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.
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 18:30 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 Renovation Status in 2023
The restoration of the Blue Mosque has been going on since 2015. During this time, visitors were allowed to visit the mosque. However, the narrowing of the entrance and exit can sometimes cause long lines.
Normally, when a mosque is to be restored in Istanbul, it closes completely and reopens after the restoration is completed in a few years. However, since the Blue Mosque is very popular, it continues to serve during the restoration.
Visitors to the Blue Mosque in recent years have not been able to see the blue tiles, the main interior decoration element that gives the mosque its name. These “Iznik Tiles” cover all the walls of the mosque and now there is a restoration plaster in front of them.
The renovation status of the Blue Mosque in 2023 is slightly better than in the previous few years. Visitors can at least enjoy the recently restored dome. The refurbished pencil work of the dome looks great.
The Mosque will remain closed until April 21, 2023
As of January 1, 2023, the mosque was closed for three months to speed up the restoration process. For this reason, the Blue Mosque will remain closed to visitors until April 21, 2023.
It was previously reported that the mosque would remain closed until March 1, 2023. However, when I went to Sultanahmet on March 5, I saw on a paper hanging on the door of the mosque that the opening was postponed to April 21, 2023.
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.
Hippodrome is one of the rare historical monuments from the Roman period in Istanbul. The Hippodrome was built by Emperor Constantine when Istanbul was declared the capital of the Roman Empire.
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.
Basilica Cistern, one of the most mysterious museums of Istanbul, is located in the immediate vicinity of the park. Some scenes of the movie Inferno, based on Dan Brown’s novel, were shot here.
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
Is the Basilica Cistern still closed?
Serhat Engul says
I heard something that Basilica Cistern will open after 15 July. However, no official announcement has been made yet. The restoration scaffolding at the entrance and exit doors of the cistern has been lifted and the final touches are being made.
Hi …. We regularly come to Istanbul. We love it there. 😊… it will be excellent to see the blue mosque renovations completed. Do you know , are there any tours to other countries from Istanbul , like Egypt or Greece ? Thank you. O
Serhat Engul says
Hello Bilquis, I am glad that you love Istanbul so much and visit it again and again. Unfortunately, I don’t have a clear answer to your question.
Local agencies serving in Turkey organize tours to take Turks to countries such as Egypt and Greece. However, I do not think that this service is provided in foreign languages.
Outgoing tours going abroad from Turkey generally provide guidance in Turkish. Tours operating in a foreign language usually go from Istanbul to other cities of Turkey.
Do you know when is planned the finish of the restoration inside the mosque?
Serhat Engul says
Hello Magda, unfortunately, there is no explanation about when the restoration will end yet. However, as of March, the mosque will be partially reopened to touristic visits.
The Blue Mosque has been under renovation since 2015 and was partially visitable. For example, the courtyard had been closed for years. In the interior, the walls were covered, but the dome was open.
Cynthia Herrera says
Has the Cistern Basilica reopened?
Serhat Engul says
Hello Cynthia, yes the renovation of the Basilica Cistern is finished. The cistern has been reopened to visitors since July 2022.
Do you know what is the plan to finish the inside of the mosque? Do you know if the earthquake will impact the restoration?
Serhat Engul says
It is not certain when the restoration inside the Blue Mosque will be completed. The earthquake took place quite far from Istanbul and I don’t think it will affect the restoration.
Is the Blue Mosque still scheduled to reopen to tourists on March 1, 2023?
Also, has any date been established for reopening the Chora Church?
Serhat Engul says
The Blue Mosque will be partially opened to tourist visits on March 1. However, some parts of it will not be seen for a while, as in recent years.
Did the Blue Mosque open on March 1 and, if so, how much of it can be seen? Do you think significantly more of it will be able to be seen by April 1?
Also, do you know when the Chora Church is scheduled to reopen?
Serhat Engul says
Hi Gail, Blue Mosque was to open on March 1st according to the official statement. However, I haven’t had a chance to go and see it in person yet.
There is no explanation about the opening date of the Chora Church (aka Kariye Mosque). I don’t think it will open anytime soon.
Will you let us know if you visit and if it’s open? We are planning on coming next week and will adjust our plans accordingly.
Serhat Engul says
Hi Mohammed, I will be there on Sunday (March 5). I will review the latest status of the mosque and note it here in the evening.
UPDATE (as of 5th of March): Unfortunately, the mosque has not been opened yet. The reopening has been postponed to April 21, 2023.
Thanks you for your work. I’m visiting Istanbul on the 1st and 2nd of April and I was really hoping to visit the Blue Mosque.
I’ve read your article – is it still close till the 23rd of April?
Serhat Engul says
Hi, according to the notice hanging on the door of the mosque, the Blue Mosque will remain closed until April 21, 2023. I mentioned this situation in the article and if there is a change, I will update the article.
However, it should be noted that April 21 is the expected opening date. Since the previous opening date was March 1 and has been postponed, the opening in April may also be delayed. If it opens in April, it will catch up with the Istanbul’s high tourist season.