One of the most impactful cultural experiences for me in Turkey was visiting mosques, especially in Istanbul. I’m not sure I’d ever even seen a mosque before this trip and I definitely hadn’t seen any as big and beautiful as those in Turkey. Although I’m not personally religious, I never felt any cultural shift when entering an old European cathedral; for me, doing so was more of a historical experience, perhaps because I’m so very familiar with Christianity.
In Istanbul it was different. The calls to prayer would reverberate across the city, haunting and beautiful and foreign to me. And while I love old cathedrals (Notre Dame is my favorite place in Paris), the mosques simply took my breath away. The domes, the elaborate Arabic writings, the vibrant tiles, the hanging lamps…it was like nothing I’d ever seen. I couldn’t stop taking pictures, I couldn’t help but stare at the gorgeous ceilings until my neck got sore.
We visited into several mosques (Istanbul has almost 3000!), but these 4 must-see mosques are my most recommended. They’re some of the most well-known as far as Istanbul mosques go, but I think that’s completely justified (does it irritate anyone else when people knock “touristy” things simply because they’re touristy? Some things attract tourists for a reason…). They were massive and bustling, colorful and architecturally stunning, and were some of my favorite stops of our whole trip.
Though it’s called the New Mosque, the word “new” is relative; construction was completed in 1663. It’s on the Golden Horn near the Galata Bridge, so it’s right next the water! More info here and here.
Address: Rüstem Paşa Mh., Eminönü, 34116 Fatih, Istanbul
Süleymaniye is Istanbul’s biggest mosque and one of the city’s most famous sites. It sits atop the Third Hill and the views from it are AMAZING. Seriously even if you don’t go inside (which you should), climbing up for the view is worth it. More info here and here.
Address: Sinan Aga Mah. Zeyrek Cad. No:4, Zeyrek, Fatih, Istanbul
Rüstem Pasha Mosque
To be honest, I thought that this was the Blue Mosque when we first went inside haha. It’s SO MUCH MORE BLUE than the Blue Mosque! But it was my favorite of these four because the interior is just so incredible. It’s much smaller than the other three and was far less crowded. It’s located right by the New Mosque, nestled in a market area. More info here and here.
Address: Rüstem Paşa, 34116 Fatih, Istanbul
Sultanahmet // The Blue Mosque
Sultanahmet Mosque aka the Blue Mosque is right next to the Hagia Sophia…so it’s very popular. In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI visited Sultanahmet Mosque for a few minutes of meditation; it marked the second papal visit to a mosque in history. More info here and here.
Address: At Meydanı No:7, 34122 Fatih, Istanbul