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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.


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Top Hotel Deals

See all 3,468 properties near Hagia Sophia
Sultanhan Hotel - Special Class Rs12,566
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.

    Azade Hotel Rs4,168
    Azade Hotel

    Azade Hotel

    Mimar Mehmet Aga Caddesi No.17/19, Istanbul, Istanbul
       
      0.0 out of 5.0 Stars

      Located in Sultanahmet, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Sultanahmet Square, Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. Basilica Cistern and Hippodrome of Constantinople are also within 10 minutes. Istanbul Cankurtaran Station is only a 4-minute walk and Sultanahmet Station is 7 minutes.

      Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel Rs10,121
      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 Basilica Cistern, Sultanahmet Square and Hagia Sophia. Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar are also within 10 minutes. Sultanahmet Station is only a 2-minute walk and Cemberlitas Station is 6 minutes.

        Lapis Inn Hotel Old City ( Ex.Ambassador Hotel) Rs4,001
        Lapis Inn Hotel Old City ( Ex.Ambassador Hotel)

        Lapis Inn Hotel Old City ( Ex.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 Hagia Sophia. Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar are also within 10 minutes. Sultanahmet Station is only a 2-minute walk and Gulhane Station is 7 minutes.

          Hotel Uyan - Special Class Rs4,817
          Hotel Uyan - Special Class

          Hotel Uyan - Special Class

          Utangac Sokak No: 25, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Istanbul
             
            4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

            Located in Sultanahmet, this hotel is steps away from Sultanahmet Square and Hagia Sophia. Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace are also within 10 minutes. Istanbul Cankurtaran Station is only a 5-minute walk and Sultanahmet Station is 5 minutes.

            Royal Bosphorus Hotel Rs2,709
            Royal Bosphorus Hotel

            Royal Bosphorus Hotel

            Hocapasa Mah., Hüdavendigar Cad. No.6, Fatih, Istanbul, Istanbul
               
              0.0 out of 5.0 Stars

              Located in Istanbul City Center, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Istanbul Archaeology Museum, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace. Basilica Cistern and Gulhane Park are also within 10 minutes. Gulhane Station is only a 2-minute walk and Sirkeci Station is 6 minutes.

              Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet Rs35,013
              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. Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace are also within 10 minutes. Istanbul Cankurtaran Station is only a 4-minute walk and Sultanahmet Station is 6 minutes.

                Lalinn Hotel Rs1,488
                Lalinn Hotel

                Lalinn Hotel

                Oyuncu Cikmazi Oyuncu Sok. No 4, Ahirkapi Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Istanbul
                   
                  3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                  Located in Sultanahmet, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Sultanahmet Square, Hagia Sophia and Hippodrome of Constantinople. Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace are also within 15 minutes. Sultanahmet Station is 10 minutes by foot and Istanbul Cankurtaran Station is 5 minutes.