Named for its dazzling interior covered in blue tiles, this is a hub of Istanbul's religious life.
The Blue Mosque is a prominent part of view of the Istanbul skyline. Constructed under Sultan Ahmed I, it was finished in 1616. Its designer's vision was to display the Islamic faith central to the Ottoman Empire in this massive site of worship.
Approach from the direction of the Hippodrome to best appreciate the grandeur of the architecture. There are six minarets and a number of soaring domes, making for a enormously striking spectacle.
Go through the encircling wall into the courtyard – this area is very busy after sunset during the fast of Ramadan. The madrasa Islamic school and the hospice can be found here, as can the tomb of the man for whom the mosque is named, Sultan Ahmed I, who died just one year after its completion in 1617.
The main claim to fame of the Blue Mosque is to be found in the 20,000 blue ceramic tiles adorning the interior with over 50 distinct tulip images. The upper part of the building is also painted blue, and the kaleidoscope of light provided by the stained glass windows above is a sight to behold.
Entry to the mosque is free, but donations for its upkeep are welcomed. As it is continuously in use as a religious site of worship, there are a number of practices visitors are asked to respect. Silent and discreet behaviour should be observed, with no flash photography permitted. You should remove your shoes before entering and place them in one of the plastic bags which are available. Women are asked to cover their hair with a scarf.
The mosque is served by the nearby Sultanahmet light rail and metro station in the Old City. The Blue Mosque is closed five times a day for prayer. In summer there are evening history classes on the site, and also breathtaking light shows – check the website before your visit.