The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque, also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is a glorious historical mosque next to Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul. It was built by Sedefkar Mehmet Aga in the reign of Ahmed I, between 1609 and 1616. The mosque became the symbol of Istanbul in the progress of time. In the Kulliye (social complex in English) of the Blue Mosque, there is a tomb of its founder Sultan Ahmed, a hospice, and a madrasa. Besides being one of the most popular tourist attractions in Turkey, the mosque is still functioning and open for the faithful to pray.

This article provides information about visitation -how to go there, visiting hours, dress code, entrance fee, the best time to visit, how much time to spend-, the things one must know regarding the mosque, the history of the mosque, the interior and exterior of the Blue Mosque, visitor tips, interesting facts about the mosque, and tourist attractions near the Blue Mosque.

Visiting the Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque is one of the most ancient and most ravishing mosques in the world. The mosque is a very popular tourist attraction. It is located in the center of Sultanahmet and next to the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque.

How do you get to the Blue Mosque? 

There are different types of transportation you can choose when you are trying to get to the Blue Mosque. Here are the most convenient ways to get there from different locations:

Getting to the Blue Mosque from Kadikoy

The fastest way of getting to the Blue Mosque from Kadikoy is taking the Marmaray to getting to Sirkeci. At Sirkeci you can take the tramway to Sultanahmet Square. The Blue Mosque is 300 meters away from the Sultanahmet Tramway Station.

A slower but more pleasant way of getting to the Blue Mosque is getting the ferry from Kadikoy to Eminonu. And then at Eminonu, you can take the tramway to Sultanahmet Square.

Getting to the Blue Mosque from Besiktas

In order to get to the Blue Mosque from Besiktas, you should go to Kabatas first. To do this take any bus that goes to Kabatas from Besiktas. Then you can take the tramway to Sultanahmet Square.

Getting to the Blue Mosque from Taksim 

In order to go to the Blue Mosque from Taksim, take the funicular to go to Kabatas Funicular Station. Then, you can take the tram to Sultanahmet Tram Station from Kabatas Tram Station, walk 300 meters and you will arrive at the Blue Mosque.

Getting to the Blue Mosque from Uskudar

To go to the Blue Mosque from Uskudar, take the ferry to Eminonu Ferry Terminal. Then, take the Sirkeci-Sultanahmet tram and ride to Sultanahmet Tram Station. You have to walk about 300 meters from the tram station and in order to arrive Blue Mosque.

Visiting Hours

The Blue Mosque is open for prayers from the morning prayer to the night prayer.

For other visitors, the visiting hours of Blue Mosque are between 09:00 in the morning and 19:00 in the evening. However, since the Blue Mosque is still a working mosque, it is closed to visitations of tourists during prayer time. The mosque gets closed one hour prior to the call to prayer and opens back to visitation approximately half an hour after the prayer.

One last and very important piece of information: Blue Mosque is closed from the morning to 2:30 pm every Friday. The mosque needs to be cleaned up and get prepared for the Friday Prayer. 

Entrance Fee of Blue Mosque

One of the most beautiful mosques in the world, Blue Mosque is free of charge.

Since people consider Blue Mosque as the ‘house of God’ and see it as a place to worship God, rather than a gallery or museum, there is no entrance fee.

Dress Code for Blue Mosque

Even though the Blue Mosque is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Turkey, it is still a mosque and just like any other mosque, Blue Mosque has a dress code. 

If you are not dressed according to the dress code, do not worry. Blue Mosque lends a scarf, a skirt, or a robe to its visitors.

Dress Code for Women

Firstly, wear a headscarf. Women are not allowed to show their hair in the mosque. Then, wear something that covers your legs such as long pants or a very long dress. If you decide not to wear a dress, wear a top that covers your shoulders. Tube tops, tank tops, or tops with straps are not allowed, a shirt that is full length or elbow length is appropriate. Avoid wearing any clothes that cling to your forms such as leggings and tight-fitting tops. Last but not least, do not forget to take off your shoes, and to protect your feet, wear socks.

Dress Code for Men

The dress code for men has fewer rules than the dress code for women. Men must cover their legs and wear pants, not shorts. Tank tops are not allowed, too. Most importantly, take off your shoes and wear socks to protect your feet.

Best Time to visit the Blue Mosque

Visiting the Blue Mosque between 9:00 am to 12:00 am is undoubtedly the best idea. It will not be crowded as it is in the afternoon and the mosque will not be closed during this time period.

It has been already said that the mosque gets closed one hour prior to the call to prayer and opens back to visitation approximately half an hour after the prayer, so visitors should check the praying times on the internet and set their visitation time accordingly.

In order to check the praying times, you can click here. You may see some words that you do not know of such as Fajr, sun, dhuhr, etc. These are the names of prayer times and they mean the same things as noon, mid-afternoon, etc.

How long to spend at the Blue Mosque

It usually takes 45 minutes to 1 hour to tour the Blue Mosque but it should not be forgotten that visitors generally wait for an hour in the queue to get into the mosque and it will be super crowded. So it is advised to spare at least 2 hours for Blue Mosque, 2 hours and 20 minutes if the visitors want to purchase a guided tour. 

What is the Blue Mosque famous for?

The Blue Mosque is famous for its handmade ceramic blue tiles, being the first mosque that has 6 minarets, grandiose beauty, and stunning striking architecture.

The Blue Mosque is one of the most beautiful mosques in the World

There are many things that the Blue Mosque is famous for, the most important one among them is definitely its blue tiles which are also the reason why the mosque is called ‘the Blue Mosque’. The interior of the mosque is decorated with 20,000 handmade ceramic blue tiles. All of these ceramic blue tiles were made in Iznik –also known as Nicaea-   and they all have more than fifty different designs of tulips on them. Blue paint was also used in the interior of the mosque.

Just like it has been said in the previous paragraph, the fact that the mosque is lined with blue tiles is not the only reason why Blue Mosque is so famous. The mosque is famous for its six minarets, too. The six minarets of the mosque made a tremendous impact when it was first built and it still does. There is a rumor explaining why the mosque has six minarets. According to this rumored story, Sultan Ahmed I, ordered his architect Sedefkar Mehmed Aga to build-up gold minarets but since altin (gold) sounds very similar to alti (six), his architect understood the order as six minarets.

Right after the six minarets of the Blue Mosque had been completed, a huge controversy came into view and the Sultan Ahmed I got accused of insolence. Before the construction of the Blue Mosque, Masjid al-Haram –the mosque of Prophet Muhammad in Mecca- was the only mosque with six minarets and of course, this was a huge problem for the Muslim community.  Sultan Ahmed I sent his architect Sedefkar Mehmed Aga to Mecca and ordered him to add a seventh minaret for the mosque of Prophet Muhammad, and that was how he solved the problem.

History of the Blue Mosque and Further Information

Pre-construction Period 

Sultan Ahmed I was not the most successful sultan in terms of warfare, to put it mildly. So, he thought that he should build a mosque even bigger and more beautiful than the most respected mosque at that time, Hagia Sophia. He thought he could please God, reassert Ottoman power and suppress the beauty of Hagia Sophia by doing so.

A miniature of Sultan Ahmed I by Levni

Sultan Ahmed I, ordered his henchmen to look for a suitable place for his new mosque. His henchmen showed him multiple places but the sultan chose the Ayse Sultan Palace. Ayse Sultan Palace was next to the hippodrome that was facing the qiblah, it was opposite the Hagia Sophia, it overlooked the sea, it had a huge area and it was near the Topkapi Palace. For all these reasons, it was the ideal area for his new magnificent mosque to be built. The only problem was the fact that this area had an owner. Sultan Ahmed I offered the owner, Ayse Hanim, ’30 loads of pure gold dinar’ and thankfully she accepted the offer. So, Sultan Ahmed I bought the palace. Both Sultan Ahmed I and Ayse Hanim was very happy about this transaction.

Construction Period

So the construction of the new mosque began in 1609 August. Sedefkar Mehmet Aga, an old student of Sinan The Greatest Architect, was in charge. The construction of the mosque had a very detailed workbook that it consisted of eight volumes. This detailed workbook is currently displayed in the library of Topkapi Palace. There was only one little problem, this great plan was going to cost a large amount of money. Since he was not very talented in regards to warfare, he did not have any war booty to finance the project, so he came up with the idea of getting money out of the treasury. Needless to say, this idea was not appreciated.

Plan and perspective view of the Blue Mosque
Plan and perspective view of the Blue Mosque

As the mosque was being built, many statesmen, along with Sultan Ahmed I, worked on the construction of the mosque. As a matter of fact, even the first excavation of the foundation was made by Sultan Ahmet I himself at the beginning of October 1609. The pickaxe that was used by Sultan Ahmed I during the groundbreaking ceremony of the mosque is currently being displayed at the Topkapi Palace. After striking the first excavation, the sultan carried the soil and prayed to God for the implementation of his new mosque.

Post-construction Period

Finally, after seven years, five months, and six days the construction of the mosque was completed. A spectacular opening ceremony took place on Friday, June 2, 1616. In the ceremony, there were many statesmen along with Sultan Ahmed I. The sultan offered a grand feast to his guests. And, with prayers, the mosque was opened. The mosque evoked great admiration with its gorgeous walls decorated with tiles, its six minarets, and its mesmerizing appearance. People called this mosque “New Mosque” until the construction of a ‘newer’ mosque in Eminonu. Then, the mosque in Eminonu became the “New Mosque” and the mosque of Sultan Ahmed I became “Sultanahmet Mosque”(Sultanahmet Mosque is the official name and the Blue Mosque is the nickname). Unfortunately, both Ahmed Sultan I and his royal architect Mehmet Aga died in 1617 after the construction of the mosque was completed. 

A portrait of the architect of the Blue Mosque, Sedefkar Mehmet Aga

Is the Blue Mosque the same as Hagia Sophia?

Due to the fact that they are very close to each other, people think the two stunning monuments are the same but that is not correct. Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque are two completely different and stupendous structures standing opposing each other in the same area.

The Blue Mosque was built in the 17th century in order to please God and suppress the mesmerizing beauty of Hagia Sophia. Hagia Sophia was built in the 6th century upon the Byzantine emperor Justinian I’s request and it was originally a Christian church. 

Shortly after Sultan Mehmed conquered Istanbul in 1453, he appointed the Christian church to a mosque. To make the structure in keeping with the Islamic tradition Sultan Mehmed ordered a large number of arrangements -some of them were not undertaken under the reign of Sultan Mehmed-. Under his rule, a wooden minaret -it does no longer stand-, a mihrab, a madrasah (school), a minbar (pulpit), and a majestic chandelier were added.

Was the Blue Mosque a church?

No, it was not. It is true that the Blue Mosque was built to suppress the beauty of Hagia Sophia and -as it was mentioned in the previous paragraph, Hagia Sophia was originally a Christian Church- but it was never a church.

The person who ordered the construction of the Blue Mosque was Sultan Ahmed I, and he was a Muslim. So, it was originally built as a mosque and unlike the Hagia Sophia, it was never designated to a different concept. 

The interior of the Blue Mosque

The mosque has three entrances. In the main entrance, there is an iron cord. This was made to give a strong message: anyone who enters the house of God, even the sultan himself, must bow down.

The tiles

The interior of the mosque is decorated with 20,000 handmade ceramic blue tiles. It was the first time that the tiles were used prodigally on the interior of an Ottoman mosque. These tiles were made in Iznik –also known as Nicaea- with more than fifty different tulip designs. The tiles located in the lower hall were decorated more traditionally and the tiles located in the upper hall were decorated with different flower designs, cypresses -a a type of tree that never loses its leaves- and fruits. 

Tiles that give the name to the Blue Mosque

The artists who made these ostentatious and stunning tiles were Kasap Haci from Iznik and Baris Efendi from Cappadocia. Sultan Ahmed I decided the price of each tile and he started to pay less over time. As a result, the tiles lost their quality. The colors lost their vitality and the glosses of the tiles became less bright. Moreover, the artists recycled the tiles from Topkapi Palace’s harem -they were highly damaged due to a fire in 1574- and use them on the back balcony of the Blue Mosque.

The columns

The giant columns inside of the Blue Mosque are one of the most glamorous architectural aspects of the mosque. These giant columns which were made to support the central dome are called Elephant Legs. To make them easy on the eye, they were decorated with pencil works and covered with marbles.

The glass windows

Blue paint and more than 200 stained glass windows -which were a gift of the Signoria of Venice to the sultan- were used in the interior of the mosque. The stained glass windows had intricate patterns on them to let daylight in and add a pleasant mood to the mosque. Today, these windows have been replaced with plain modern glass and there are grand chandeliers placed in these areas. Unfortunately, all these chandeliers have lost their value because of the pillages.

There were glasses with verses of the Quran on them, used on the inner walls of the mosque. They were written by Seyit Kasim Gubari from Diyarbakir and he used calligraphy art to write them. Unfortunately, the original pieces were removed during the restoration.

The prayer niche 

The prayer niche -also known as mihrab- is another one of the most important aspects of the mosque. The walls of the prayer niche are covered with ceramic tiles. The minbar is placed on the right side of the prayer niche and the voice of the imam can be heard by everyone in the mosque from every corner of the mosque, even during the peak time of the Blue Mosque.

Interior of the Blue Mosque

The lodge of the sultan

There is the lodge of the sultan at the South-east corner of the Blue Mosque. This area includes two resting areas, a platform, and a loggia. There are also ten marble columns bejeweled with emerald and rose patterns covered thinly with gold paint. Through the lodge of the sultan, the upper gallery of the Imperial loge can be accessed. 

The exterior of the Blue Mosque

The frontage of the wide yard of the Blue Mosque -which is the largest yard among all the yards of Ottoman mosques- was built very similar to the way Suleymaniye Mosque was built, only turrets on the corner domes were added. The yard is almost as wide as the mosque itself and it has arcades with vaults. There are ablution facilities on each side and a small hexagonal fountain in the center of the yard. The historical elementary school named Sibyan Mektebi in the yard is now used as the information center of the Mosque. Visitors are provided with presentations about the Blue Mosque and Islam for free in this information center.

The courtyard of the Blue Mosque

The most important element of the exterior of the Blue Mosque is the minarets. The four of the minarets stand at the corners of the mosque. Every single one of these pencil-shaped minarets has three balconies. The rest of the minarets are placed at the end of the yard. They only have two balconies.

What you need to know before your visitation to the Blue Mosque

•Avoid taking photographs with flash on.

•Never walk in front of people praying inside the mosque.

•Do not bring anything to eat or drink inside the mosque.

•Do not talk to beggars and people approaching to ask for money.

•Guides must wear official badges, watch out for the unofficial guides.

•Non-worshippers must use the north entrance even though the main west entrance is way grander.

•Visitors are provided with a light Show and a historical narrative -available in English, French, Turkish and German- at 9 pm on summers. 

•Take the Blue Mosque and Sultanahmet Square tour with a historian guide offered by Istanbul Welcome Card. It is cheap and very beneficial.

•Ignore people who offer you an entrance to the mosque without waiting in the queue. Those people will probably take you to some shopping place and try to sell something to you.

Interesting facts about the Blue Mosque

•The chandeliers used in the interior of the Blue Mosque were made with ostrich eggs to avoid cobwebs and repel spiders.

•The Blue Mosque might have the largest yard among all the Ottoman mosques but it is not the largest Ottoman mosque in Istanbul. Suleymaniye Mosque which was built by the Sinan The Greatest Architect is larger than the Blue Mosque.

•The Blue Mosque is the most visited mosque in Istanbul.

Blue Mosque

•The Blue Mosque is not the only mosque with six minarets in Turkey. Sabanci Central Mosque in Adana and Hz. Mikdat Mosque in Mersin also has six minarets.

•Sedefkar Mehmed Aga, the architect of the Blue Mosque, was inspired by the Sehzade Mosque while he was building the Blue Mosque.

•Sultan Ahmed I was nineteen years old when he ordered the Blue Mosque to be built.

Places to see near the Blue Mosque

•Hagia Sophia is very closely located to the Blue Mosque. By visiting Hagia Sophia, you can see the benchmark of the Blue Mosque.

•Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum is located near the Blue Mosque. This museum houses artifacts from the Ottoman Empire and Seljuk Turks and Islamic Works of the caliphate period.

•Islamic Science and Technology Museum is within walking distance from the Blue Mosque. This museum houses lots of models and displays and it is based upon Islamic contributions to technology and science.

•With more than a million artifacts from different periods and civilizations, Istanbul Archaeological Museum is very close to the Blue Mosque and it is a must-see.

•Housing mosaics from the Byzantine period, Great Palace Mosaic Museum is an absolutely interesting museum. It is within walking distance from the Blue Mosque.

•One of the most popular historical bazaars, Arasta Bazaar is right next to the Blue Mosque.

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

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