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Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya)

A world famous monument to the ever-changing history of Istanbul, and one of the largest churches in the world.

Known as “Ayasofa” (Sacred Wisdom) in Turkish, the Hagia Sofia started out as a church, becoming a cathedral under the Byzantine empire. Later it would become a mosque, and most recently a museum and monument that is hugely valued by the people of Turkey.

Looking across the Istanbul skyline, the Hagia Sophia demands the eye's attention. It has four magnificent minarets which soar into the sky around its enormous central dome, considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture – this is a stunning design, and Istanbul's most celebrated landmark.

Come through the western portal to enter, passing through the exonarthex, and then through one of the five portals to the narthex. Look upwards and marvel at the dome, inscribed with many verses from the Qur'an, and admire the ornate Christian mosaics and frescos, dating from the ninth and 10th centuries. The eastern corner is the resting place of a large number of sultans, where they are contained in their mausoleums.

First built by the Romans in 360 as a Christian church, the Hagia Sophia was twice destroyed by riots. A new basilica was constructed in the sixth century, and it became the centre of the Eastern Orthodox church. When Istanbul was captured by the Ottomans in 1453, the building was converted into a mosque, and a process of “Islamification” was undertaken – Christian features were covered up, and new Muslim ones were added. After the advent of modern Turkey, the building was closed, and then reopened as a museum in 1936.

As you might expect for the city's premier attraction, there are often long lines outside the Hagia Sophia, but the queues rarely last longer than half an hour. Snacks and drinks are available outside.

Easily accessible by public transport, it is open daily, except on Monday. You can get your ticket at the box office, where an audio guide can also be rented – this will give you a much deeper sense of the history and culture of this fascinating monument.

Popular Activities at Hagia Sophia

We understand you want to make the most out of your time at Hagia Sophia. So, we've put together some of the coolest things you can do here:

Have a look at our Istanbul things to do page to find more activities in the area.


Guide to Exploring Hagia Sophia


Map

Top Hagia Sophia Hotel Deals

See all 3,007 properties near Hagia Sophia
Sultanhan Hotel - Special Class RM506
Sultanhan Hotel - Special Class

Sultanhan Hotel - Special Class

Piyer Loti Cad No:7, Istanbul, Istanbul
     
    4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

    Located in Sultanahmet, this spa hotel is steps away from Cemberlitas Bath and Column of Constantine. Sultanahmet Square and Hagia Sophia are also within 10 minutes. Cemberlitas Station and Sultanahmet Station are within a 5-minute walk.

    The Marmara Pera RM518
    The Marmara Pera

    The Marmara Pera

    Mesrutiyet Cad. Tepebasi, Istanbul, Istanbul
       
      4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

      This family-friendly Istanbul hotel is located on the boardwalk, within a 15-minute walk of Galata Tower and Mixer. Taksim Square and Suleymaniye Mosque are also within 2 mi (3 km). Tunel Square Station is 6 minutes by foot and Tophane Station is 10 minutes.

      Niles Hotel Istanbul - Special Class RM388
      Niles Hotel Istanbul - Special Class

      Niles Hotel Istanbul - Special Class

      Ordu Caddesi Dibekli Cami Sokak No: 13, Beyazit, Istanbul, Istanbul
         
        4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

        Located in Istanbul City Center, this hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Cemberlitas Bath, Hippodrome of Constantinople and Suleymaniye Mosque. Basilica Cistern and Spice Bazaar are also within 1 mi (2 km). Beyazit Station is only a 3-minute walk and Laleli-University Station is 7 minutes.

        Hotel Fehmi Bey - Special Class RM247
        Hotel Fehmi Bey - Special Class

        Hotel Fehmi Bey - Special Class

        Binbirdirek Mah. Ucler Sok. No.15, Sultanahmet, Istanbul
           
          0.0 out of 5.0 Stars

          Located in Sultanahmet, this romantic hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Basilica Cistern, Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. Topkapi Palace is 0.8 mi (1.3 km) away. Cemberlitas Station is only a 5-minute walk and Sultanahmet Station is 5 minutes.

          The Ambassador Hotel RM382
          The Ambassador Hotel

          The Ambassador Hotel

          Ticarethane Cikmazi No 19, Istanbul, Istanbul
             
            3.5 out of 5.0 Stars

            Located in Sultanahmet, this spa hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Basilica Cistern, Sultanahmet Square, and Hippodrome of Constantinople. Hagia Sophia and Cagaloglu Hamami are also within 5 minutes. Sultanahmet Station is only a 2-minute walk and Cemberlitas Station is 6 minutes.

            Arden City Hotel - Special Class RM401
            Arden City Hotel - Special Class

            Arden City Hotel - Special Class

            Alemdar Mah Kazm Ismail Gürkan Cad No2, Sultanahmet, Istanbul
               
              4.5 out of 5.0 Stars

              Located in Sultanahmet, this luxury hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Cagaloglu Hamami, Basilica Cistern, and Hagia Sophia. Sultanahmet Square and Cemberlitas Bath are also within 10 minutes. Sultanahmet Station and Gulhane Station are within a 5-minute walk.

              Senatus Hotel - Special Class RM358
              Senatus Hotel - Special Class

              Senatus Hotel - Special Class

              Akbiyik Caddesi No: 40, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Istanbul
                 
                0.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                Located in Sultanahmet, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Arasta Bazaar, Basilica Cistern and Topkapi Palace. Blue Mosque and Istanbul Archaeology Museum are also within 15 minutes. Istanbul Cankurtaran Station is only a 3-minute walk and Sultanahmet Station is 8 minutes.

                Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel RM622
                Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel

                Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel

                Divanyolu Cd. Alemdar Mah., Ticarethane Sk. No 10 Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Istanbul
                   
                  5.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                  This family-friendly Istanbul hotel is located in the historical district, within a 5-minute walk of German Fountain, Basilica Cistern and Cemberlitas Bath. Sultanahmet Square and Hippodrome of Constantinople are also within 5 minutes. Sultanahmet Station is only a 2-minute walk and Cemberlitas Station is 4 minutes.