The Sultanahmet district, which houses the famous historical buildings of Istanbul, takes its name from this mosque built by the Sultan Ahmed. The Blue Mosque is adjacent to the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace, which are among the most important structures in Istanbul’s history, and welcomes millions of visitors every year.
The original name of the mosque is the Sultanahmet Mosque. However, because the most distinctive color in the interior decoration is blue, it is known as the Blue Mosque in the world. Iznik tiles decorating the mosque were produced in the period when the Ottoman art of pottery reached its peak.
The history, architecture, opening hours and dress code of the Blue Mosque are among the things that tourists are most curious about. In this article, you can find all this information about Blue Mosque, the most visited mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.
Table of Contents
History of The Blue Mosque
The history of the Blue Mosque goes back 400 years. Built between 1609 and 1616, the mosque is one of the most beautiful works of classical architecture of the Ottoman Empire. It was built by Sedefkar Mehmed Agha, a student of Mimar Sinan, the most important architect in Ottoman history.
The Blue Mosque stands out as one of the last representatives of Classical Ottoman architecture. Built in the 1600s, the mosque bears the traces of traditional Turkish-Ottoman architecture. This architectural style, which started in Bursa, the first capital in Ottoman history, and matured in Edirne, reached its peak after the conquest of Istanbul.
In the 1700s, we see the effects of Westernization in Ottoman architecture. Influenced by the Neo-Classical and Baroque movements in Europe, the Ottomans started to build European style palaces and mosques. This process started with Nuruosmaniye Mosque and accelerated with Dolmabahce and Ortakoy Mosques in the 1800s.
Blue Mosque Architecture
The architecture of the Blue Mosque was designed by the palace architect Sedefkar Mehmed Agha. Mehmed Agha supported the central dome of the Blue Mosque with four half domes and many quarter domes. The elegance of these domes gives an exquisite look from the outside. Domes descending from the central dome towards the walls are very aesthetic.
Sedefkar Mehmed Aga, who grew up next to Mimar Sinan, the most famous architect in Ottoman history, took the art of his teacher as an example. While building the Blue Mosque, he was inspired by the Sehzade Mosque (also known as Prince Mosque), one of Sinan’s works and added his own interpretation on it.
The Blue Mosque has six minarets unlike other Ottoman mosques in Istanbul. The number of minarets, usually 2 or 4, was increased to six here. Sultan Ahmed I wanted to build a structure that could compete with Hagia Sophia, which was originally a church, and increased the grandeur of the Blue Mosque.
Interior of the Blue Mosque
The most striking architectural feature of the Blue Mosque is the giant columns inside the mosque. These columns are placed to support the central dome is called “Elephant Legs”.
In order to make these giant columns look beautiful to the eye, they are covered with marbles and decorated with pencil works. Decoration starts from the top of the columns and extends to the dome through arches and gives a sense of integrity.
The interior of the Blue mosque was extended to the sides and gained depth thanks to the half and quarter domes. When viewed from the outside, these half-domes that descend from the top give the mosque a unique appearance.
Despite all this majesty, the Blue Mosque is not the largest Ottoman mosque in Istanbul. It is smaller than the Suleymaniye Mosque built by Mimar Sinan. However, it’s the most visited mosque due to its central location.
Blue Mosque Opening Hours 2023
Istanbul Blue Mosque opening hours are between 08:30 in the morning and 18:45 in the evening in 2023. However, the mosque is closed during prayer times. The closing hours of the mosque are updated every day.
There is a chart showing the current opening hours in the courtyard of the mosque. However, if you want to know the times before going to the mosque, you can check the current prayer times from this official site. The mosque closes one hour before the prayer time and opens half an hour after the prayer takes place.
The best time to visit the Blue Mosque is in the morning. If you go to the mosque at 08:30 in the morning, you can easily visit the mosque before the crowds arrive. Considering the whole day, the best visiting hours are between 08:30 and 11:30.
Blue Mosque Restoration Status in 2023
The Blue Mosque underwent a long and detailed restoration between 2015 and 2023. Although there are still partial restoration works as of August 2023, the main dome of the mosque and most of its tiles can be seen.
Blue Mosque Entrance Fee 2023
By the way, it should be noted that there is no entrance fee for the Blue Mosque. Visiting the Blue Mosque is free as in other mosques in Istanbul. However, if you wish, you can still donate to the mosque on the way out. Donations are accepted in the small office that you will see before leaving the mosque.
Dress Code of the Blue Mosque
There is a dress code when visiting the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. It is better to bring a scarf with you as women are required to cover their heads. However, even if you would forget, it is not a big problem. Because you can borrow scarves from the kiosk in the courtyard of the mosque.
Women can borrow scarves and skirts at the entrance of the mosque. Likewise, men wearing shorts are given a piece of cloth to wrap around their waist. You can return them to the kiosk after use and walk around in your summer clothes for the rest of your day.
Things to Do around Blue Mosque
There are many things to do around the Blue Mosque. After leaving the mosque, you can explore the centuries-old bazaars, visit interesting museums and even enjoy a Turkish bath in a historical hammam.
1. Arasta Bazaaar
Arasta Bazaar is almost similar to the other two famous bazaars of the city, Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar. However, it is an open market with spacious streets. You can easily reach the bazaar from the courtyard of the mosque.
When a mosque was built in the Ottoman period, a bazaar was built right next to it. The maintenance costs of the mosque were covered by the rent collected from the shops in this bazaar. Arasta Bazaar is a place that keeps this tradition alive.
Inside the Arasta Bazaar is the Great Palace Mosaics Museum, one of the lesser known museums of Istanbul. Floor mosaics from the Great Palace of the Roman emperors can be seen in this museum.
During the Byzantine period, chariot races were held here. The Hippodrome, the most important activity center of the city, was also a place where great rebellions started. Today, obelisks from that period can still be seen in the Sultanahmet Square (former Hippodrome).
3. Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum
Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum is actually a palace from the Ottoman period and is located very close to the mosque. The historical artifacts you will see in this museum complete your experience in the mosque.
Turkish and Islamic Art Museums have Turkish rugs from the Seljuk and Ottoman periods. In addition, historical artifacts from the Caliphate period can be seen. There are also centuries-old handwritten Qurans.
4. Sultanahmet Park
Sultanahmet Park is right in the middle of the historical monuments in the district. Thanks to this park, you can take magnificent Instagram photos by taking historical monuments such as the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia behind you.
5. Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hammam
Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hammam is located in the large park between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. Dating to the 16th century, the hamam was built by Hurrem Sultan, the wife of Sultan Suleiman.
After visiting the surrounding historical monuments, you can enjoy a Turkish bath in this hamam. Having a massage and scrub in the hammam will make you feel refreshed.
In order to summarize, the Blue Mosque is among the best places to visit in Istanbul. Visited by an average of 3 million people a year, this mosque is the second largest mosque in Istanbul.
Those who wonder which is the largest mosque in Istanbul can visit the Suleymaniye Mosque. The Suleymaniye Mosque is much larger than the Blue Mosque, both as a structure and as additional buildings surrounding the mosque.
Most of the imperial mosques built during the Ottoman period were more than a place of worship. As in the Suleymaniye Mosque, there would be a madrasah (school), tomb, bazaar, hospital, Turkish bath and soup kitchen next to it.
However, since the Blue Mosque was located in the heart of the capital, it had less space compared to other imperial mosques. For this reason, there is only a madrasah , a tomb and a bazaar next to it. Therefore, it is small compared to the Suleymaniye Mosque complex.
Written by Serhat Engul