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  • 5.0 star rating
    1 check-in

    One of the most impressive places I've ever been to.  The Hagia Sophia was our first stop of our holiday in Istanbul and it was far and away the one I enjoyed most.  

    Originally built as a church in 537 for Byzantine emperor Justinian, who you will see in the mosaic above you as you exit, it was converted to a mosque by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1453 when Constantinople feel to the Ottomans and later declared a museum in 1935.  So, you get the picture.  There are centuries of history to the Hagia Sophia and a lot to see.  

    Start with the architecture and gaze in amazement at the massive domed roof and wonder how it doesn't just collapse.  Note how the altar has been altered to slightly off center to face Mecca.  Check out the tombs around back that are the final resting places of Sultans, Princes and their families.  Marvel at the intricate and colorful mosaics that adorn the walls, which were covered up with plaster when the church was converted to a mosque.  Find the weeping column and hope that you've timed your visit when there isn't a huge queue from busloads of tour groups.  Be sure to go upstairs to the upper galleries where you will find most of the mosaics and different angles to see everything from.  

    A few other tips: Try to go first thing in the day as this along with the neighboring Blue Mosque are the biggest tourist attractions in town and sure to be busy.  Get an Istanbul Museum Pass which allows you to skip the ticket queue.  Do some research in advance so you can understand and appreciate all that you are going to see here.  Take your time exploring.  Keep your street smarts sharp, peddlers and scammers lurk all around this area.

  • 5.0 star rating

    While I could talk about the history, notable architectural structure, and describe my personal experience which is anologous to the othe reviews here I'd rather give you some tips.

    1. This is not the place to bring another person who would want to be in and out. It's meant to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace.

    2. If there is a long line, chances are there is, and your approached by a person for a guided tour, you may want to consider his offer. Note that you can haggle and for the extra euro you pay is definitely worth not having to wait.

    3. Enjoy and take lots of pictures. See tip 1.

  • 3.0 star rating

    I am providing the ignorant American's view.  Obviously, regardless of whether this is rated a three or a five, you must see Hagia Sophia when visiting Istanbul.  It would be like not seeing Notre Dame when in Paris or the Vatican when in Rome.

    The Hagia Sophia building is huge, well-preserved (considering its age) and an architectural marvel.  The edifice is the symbolic fulcrum of the the changes that Istanbul / Constantinople has been through as the gateway to the holy land and as the nexus of East-West struggles through the ages.  The building has been a center of the Eastern Orthodox church, Roman Catholicism and now, Islam.  It's fun to stand on the second story balcony and imagine pontiffs and emperors in their full regalia processioning below.  Revel in its magnificent vastness, and contemplate the history it has witnessed and survived - including major earthquakes, fires, crusades and changes in power between the Byzantine Empire to the Ottoman Empire along with associated pillaging, looting and desecration.

    If you are at all interested in the history of the building, do research in advance.  Know what you are seeing so that you can look for and appreciate it when you see it.  Since signage isn't great, it's better to set up your tour in advance and treat it like a treasure hunt.  Otherwise, it's just a big, dark stone building...  Inside the mosque, it's too dark, and there aren't places to sit to read your guide book for the first time while you're actually there.  Don't bring kids.  Don't bring someone who wants to spend 15 minutes there.  The gilded mosaics that date back to the 9th century are lovely - but again - advance research will give greater appreciation of these.  The enormous round gold and black medallions installed up in the corners of the basilica seem anachronistic, and DirectTV satellite dishes come to mind.

  • 5.0 star rating

    And Hagia Sophia..... the 8th wonder of the world. The most spectacular Christian Church in Byzantine Times, the most paradise-like mosque for Ottomans. It has inspired the souls of visitors for almost 1,500 years. It has been the cause of wide-eyed amazement well before the the great chapels of Europe, and long before the Americas were even discovered. (I can go on...)

    With the invasion of Constantinople in 1453, the church converted into a mosque, plastering over the mosaics and removing icons, bells and such. Instead, four minarets, mihrab, minbar and many Islamic features were added and remained as a mosque for almost 478 years. After being closed for public for 4 years, it was reopened as a museum by the Republic of Turkey.

    This magnificent place, where the 'East' meets the 'West', offers a mix of tradition, head spinning mosaics, massive marble pillars, Christian religious figures and four minarets at its corners.  It is absolutely an intercultural treasure representing the whole bridge between two different cultures.

    Hagia Sophia, now known as the Hagia Sophia Museum, located in the heart of Sultanahmet district, tells its visitors volumes about the characteristics of the city of İstanbul as well. With its immense size and incomparable piece of art, it will present its visitors a unique journey in the history of human civilizations.

  • 5.0 star rating
    1 check-in

    By far my favorite cultural site in Istanbul. This mosque/church beats out every other in experience because it's a museum so all of it is accessible vs. mosques where you can only walk through and see 10% of the site. There are also tons of exhibits on display explaining the history and showing the artifacts of the Hagia. While I was there the mosaics where away for restoration and replaced by pictures which was a shame as these are supposed to be a highlight of the Hagia. After serving first as a church and more recently a mosque it is now a museum so no need to worry about what to wear since anything will work.

  • 4.0 star rating
    1 check-in
    Listed in Turkey

    IMO, grander than Sultanahmet Cami (Blue Mosque), but half the inside is currently covered with scafolding and opaque black fabric as they do renovations.

    Though it's now a museum they still play the ezan, or Islamic call to prayer, from their minarets creating a kind of dueling ezan with Sultanahmet Cami across the park.

    A must see for anyone visiting Istanbul.

  • 5.0 star rating

    One of the wonders of the world (or at least of turkey). Layers and layers of Islamic and Byzantine history interleaved in ceramic and cement. Well organized for tourists and visitors without taking away from the historical and spiritual grandeur of this landmark.

  • 5.0 star rating
    Listed in Turkeylicious

    Makes sure you stop and check out Hagia Sophia. The building is one of the most beautiful church/mosque, now a museum with lot of history.

    Hagia Spohia was built as a church in the time of the Emperor Constantine. This was the world's largest cathedral, towering over the city for quite some time, but after the fall of the Empire, the church was converted into a Mosque 500 years ago and then finally changed as the current museum.

    you need to experience it!

  • 5.0 star rating

    It seems odd to rate one of the wonders of the world, but, that said, it was an awe-inspiring, five star place! Sun light cascaded from the mosaics, bouncing off the calligraphic medallions. A particularly adorable cross eyed cat boldly trespassed No entry signs to sit beside the pulpit. I ditched the tour and had the Rick Steves' Istanbul guide (altogether great book, but the outdated exchange rate boned us a bit). Besides the holy cats, check out the column of St. Gregory and upper galleries!

  • 5.0 star rating

    The only city of the world set in two continents Europe and Asia, drowning in patriotic nationalism (national flags can be seen from many buildings on a boat cruise on Istanbul)

    The Hagia Sophia is as good as it gets, seen in the backdrop of many James Bond movies the unique structure is a photographer's dream

    And the inside is every bit as good, with a massive carving for Mohammed on the wall, and a mural for jesus, which has had most of the gold on the original painting taken by thieves over the years

  • 3.0 star rating
    1 check-in

    I keep hearing the ProActiv ads when I think of the Hagia Sophia.

    "You have beautiful skin under your acne."

    And that's how my experience here summed up. I can tell there was absolutely stunning architectural work and history, but honestly, all of the scaffolding, certain areas of neglect, the unorganized lines for tourists to enter was overshadowing this ancient beauty. Inside the Hagia Sophia, the scaffolding, complete with black curtains hid 1/2 of the interior. And apparently, the scaffolding and construction isn't going away soon (just like the Pantheon, another HUGE disappointment).

    So disappointed. Will still recommend going here especially since people traveled from afar to see this place but don't get your hopes up too high. The Blue Mosque across the way is actually a much better experience if not as epically huge inside. But no scaffolding, no ugly construction, and the lines for tourists were smooth and fast yet you get to see everything and stand there in awe.

  • 2.0 star rating

    Before to
    visit it, I read some comments saying that it was at the level of the Cathedral
    in Monreale (Sicily) and its mosaics. I was pretty disappointed, since the
    mosaics here are not really well conserved and I cannot say that I really
    enjoyed the visit even if it is architectural interesting. In my
    opinion the Hagia Sophia cannot be compared with the masterpiece represented by
    the Monreale Cathedral.

  • 5.0 star rating

    This was my favorite tourist attraction in Istanbul. The place was under construction when we went, but it's still absolutely stunning. The layers upon layers of material history, the scale of it, the richness and gravitas... It's included in the museum pass you can get for 75 L, and it's well worth it. Make sure to see the mosaics upstairs, and to stand at the balcony for awhile just soaking in the monumentality.  Gorgeous!

  • 4.0 star rating

    Hagia Sophia is a dramatic sight both inside and out. It is one of the few places that you should either pay for a licensed guide or do a bunch of reading before going.

  • 5.0 star rating

    Beautiful in color and construction. The Hagia Sophia was under construction on our visit, though it didn't take away the majestic layers of history and work that was put into this standing iconic structure. Mark sure to walk through the entire museum and take pictures. I loved basking in the quietness while it lasted, though I was there at the end of summer. I will return but in the fall on my next visit. Visually stunning!

  • 5.0 star rating

    About 15 USD (25 TL). This is the best spent money in a museum/historical sight ever. Keep in mind that there is a second floor/gallery that is only reachable by a rough slope that sometimes turns into stairs. Picture opportunities galore. Remember to stop by the Blue Mosque across the garden after/before!

    • Qype User Timina…
    • Sydney, Australia
    • 634 friends
    • 758 reviews
    5.0 star rating

    The Aya Sofya is also known as Sancta Sophia in Latin, Haghia Sofia in Greek, and the Church of the Divine Wisdom in English.

    This is probably the best sight in Istanbul. The Emperor Justinian had it built in 537, and it was the greatest church in Christendom for nearly a thousand years. When the Ottomans conquered Istanbul in 1453, Mehmet had it turned into a mosque, and the Christian paintings and mosaics plastered over. It stayed thusly until 1953 when it was turned into a museum.

    Now many of the original artworks have been uncovered and restored, and Christian and Muslim imagery exist together inside the colossal building. It was incredible, with many religious mosaics that are familiar cultural images.

    It is huge and awe-inspiring. The vaulted ceilings almost fade into the distance. The co-existence (though with obvious signs of struggle) of Christianity and Islam inside the Hagia Sophia really makes you think. It is certainly living history.

    • Qype User Caroli…
    • London
    • 45 friends
    • 107 reviews
    5.0 star rating

    This museum, a former Byzantine church and Ottoman mosque, is one of my favourite buildings. The sheer scale of the interior is impressive, as is the 1,500-year history apparent in the many fascinating details.

    After appreciating the vast size of the main space, notice the many marbles which decorate walls and floor. Then walk up to the galleries: there is a ramp, not stairs, because Byzantine noblewomen were carried up here in litters. The height gives another breathtaking perspective over the interior, but again there's more to explore. Particularly impressive, and touching, are the remaining mosaics with their stunning gold backgrounds but don't miss the marble Gates of Heaven and Hell or the details in the upper levels of the building.

    In summary, this is one of the city's essential sights.

  • 5.0 star rating

    Hagia Sophia was a dream for me to go to I have been dreaming of seeing this building for 19 years (since my first year in University from my architectural history course). I finally went in and it did not disappoint!!
    I was very moved by how beautiful it is, and they have done such a good job with the restorations. It is also nice how the Christian and Islamic aspects now are integrated together, from my feeling they enrich each other.
    Make the climb up to the ladies galleries, it is so worth it to see it from the areal perspective.
    There was a show of calligraphic scrolls in the side gallery while I was there. I think when I retire I would like a job leading tours through this beautiful structure.

  • 4.0 star rating

    Hagia Sophia was first a Byzantine church, then an Ottoman mosque, and is now a museum. It dates back to 537. The architecture is lovely, and the interior is gorgeous - if you look closely, you can see the imprint of crosses that were later covered with 'new' art by the Ottomans. The mosaics and pillars are stunning, and the dome is impressive. It's fairly well maintained for such an old building. The only down side was that they were restoring a portion of the main floor, so we weren't able to see everything. A definite must-see if you are visiting Istanbul!

    • Qype User Harou…
    • London
    • 62 friends
    • 101 reviews
    4.0 star rating

    Once a basilica then a mosque and now a museum, this building houses a history of the rulers and changes of turkey through time.
    Repair works are still goin on in most of the building but it is still very accesible.
    the sheer magnitude of the place does not strike you until you step in and look up.
    it being built by humans many centuaries age is unfathomable.

  • 5.0 star rating

    This is a big tourist attraction and historical site in Istanbul. I enjoyed visiting and hope to visit again. The architecture is amazing and beautiful. It's a unique building that can't be found anywhere else.

  • 2.0 star rating

    There is nothing much to see inside and the place is falling apart. I get that is ancient but I have to ask where the entrance fee funds are going. It's obviously not to upkeep and maintenance. The worst part about our visit is that there was scaffolding in the main area and there were pieces of paper taped to various walls and columns (noting something about a 3D tour shoot), therefore making it impossible to get a decent photo.

  • 4.0 star rating

    Come for the history, architecture and fall in love with the mosaic art on the walls- simply breath taking!
    Very busy tourist attraction, and it is difficult to appreciate the grandeur and splendor of the place especially if you are on a timed tour.
    Huge space, filled with Christian and Moslem art. The history of the Hagia is that it was a holy place for both faiths, and depending on who is relating the story, was once either occupied or liberated by those of Christian faith or Moslem faith.
    Spectacular site and I'm glad it is classified as a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE Site.
    Turkey Lira is the denomination, so unless you have paid for your tickets in advance, you may need to use the Money Exchange stands located just outside the main tourist area.
    The main Christian mosaics (Jesus & Mary, various saints depicted) are located on the top floor - connected by a short, narrow staircase so be prepared for a little climb.
    This is only one of several historic structures - nearby also are the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace.
    If you are travelling with a group, arrange for a place to meet afterwards and at a specific time, because it is easy to get lost in the crowds here. On your way out, remember to look up - there is a mirror that reflects a mosaic behind you - it too is breathtakingly beautiful.
    The gardens immediately outside of the walls are well maintained and have beautiful flowers. Restrooms also located outside the main building.

  • 3.0 star rating

    You can't be a person who appreciates architecture of the Byzantine period and miss seeing the Hagia Sophia.  Although the dome is smaller than the one which originally topped the building, the use of open space is quite impressive and majestic.  There are few buildings which can compare, especially dating from this era.  It is a magnificent building.  Be sure to view the exterior at night, when it is illuminated.

    However, if you want to get a feel for the Byzantine period, you would do better to visit Chora.  The decorations clearly date from the Ottoman period, and it is evident that there have been architectural changes as well.  If you want to see a purely Ottoman building, the Blue Mosque next door offers that experience.

    Another downside is the price.  The ticket is fairly expensive, given that it only grants access to viewing the inside of a building and the grounds.   It is not a place to go to contemplate design in solitude; there are plenty of tourist buses parked in front.  We went on a Friday in December at about noon and there was only one person in line in front of us, so we were actually fortunate to find it relatively empty.  I still felt crowded and wasn't able to enjoy it as much as I could have if there hadn't been hundreds of people yammering and shrieking in a dozen different languages.  It does not feel much like a museum, both in terms of the visitors and the amount of information posted.

  • 5.0 star rating

    Suitably stunned by the shear beauty of this building, as with most big tourist places the obligatory que to get in for 20TL but you won't be disappointed. Plenty of room inside to wonder around with out a crush of people. Make sure you get up to the gallery and look down. Glad I had the opportunity to visit as I missed it out on a previous visit to the city. If you arrive on a cruise ship it's an easy walk up the hill. It's location is sandwiched between the blue mosque & the palace.

  • 5.0 star rating

    The Aya Sophia (Church of Wisdom) is really great. Dont make the mistake of cueing on the right sight of the entrance though, it's only for people who do hold a ticket already (and therefore have to wait a lot longer normally as they are part of huge tour gropus) while you can just go in on the left. It costs 20 TL to get in (8.50 Euro) and even though it was tuesday morning when I went it was completly crowded  so definately dont expect to be alone in the beautiful mosk. The good news are that most people stay in the great hall and take photos there and only about a third of them, if not even less, will make the effort to climb up to the first floor. The stairs are a bit hidden, on the left side to the entrance. From there you have a nicer view and there normally are art exhibitions there. And as the mosk is now mainly used for tourists no one will give you a hard time if you wear a short dress.

    Really worth a visit!

  • 5.0 star rating

    It's big, really big.
    Some old mosaics are uncovered, and some frescoes are being renovated.

    There is VERY little amount of information on the information stands inside, so it's worth to take a guide, which provides historical perspective and interesting details about the place.

    You might also consider to visit Blue Mosque nearby, which has very similar architecture and size, but is free.

    • Qype User luxury…
    • Istanbul, Turkey
    • 1 friend
    • 1 review
    5.0 star rating

    Hagia Sophia no doubt that one of the most striking and important landmarks of Istanbul. Can be visited individually or regular tours or private tours during your visit in Istanbul. LuxuryIstanbul recommended travel agency in Istanbul

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