Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya)
Hagia Sophia © Dennis Jarvis
Famous for its impressive size, remarkable architecture and beautiful mosaics and frescoes, the massive ochre-coloured domed structure known as Hagia Sophia is one of Istanbul's most popular attractions. It was commissioned as a cathedral in the 6th century and remained the most important church in Christianity for over 900 years. In the 15th century Mehmet II conquered the city and converted it into a mosque, adding the minarets and fountains.
It functioned as such for the next 481 years until the founding of the secular Turkish Republic in 1934 when it was declared a museum. Hagia Sophia is one of the greatest Byzantine buildings in the world, and the vast interior, with its huge soaring dome, is extraordinary. The interior contains different features from its time as a cathedral and then as a mosque, including incredible Byzantine mosaics, icons and marble columns, a mihrab (niche indicating the direction of Mecca), and Islamic calligraphy inscriptions on the dome from the Ottoman period.
Address: Sultanahmet Square
Telephone: (212) 518 1802
Transport: Sultanahmet tram stop
Opening times: Open daily except Mondays from 9:30am-4:30pm
Admission: 15 YTL