the Eastern Roman Empire. This tour will take you through the most famous of them, giving you a glimpse of the most developed and flourishing city of the middle ages in Europe - Constantinople (Present day Istanbul).

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 km
Churches Walking Tour

Churches Walking Tour

Constantinople was a center for religion and the orthodox Christianity for over a millennium and even after the Ottomans came many Christians remained in the city. There are many churches in Istanbul and each of them has its uniqueness.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.7 km
Asian Part Walking Tour

Asian Part Walking Tour

Istanbul, Turkey's wealthiest and biggest city is split by the Bosphorus in two parts - European and Asian. In this tour you can experience the eastern side and feel the true spirit of the Orient with small, crowded streets and countless mosques.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.1 km
Souvenir Shopping

Souvenir Shopping

Istanbul, throughout its history as Byzantium and Constantinople, has been a center of commerce and trade- a place to buy all kinds of exotic items. Today’s modern traveler in Istanbul also enjoys an interesting and colorful shopping experience. The sheer number of shops, bazaars, products, prices and insistent shopkeepers, however, can be overwhelming. To focus your search and improve your...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.4 km
Mosques Walking Tour

Mosques Walking Tour

Istanbul has been a center of Islam for over half a millennium. Add to the fact that it was always growing in population and wealth, and we have the reason why there are so many dazzling mosques in the city.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.4 km
City Orientation Walk

City Orientation Walk

Istanbul, Turkey's main city, straddling the Bosphorus Strait to bridge gap between Europe and Asia, is an ancient metropolis embracing cultural influences of many civilizations that once flourished on this land. The Blue Mosque in Sultanahmet part of the Old Town, the Roman-era Hippodrome, and the iconic Byzantine Hagia Sophia are just some of the multiple historic landmarks adorning the...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.4 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip


Istanbul Shopping Guide: 16 Turkish Items To Bring Home

Istanbul Shopping Guide: 16 Turkish Items To Bring Home

Istanbul, known throughout history as Byzantium and Constantinople, has been a major center of commerce and trade, a place where merchants and general folk would rush to regularly in search of exotic things. In our days, modern travelers to Istanbul are also bound to enjoy a truly magnificent...