Mosques Walking Tour (Self Guided), Istanbul

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.
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Mosques Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Mosques Walking Tour
Guide Location: Turkey » Istanbul (See other walking tours in Istanbul)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.5 Km or 4.7 Miles
Author: kane
1
Yavuz Selim Mosque

1) Yavuz Selim Mosque

The Yavuz Selim mosque is an Ottoman Imperial mosque. The mosque is also called the “Selim I Mosque”. It is located on top of the fifth hill of Istanbul, and overlooks the Golden Horn. This mosque is the second oldest imperial mosque in Istanbul, and it was completed in 1522.

The Yavuz Selim Mosque was commissioned by the Ottoman Sultan, “Suleiman the Magnificent” and was constructed by the Imperial Architect of that time. Many scholars say it was built by the celebrated Imperial Architect Mimar Sinan, but apart from a turbe (tomb), in the garden of the mosque, there is little evidence that supports this theory. The mosque is decorated by Iznik tiles (highly decorated ceramic tiles), and the Yavuz Selim mosque boasts one of the earliest examples of these tiles in Istanbul. Minarets flank the mosque on either side, and there is a large courtyard with marble and granite columns in the mosque complex.

The interior of the mosque consists of a simple room, twenty four meters on each side, and a shallow dome. The windows have spectacular displays of Iznik tiles decorating the interior of the mosque. There are four small domed rooms that used to house travelling dervishes present to the north and south of the main room.
2
Gül Mosque

2) Gül Mosque

Gul Mosque means “The Mosque of the Rose”. This famous mosque is present in the district of Fatih, in the Ayakapi (Gate of the Saint) neighborhood in Istanbul, overlooking the Golden Horn.

Originally known as “the Church of St Theodosia” the Gul Mosque was a former Eastern Orthodox Church in Constantinople. It was converted into a mosque by the Ottomans during the 14th century. The Gul Mosque is one of the most important religious Byzantine structures, predating the Ottoman rule in Istanbul.

The original construction of the Church is disputed by scholars, but most agree that it was built during the 11th century. The Mosque has been renovated a few times ever since, and it was also used as a naval dockyard during the initial years of the Ottoman rule. A minaret was added to the Mosque during the reign of Salim II (1566-1574).

This was one of the most important cross-in-square churches in Istanbul. The mosque consists of a central, high dome, which was added by Ottoman rulers on top of the original construction. The mosque is still visited by worshippers, who flock to its premises during the five designated prayer times. It is open for tourists 24 hours a day, except during prayer times.
3
Fatih Mosque

3) Fatih Mosque (must see)

The Fatih Camii (“Conqueror’s Mosque”) is one of the largest examples of Turkish-Islamic architecture in Istanbul and was built over the original site of the Church of the Holy Apostles.

Constructed during 1462- 1470 by Sultan Fatih Mehmet (Mehmet the Conqueror), the Fatih Mosque is distinct in its construction. It consists of a hospital, a caravansary, kitchens, a marketplace and several hammams (Turkish baths). The mosque also houses a madrassah (Islamic school) which can accommodate over 1000 students.

The Sultan wanted to make a spectacular structure and when architect Atik Sinan was unable to create a mosque higher than the Avasofya (Hagia Sophia), the Sultan ordered both his hands cut off. Located atop the highest hill in Istanbul, the Fatih Mosque consists of a tall central dome, and semi-domes on all four sides.

An earthquake devastated the structure in 1771, and the complex went under major restoration by Mustafa III. From the original complex, the inner courtyard, the madrassah (Islamic school) and the mihrab (prayer direction niche) survive today. The mosque’s interior has many depictions of Islamic Art. Outside the mihrab wall, the tombs of Sultan Mehmet II and his wife are found.

Why You Should Visit:
Maybe the best mosque to observe the culture & architecture of conservative Turks (you won't see many non-Muslim tourists).
Surrounded by numerous shops where you can find various spices, sweets etc. (on Wednesdays there's a big open market, too).

Tip:
Make sure you go in to see the very beautiful designs but please take off your shoes and wear long trousers/skirts (ladies should bring a scarf).

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-6pm (closed at prayer times)
4
Şehzade Mosque

4) Şehzade Mosque

The Şehzade Cammi translates to the Prince Mosque from the Turkish language. This is an Ottoman Imperial mosque located in the Fatih district in Istanbul.

Sultan Suleiman I commissioned the mosque in memory of his son, Prince Mehmet, who died at the age of 21 of small pox. Hence the name of the mosque - Sehzade, or Prince. It was completed in 1548, and was the first major commission of the Imperial Architect Mimar Sinan. The mosque is still considered by historians as the first masterpiece of Ottoman architecture created by Mimar Sinan, who went on to complete many mosques and monuments after this.

The mosque complex, also called the Sehzade complex contains two madrassah (Islamic schools), kitchens which served food to the poor and a caravansary. The tomb of the prince is also located in the mosque complex. The mosque and its courtyard are separated from the rest of the complex by a wall. The courtyard is bordered by 5 bays that are domed on each side. White and pink marble arches are also present here. An ablution fountain is present in the center of the courtyard, a later donation by Sultan Murat IV. The mosque’s interior is simple, and does not have any galleries.
5
Bodrum Mosque

5) Bodrum Mosque

Formally known as “The Church of the Monastery of Myrelaion” or “The Place of Myrrah”, the Bodrum Mosque used to be a cross-in-square designed church in Istanbul. Bodrum translates as “basement” from Turkish, and this probably refers to the crypt that is still present beneath the mosque. The church was converted into a mosque by Ottoman Grand Vizier, Mesih Pasa, in 1500.

The mosque was damaged by fire in 1784 and 1911 and it was also abandoned for some time, until the Istanbul Archaeology Museum tried to replace most of its architecture with masonry during the 1960s. The mosque lost some of its historic appearance due to the renovation. A cistern was also restored during the 1990s and has been converted into an underground shopping mall.

The wooden portico that was present inside the mosque has been demolished during the many restorations and renovations that mosque has undergone. None of the original mosaics and marble revetments that decorated the church remain today and the mosque is surrounded on all four sides by apartment buildings. Regardless of the many restorations the mosque has endured, its crypt and interior are still worth visiting as they date as far back as the Byzantine period.
6
Bayezid II Mosque

6) Bayezid II Mosque

The Bayezid Mosque is an Ottoman Imperial Mosque located near the ruins of the Forum of Theodosius, at the Bayezid Square in Istanbul.

Commissioned by the Ottoman Sultan, Bayezid II, it was one of the largest mosque complexes to be erected after the conquest of Istanbul. The mosque complex consists of a madrassah (Islamic school) an imaret (public kitchen), shops and also a hammam (Turkish bath). The mosque’s architecture is that of the classic Ottoman style and unlike the Fatih Mosque, that was demolished by earthquakes, the Bayezid Mosque has not undergone any major renovations.

The famous Imperial Architect Mimar Sinan renovated the dome and minarets after an earthquake in 1573-74. Minor repairs on the minarets were also done in 1767 after a fire. Behind the mosque, there is a garden that contains the tomb of Sultan Bayezid II, his daughter Selcuk Hatun and Grand Vizier Koca Mustafa Resid Pasha.

The mosque complex consisted of shops and kitchens, designed by Mimar Sinan. The rent from the shops was taken to support the mosque. Today, the kitchens have been converted into the State Library of Istanbul. The interior of the mosque was fashioned after the Hagia Sophia, but on a much smaller scale.
7
Süleymaniye Mosque

7) Süleymaniye Mosque (must see)

Built by Suleiman “The Magnificent” and the famous Imperial Architect Mimar Sinan in 1557, the Süleymaniye Mosque is modeled in part on the Hagia Sofia, and in part on a Byzantine Basilica, in order to reflect the grandeur of the city’s past architectural monuments.

In 1660, the Süleymaniye Mosque was ravaged by fire and was restored by Mehmet IV. Unfortunately, restoration work has changed the mosque into a baroque-style structure and ruined the original architecture. The mosque has undergone many restorations ever since. Today it is one of the most popular tourist sites in Istanbul.

The mosque complex consists of a caravanserai, an imaret (public kitchen), a madrassa (Islamic school), a hospital and a hammam (Turkish bath). The public kitchen was constructed to serve food to the poor. The gardens behind the mosque consist of Turbe (tombs) of the great Sultan Suleiman, his wife Roxelana, his mother Dilasub Saliham, his daughter Mihrimah and his sister Asiye. The tombs are fashioned on the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. The mosque is distinct from others as it contains the tomb of the great architect Sinan, designed by the occupant himself.

Why You Should Visit:
Great picturesque neighborhood, fewer tourists, sensational views of the city and quite a peaceful and solemn overall experience.

Tip:
To really enjoy the views, go down and find some restaurants on the rooftops of the buildings close to the mosque.
If you have trouble walking up and down, consider renting a (reliable) taxi cab or plan your ascent/descent accordingly.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-6pm
8
Rüstem Pasha Mosque

8) Rüstem Pasha Mosque (must see)

Built during 1561-63 and located in Eminonu, Istanbul, this is an Imperial Ottoman mosque of great significance. It was designed by the famed Imperial Architect Mimar Sinan for the Grand Vizier Damat Rüstem Pasha, husband of Princess Mihrimah, daughter of the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman “the Magnificent”.

The mosque has a large number of Iznik tiles (decorated ceramic tiles) that make it distinct from others. They are set in many floral and geometric patterns that cover not only the interior but are also found on the columns and porch outside. No other mosque in Istanbul makes use of such tiles in such a manner. The tiles used to decorate Rüstem Pasha are of the characteristic tomato-red color, which denotes the early Iznik period.

The mosque was built overlooking a vast complex of shops whose rent used to financially support the mosque complex. The main dome of the mosque rests on four semi-domes and the design of the building is that of an octagon inscribed in a rectangle. Galleries are present to the north and south of the main room, and these are supported by marble columns and pillars.

Why You Should Visit:
Stunning mosque demonstrating some of the greatest Ottoman architecture and tile work of the classic period.
Tricky entrance on a 2nd floor, through a small gate and a short stair, but once you make it to the front you get fascinated.

Tip:
Entry is free, but as expected – shoes off before entering and head scarves for the women.
The mosque is right beside the Spice Market, so it's very easy to visit the two spots in one morning/afternoon.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-6pm
9
Blue Mosque

9) Blue Mosque (must see)

One of the most frequently visited and famous tourist spots in Istanbul, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque – popularly known as the “Blue Mosque” due to the blue tiles that adorn the walls of its interior – was built between 1609 and 1616 during the reign of Ahmed the First. It contains a tomb of the Sultan, a madrassah (religious school) and also a hospice. Despite being a very famous tourist attraction, it still functions as a mosque, and a call for prayer (azaan) still draws the faithful to its gates from far and wide. Usually accessible 24 hours a day, the mosque is not open for tourists during prayer time (which is approximately half an hour) five times a day, unless they are there to pray.

Built near the Hagia Sophia and surrounded by a popular tourist district, visitors to the mosque can enjoy several museums, cafes, restaurants and parks in the nearby vicinity. The mosque itself was originally built on the site of the ancient Byzantine Imperial Palace and Hippodrome and took nearly seven years to complete. This masterpiece of Ottoman architecture boasts many examples of Islamic Art and calligraphy that adorn its walls from the inside.

Why You Should Visit:
Compared to other mosques in Istanbul, this one is significantly easier to access because of its free admission and central location.
Timings are strict, a dress code is enforced and the queues are long, but the sense of tranquility that you get inside (even with crowds around) is worth it all.

Tip:
Go early to avoid queues and if you need to wait, look at the details rather than focus on the line. The details in Islamic architecture/design are what sets it apart.
Close by, there are places to eat and drink if you need sustenance after or before visiting.
You could also simply walk around it as much as you are allowed, and snap some pics.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8:30-11:30am / 1-2:30pm / 3:30-4:45pm (except Fridays – only at 1:30pm)

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