The Blue Mosque, aptly named after the thousands of blue tiles that line the ceiling of the building, is a functioning mosque and popular tourist attraction in Istanbul, Turkey.
It’s one of the most beautiful mosques in the world, officially known as the Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Turkish: Sultan Ahmet Camii).
Ticket Info & Opening Hours
The Blue Mosque is open every day of the year to the general public but closes at prayer times for 90 minutes. During prayer time, tourists are not permitted to enter the mosque. However, Muslims may arrive at the mosque outside of prayer times, so visitors are asked to be respectful and mindful of this.
Muslims pray five times a day and the call to prayer is chanted six times day. The exact time of prayer depends on the positioning of the sun. Below is a list of prayer times and a rough guide as to when the mosque will be closed to tourists:
1) Imsak / Fajr – Two hours before dawn
2) Güneş /Tulu – Dawn
3) Ögle / Zuhr – Midday
4) Ikindi / Asr – Afternoon
5) Aksam / Maghrib – Sunset
6) Yatsi / Isha – Right before last light of the day
Note that the mosque also closes on Friday mornings for cleaning.
History & more information
Istanbul’s Blue Mosque is a historical monument and impressive place of worship that was constructed between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I. Inside you’ll find the tomb of Ahmed, a madrasah, and a hospice along with five main domes, six minarets, and eight secondary domes!
The mosque is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period and architect Sedefkar Mehmed Aga was praised for combining Byzantine Christian and traditional Islamic designs into his work.
However, one of the most notable features of the Blue Mosque has to be the 20,000 handmade Iznik tiles that line the mosque’s ceiling and upper walls. The mosque’s upper levels are also painted with a blue tint, further justifying this place of worship’s nickname.
Points of Interest
Stain Glass Windows
More than 200 stain glass windows line the upper levels of the mosque, each letting floods of light into the building. The colored glass in the windows was a gift from the Signoria of Venice to the sultan.
The upper levels and the ceiling of the mosque are adorned with over 20,000 tiles, each of which were made under the supervision of the Iznik master potter.
The mosque’s mihrab is made of finely carves sculptured marble and features a stalactite niche.
Make sure you take a look at the great tablets that line the walls. They’re inscribed with the names of the caliphs and verses from the Quran.
The Royal Kiosk
The Royal Kiosk is found at the south-east corner of the mosque and is the entrance to the royal lodge (former retiring rooms).
Before entering the mosque, spend some time exploring the outer court. In the center of the court sits a hexagonal structure housing a fountain.
How to get to the Sultan Ahmet Mosque
From Taksim Square, walk to Findikili Mimar Sinan funicular stop and ride it for 6 stops, alighting at Sultanahmet. From here the Blue Mosque is just a 2-minute walk away.
From the Grand Bazaar, walk to Beyazit funicular stop and ride it for 2 stops, alighting at Sultanahmet. From here the Blue Mosque is just a 2-minute walk away.
From Dolmabache Palace, walk to Kabatas funicular stop and ride it for 7 stops, alighting at Sultanahmet. From here the Blue Mosque is just a 2-minute walk away.
After visiting the Blue Mosque, consider exploring some of Istanbul’s other best and biggest attractions found in the nearby area. These include:
- Basilica Cistern
- Sultanahmet Square
- Graan Bazar
- Hagia Sophia
- Topkapi Palace Museum
- Galata Tower
- Dolmabache Palace
- Taksim Square
Best time to visit the Sultan Ahmet Mosque
The best time to visit the Blue Mosque is between the dawn prayer (Tulu) and midday prayer (Zuhr). You will likely still have to queue for 20-30 minutes, but this is better than in the afternoon when crowds are denser and the queue time doubles.
Facts about the Blue Mosque
- The Sultan Ahmet Mosque is named after Sultan Ahmet I who wished to build an Islamic place of worship that would compete with the Hagia Sophia. The two places of worship now stand side by side for visitors to judge which is the more extraordinary of the architectural marvels.
- Although the main west entrance is far grander than the north entrance, non-worshippers are asked to use the north entrance to keep the mosque’s sacredness intact.
- The mosque is most famous for its six minarets, accompanied by one large dome and eight smaller domes.
- This huge mosque was built on the site of a former Byzantine Palace and a hippodrome and now it stands on top of a hill overlooking the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara.
- The Blue Mosque’s interior is lit with two hundred and sixty windows which were once filled with stained glass of the seventeenth century. Unfortunately, they have been lost and replaced with replicas far more inferior.
- The mosque’s interior has 20,000 blue tiles that line its high ceiling. The oldest of these tiles feature flowers, trees and abstract patterns that make them fine examples of sixteenth-century Iznik design.
- The construction of 6 minarets was the first of a kind for a mosque during those days other than the Ka’aba mosque in Mecca. This steered a lot of controversies which eventually made the Sultan build a seventh minaret at Mecca.
- It was said that the Sultan actually asked the architect to build minarets of gold (altin in Turkish) but the architect mistook it for six (alti in Turkish), hence this mosque has six minarets which is one of its unique features.
- The tomb of the Sultan is found inside the mosque in a dedicated crypt.
- Since this is a place of worship, visitors are required to remove their shoes (a bag will be providing at the entrance to carry it) and females are required to cover your hair.
FAQ’s (Things to know before you go)
Should I take off my shoes before entering the Blue mosque?
Yes, take off your shoes and pop them in the plastic bags provided at the entrance.
Do women have to cover up to enter the Blue Mosque?
Female visitors need to cover their shoulders and legs and wear a head covering when entering the mosque. These are available from the entrance for a small fee. Simply place the fabric over your head.
Are pictures allowed inside the Sultan Ahmet Mosque?
Since the mosque is an active place of worship, it’s not recommended you take pictures of those who are praying.
Can you wear shorts in the Blue Mosque?
No, shorts and sleeveless shirts on either men or women is forbidden. Robes can be borrowed or purchased if your normal sightseeing clothes are inappropriate.
How much time should I spend at the Blue Mosque?
45-minutes to 1-hour is the perfect amount of time to admire the mosque.
Is the Blue Mosque free to enter?
Yes, entrance to the mosque is free of charge.
Should I leave a donation?
Donations are voluntary, but considering there is no entrance fee, a small donation is appreciated and helps maintain the mosque and its services.
Do you have more questions before visiting the Sultan Ahmet Mosque in Istanbul? Leave a comment below!