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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.

There's no place anywhere quite like Hagia Sophia. To make the most of your time here, we've put together a list of some of the top things to do:

For even more activities, examine our Istanbul things to do page.


Guide to Exploring Hagia Sophia


Map

Top Hagia Sophia Hotel Deals

See all 3,231 properties near Hagia Sophia
Sultanhan Hotel - Special Class RM386
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.

    Sultanahmet Nu Hotel RM86
    Sultanahmet Nu Hotel

    Sultanahmet Nu Hotel

    Binbirdirek Mahallesi, Dizdariye Yokusu Sokak no 6, Istanbul, Istanbul
       
      0.0 out of 5.0 Stars

      Located in Sultanahmet, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Cemberlitas Bath, Hippodrome of Constantinople and Grand Bazaar. Cagaloglu Hamami and Sultanahmet Square are also within 10 minutes. Cemberlitas Station is only a 3-minute walk and Sultanahmet Station is 5 minutes.

      Hotel Fehmi Bey - Special Class RM200
      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.

        Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel RM458
        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.

          Ottoman Hotel Imperial - Special Class RM302
          Ottoman Hotel Imperial - Special Class

          Ottoman Hotel Imperial - Special Class

          Caferiye Sok. No. 6/1, Sultanhmet, Istanbul, Istanbul
             
            4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

            This family-friendly Istanbul hotel is located in the historical district, just steps away from Basilica Cistern and Hagia Sophia. Sultanahmet Square and Gulhane Park are also within 5 minutes. Gulhane Station is only a 4-minute walk and Sultanahmet Station is 5 minutes.

            Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet RM1,317
            Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet

            Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet

            Tevkifhane Sokak No. 1, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Istanbul
               
              5.0 out of 5.0 Stars

              Located in Sultanahmet, this luxury hotel is steps away from Sultanahmet Square and Hagia Sophia. Basilica Cistern and Hippodrome of Constantinople are also within 10 minutes. Istanbul Cankurtaran Station is only a 4-minute walk and Sultanahmet Station is 6 minutes.

              Boutique Saint Sophia RM487
              Boutique Saint Sophia

              Boutique Saint Sophia

              Alemdar Cad. 2, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Istanbul
                 
                4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

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

                The Ambassador Hotel RM296
                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.