Sultanahmet Blue Mosque: what to expect, visiting tips

The Sultanahmet Blue Mosque is one of the most important mosques built with the order of Sultan Ahmed I at the beginning of the 17th century during the Ottoman period. The mosque is a unique structure that has brought a new perspective to mosque culture which showcases one of the most successful examples of Turkish-Islamic architecture.

It can be seen from about many central areas of the city with its magnificent 43-meter-high dome and 6 minarets. It is a functioning mosque that also attracts a large number of tourists. It is closed to the tourists during prayer times. You shouldn’t miss out on seeing one of the most beautiful mosques in the world!

Sultan Ahmed I personally worked at the construction of the Blue Mosque. It is even rumored that the Sultan carried the soil from the construction of the mosque on its skirts and excavated with a pickax for the benefit of the mosque. The pickaxe, on which the Sultan struck the first pick, is now kept in Topkapı Palace.

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Blue Mosque was built between 1609 and 1616 with the design of Sedefkar Mehmet Aga. Sultan of the period, as well as many statesmen has worked in the construction of the mosque. Apart from the fascinating tile works from the 16th and 17th centuries, we recommend you to see the sections such as the mihrab and the sultan’s pavilion in the mosque.

Fast facts about Sultanahmet Blue Mosque

  • The mosque was built between 1609 and 1616, during the reign of Sultan Ahmed I.
  • It was designed by architect Sedefkar Mehmet Aga, a student of the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan.
  • The mosque gets its name from the blue tiles that adorn its interior walls, which were made in the city of Iznik.
  • The mosque is one of the largest in Istanbul, with a capacity for up to 10,000 worshippers.
  • It features six minarets, which was controversial at the time of construction, as the Grand Mosque in Mecca was the only other mosque with six minarets.
  • The mosque is open for visitors every day except during prayer times.
  • Visitors are required to remove their shoes before entering the mosque and dress modestly, with women covering their heads.
  • Admission to the mosque is free.

Quick History

The history of this magnificent mosque dates back to the early 17th century when Sultan Ahmed I ordered its construction. Construction of the mosque began in 1609 and was completed in 1616. The Sultan wanted to build a grand mosque that would surpass the beauty of the Hagia Sophia, which had been built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century.

The Sultanahmet Blue Mosque was designed by the Ottoman architect Sedefkâr Mehmed Ağa, who was just 27 years old at the time. The mosque was built on the site of the ancient hippodrome of Constantinople, which was the site of chariot races during the Byzantine era.

The mosque’s name, “Blue Mosque,” comes from the blue tiles that adorn the interior walls. These tiles were specially made for the mosque in the city of Iznik and were used to create intricate patterns and designs that add to the mosque’s grandeur.

Over the centuries, the Blue Mosque has undergone several renovations and restorations. In 2016, the mosque underwent a major restoration project that took several years to complete. The project involved repairing the mosque’s dome, minarets, and the interior and exterior walls.

Today, the Sultanahmet Blue Mosque remains a popular tourist attraction and a functioning mosque. Visitors can enter the mosque through a separate entrance and are required to follow a dress code that includes covering their heads and removing their shoes.

What to expect?

At your first sight of the “Blue Mosque”, officially known as the “Sultanahmet Mosque”, it takes your breath away. When you try to put a name on the emotions you’re feeling, every word appears lacking.

Its splendor, regality, and magnificence captivate and win you over. Its exquisiteness trigger emotions in you that are different from the emotion every other person who sets their feet inside experiences.

The Blue Mosque Istanbul, Turkey. Sultanahmet Camii.

The mosque’s interior walls are adorned with hand-painted blue tiles, and at night, the mosque is bathed in blue as lights frame the mosque’s five main domes, six minarets, and eight secondary domes. It is located next to the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque.

In 1985, the Blue Mosque was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list as part of the “Historic Areas of Istanbul.” The inside of the mosque is lined with more than 20,000 handmade Iznik aesthetic ceramic tiles made in Iznik (ancient Nicaea) in more than fifty distinct tulip designs on its lower levels and at each pier. Lower-level tiles are conservative in design, whereas gallery-level tiles are vibrant, with depictions of flowers, fruit, and cypresses.

Since the most used color among these more than 20,000 tiles is “blue”, that’s why the mosque is also called as “Blue Mosque”, especially by foreigners.

Blue paint dominates the upper levels of the interior. More than 200 intricately designed stained glass windows let in direct sunlight, which is now supplemented by chandeliers. Ostrich eggs are found on the chandeliers, meant to keep cobwebs at bay. You’re safe from spiders if you’re scared of them.

The decorations include verses from Quran, many of which were created by Seyyid Kasim Gubari, widely regarded as the most excellent calligrapher of his time. The carpets on the floors are donated by the faithful and are replaced regularly as they wear out. The numerous large windows give the impression of space. The floor-level casements are adorned with opus sectile.

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Each exedra has five windows, some of which are obscured by blinds. The semi-domes each have 14 windows, and the central dome has 28. The Sultan received the colored glass for the windows as a gift from the Signoria of Venice.

Tour Blue Mosque on Video

Visiting Tips

  • As the mosque is a place of worship, visitors are expected to dress modestly. Women should cover their heads, shoulders, and knees, and men should wear long pants and cover their shoulders. Scarves are available for rent or purchase at the entrance.
  • The mosque is closed to visitors during prayer times, which occur five times a day. It is advisable to check the prayer times before planning your visit to avoid disappointment.
  • There is no entrance fee for the mosque, but donations are welcome.
  • Visitors are required to remove their shoes before entering the mosque. Plastic bags are provided to carry them, or you can bring your own shoe bag.
  • Guided tours are available for visitors who wish to learn more about the mosque’s history and significance. It is advisable to book in advance, as they can be popular and fill up quickly.
  • Visitors are expected to show respect for the mosque and its worshippers. It is recommended to speak softly and avoid any behavior that could be seen as disrespectful or disruptive.
  • Photography is allowed inside the mosque but only without flash and only in designated areas. It is important to respect the privacy of worshippers and not take photos of them without their permission.

Getting to Blue Mosque Tips

The Blue Mosque is located in the Sultanahmet neighborhood, just by the Sultanahmet Square, which belongs to Fatih district. See on google map.

For those coming from Taksim, Galata or Besiktas areas, can take the Kabatas-Bagcilar T1 tram line passing through Kabatas, Karakoy, and get off at Sultanahmet stop.

For those on the Asian side of Istanbul, can take the ferry to Eminonu or take the Marmaray line from Uskudar and get off at the Sirkeci stop. And than you can take the Kabatas-Bagcilar tram line passing through Eminönü and Sirkeci stops, and get off at Sultanahmet stop.

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