Visiting Hagia Sophia: An Istanbul Museum Not to be Missed
Considered by many as one of the world’s most magnificent Byzantine structures, the Hagia Sophia is known by many names including the Church of Divine Wisdom, Sancta Sophia, and the Church of the Holy Wisdom. This incredible Istanbul museum features some of Turkey’s most prized historical relics, tombs, and mosaics set amid its striking architecture that take you back in time, where you can literally feel the rich history of this revered Istanbul landmark.
A Brief Introduction to Hagia Sophia’s History
Constructed in a mere six years, the remarkable Hagia Sophia site has served many rulers and purposes since its completion in 537 AD. This magnificent structure over the centuries served as churches for Constantine, Theodosius II, and Emperor Justinian, and later served as the Mosque of Sultans after the city fell under the rule of the Ottomans in 1453. It wasn’t until 1935 when the Turkish Republic converted the site into a fine museum, making it one of the most significant monuments in the country and a must-see attraction for those visiting Istanbul.
Architecture & Highlights of Hagia Sophia
By far it is the 105-foot basilica dome surrounded by majestic minarets which serves as a primary highlight of visiting Hagia Sophia, with the mosaic and tile laden interior being even more breathtaking than the view as you approach the museum.The culmination of Byzantine and Ottoman influence within the exterior of the grand hall culminates into an appearance that the dome is literally ‘floating’ above its tremendous marble piers and column supports and is a sight to behold. After its transformation into a mosque, many of the Christian based mosaics from Hagia Sophia were shipped away to Venice while others were plastered over, and have few have recently been revealed after 160 years of darkness. Beyond the captivating architecture and historical artifacts, another highlight of visiting Hagia Sophia is the view the tombs of 5 Ottoman Sultans onsite. Mahmut I’s Library, and the impressive Sultan’s Lodge. Much more awaits visitors who also will delight in touring the expansive grounds surrounding this premier Istanbul museum.
Visiting Hagia Sophia – General Information
This remarkable structure sits amid the heart of the old city known as Sultanahmet, and is conveniently located near the Topkapi Palace and within walking distance of many of the area hotels. There are also several convenient Metro and tram transportation options, and tickets may be purchased online for those who want to pass the lines for tickets at the entrance. Please note, that modest attire is preferred and appreciated while visiting the Hagia Sophia museum.
Visiting the Hagia Sophia is possible every day, with exception to Mondays and the hours of operation are seasonal. April 15 – October 1, opening hours of the museum are 9 am – 7 pm, and the remainder of the year the site closes for tours at 5 pm. Please note, during Festivals and the beginning of Ramadan, the museum is typically closed, and it’s advisable to contact the museum for opening hours during these events.