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Historian Guided Hagia Sophia
Back in the 6th Century, under Roman Emperor Constantine, the Byzantine Empire constructed a cathedral that would serve as the primary place of worship for the eastern Roman Empire -- and the Hagia Sophia was born. It served as a cathedral under the Byzantine Empire and was converted to a mosque -- colloquially changed to Aya Sophia -- under the Ottoman Empire for 500 years. This crucial piece of history marks the Hagia Sophia as what is it today: an iconic landmark soaked in rich history as a melting pot of a myriad of cultures.
Arguably the most popular monument the defines the city of Istanbul, a visit to this magnificent structure is one for the memories. Book Hagia Sophia tickets and explore the soul of Istanbul’s history.
The Hagia Sophia’s significance on culture, design and religion is quite prominent. If you’re looking for a quick, easy way to learn about its history and path since its inception, opt for a Hagia Sophia tour. You’ll be accompanied by a professional, multi-lingual tour guide who will enlighten you with interesting trivia through our visit.
The best way to cover most of the popular attractions in Istanbul is by purchasing a tourist pass. You can choose to book the Istanbul Welcome card, Istanbul Tourist Pass, or Istanbul Guided Museum Tours Pass. With these, you may enjoy benefits such as priority access and guided tours to various attractions such as the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace among many others.
Children up to the age of 2 years get free entry into the Hagia Sophia, while those between ages 3-7 enjoy discounted rates on display of valid ID proof.
Depending on your ticket, you can choose to tour Hagia Sophia with an audio guide. Guests can simply download the Hagia Sophia app and use the free audio guide that is available in several languages like English, German, Spanish, French, Chinese, Arabic and more.
The Hagia Sophia has withstood the test of time -- living on after the downfall of powerful civilizations and disasters like fires and earthquakes -- and lives today to narrate many fascinating stories. It started out as the Hagia Sophia Church and was then converted to the Hagia Sophia Mosque. Following a stint as a museum, it has now been converted back to a mosque. Here’s a brief look at what defines this famed landmark.
Eons back, when Istanbul was known as Constantinople, the Emperior Constantius commissioned the first Hagia Sophia to be built as a place of worship for Christians of the eastern Roman Empire. It was brought down due to political riots and unrest during the reign of Emperior Arkadius’s turbulent reign in 404 AD. The second structure was constructed under Emperor Theodosios II, but unfortunately suffered a fate similar to its predecessor. After living through riots and disasters, Emperior Justinian, unable to undo the structure’s damage, decided to construct a new one instead. The new -- still-standing -- Hagia Sophia was completed n 537 AD. This structure was then completely renovated under the Ottoman Empire, which one can still see today.
The Hagia Sophia’s architecture has changed remarkably from the first structure to the one present today, celebrated by culture and religion of its times. Most of the architecture one can see today has been heavily influenced by Byzantine and Ottoman architecture. Once the largest church of the Ottomans, its scallop shell-shaped dome stands tall at 50 m above ground and measures about 31.6 m in diameter. The exteriors are dominated by visions of towering minarets, added by the Ottomans; they’ve also been beautifully adorned over the centuries. The interiors are decorated with highly-detailed mosaics and frescoes of Mother Mary and Christ, and now rich, gilded lettering in Arabic.
Here's everything to know before you plan a visit to the Hagia Sophia.
Hagia Sophia closed days include Mondays, along with the first day of the Islamic month of Ramadan and on Eid-al-Adha festival.
The best time to visit Hagia Sophia is during the morning hours after 09:00 AM to experience smaller crowds; avoid weekends and Friday afternoons due to prayers. The best time of year to visit Hagia Sophia is during the winter months so as to experience pleasant weather and avoid the summer’s large tourist crowds.
Istanbul is well-connected as a city. You can drive down or take a taxi to Hagia Sophia, or simply use the metro.
If you plan to use public transport, alight at Sultanahmet, the primary Hagia Sophia metro stop and simply walk for 3-4 minutes to get to your destination.
The ground floor is wheelchair-accessible. However, the upper floor is not due to all the steps and cobblestone pathway.
Yes, photography is permitted. However, tripods are not permitted inside.
Yes, since it is a place of worship, all guests are expected to dress modestly. Avoid shorts and sleeveless tops. Women must wear a headscarf to enter; you can find one free-of-charge near the entrance. You must also leave your shoes outside before entering.
While the Hagia Sophia is one of the most popular and culturally significant landmarks in Istanbul, there are several other experiences that shouldn’t be missed while in the city. Here are some essential ones.
The Sultanahmet Mosque, widely known as the Blue Mosque, was built with the intention to outrival the Hagia Sophia. It is located right opposite the Hagia Sophia and is famously known for its bright blue tiles that can be easily identified from a distance. Influenced heavily by traditional Islamic architecture, its multiple domes and six minarets standout in the city. Within the interiors, keep an eye out for the spectacular handmade ceramic tiles.
The Topkapi Palace once served as administrative and residential center of the Ottoman Empire. In the 1920s it was converted into a museum that houses various prestigious collections of the former empire. The highlight of visiting the Topkapi Palace is without a doubt its library; a rare treasure, it is home to several hundred years worth of manuscripts and books that remembers the entirety of the Ottoman Empire.
Unique in every way, the Bosphorus river, flowing right through northwestern Turkey, connects the boundary between Europe and Asia. A cruise on the Bosphorus, bridging the divide between old and new, offers arguably one of the best views of Istanbul. You can book hop-on hop-off or private cruises and soak in the spectacular view of colorful homes, majestic palaces and structures and a glimpse into the find blend that is European-Asian culture.
Considered to be one of the oldest, largest markets in the world, Istanbul’s Grand Bazar is home to over 4000 shops and stalls, covering a space of more than 60 streets. One can enter through any 22-odd entrances and get lost in a maze of wholesale spices, traditional jewelry, vintage antiques, carpets and textiles, and of course, classic Turkish tea. Take your time to chat with the locals about their experiences -- and don’t forget to bargain!
Your Hagia Sophia tickets will include an audio guide and guided tours by multi-lingual local guides, depending on the type of ticket you have purchased.
Yes. You can purchase Hagia Sophia tickets that include an audio guide.
Yes, most Hagia Sophia tickets include guided tours with an expert local guide.
No. Your tickets specifically offer access only to the Hagia Sophia. To visit Blue Mosque, you would have purchase separate tickets, or opt for a museum pass that allows access to multiple cultural landmarks in the city.
Yes. Children up to the age of 2 get free entry, while those between ages 3-7 enjoy discount rates.
The Istanbul Welcome Card is a pass that provides its users with priority access to popular landmarks in the city, depending on the attractions and experiences selected, along with public transport passes and the chance to go for a Bosphorus cruise. Depending on your pass variant, pass holders will also have access to the services of a professional tour guide.
You can cancel your tickets up to 24 hours in advance for a full refund.
The Istanbul Museum Tours pass provides fast-track entry and a guided tour of attractions like Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar, and the Turkish & Islamic Arts Museum over a 5-day validity.
The Istanbul Welcome Card offers fast-track entry into 12 popular attractions in the city, with access to public transport and a Bosphorus Cruise, and allows users to choose between a Deluxe and Premium Pass.
The Istanbul Tourist Pass allows you to choose between a 3, 5, or 7-day pass and get fast-track access and guided tours to over 35 attractions like the Hagia Sophia. It also includes cruises, Hop-on Hop-off tours and more.