Admire the stunning exterior architecture and captivating interior design of the grandest mosque in Istanbul.
Standing stark against the city skyline to the north of the Third Hill, the striking Süleymaniye Mosque is easily one of the most beautiful buildings in Istanbul. Constructed at the behest of Sultan Süleyman (Süleyman the Magnificent), this Ottoman imperial mosque is the largest of its kind in Istanbul and has captivated visitors since the 16th century.
The mosque complex is an architectural masterpiece, and includes a hospital, medical school, primary school, hamam and a restaurant serving the most delicious Turkish treats. Happily for sightseers, the unique location also offers the most spectacular views across the shimmering waters of the Golden Horn.
The talented Ottoman architect, Mimar Sinan, designed the narrow minarets and domed buildings to reflect and surpass the style of the Byzantine church Hagia Sophia. The 53-metre-high main dome is a stunning visual beacon that can be seen from almost anywhere in the city so, even if you are unfamiliar with the streets of Istanbul, you really can’t miss it!
History buffs might be interested to know that the mighty Sultan Süleyman regarded himself as the successor of Solomon, the erudite king of Israel. Interestingly, this is reflected in the mosque’s design which includes a nod to the Dome of the Rock, a holy shrine built on the site of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.
Refreshing in its simplicity, the effect of the vast interior is enhanced by the beams of light that flood through stunning stained-glass windows. As you wander around, pay particular attention to the intricate woodwork, which is interwoven with mother-of-pearl and ivory. Pause for a moment at the white marble mihrab and note the subtle use of decorative Iznik tiles.
When it’s time for some fresh air, step out into the grand courtyard. Surrounded by impressive granite and marble columns, this stunning space is enclosed by four minarets at each corner and is a great spot for reflection and relaxation. Before you leave the complex, don’t forget to pay your respects to those who made it all possible; the elaborate tombs of Süleyman and his wife Roxelana are in the garden behind the mosque and Sinan’s tomb is tucked away in the northern corner just outside the complex walls.
Süleymaniye Mosque is located a short stroll from the Grand Bazaar and is free to enter, so it should be easy to slip this magnificent structure into your busy Istanbul itinerary.