Istanbul, the former capital of the Ottoman Empire and the modern-day cultural hub of Turkey, is home to some of the world’s most magnificent and historically significant mosques. With a rich history dating back over 2,000 years, these mosques are not only places of worship, but also cultural and architectural landmarks that are revered by locals and Tourists.
In this guide, I will highlight the most visually stunning mosques in Istanbul to visit, not just those with historical significance. These mosques, designed by talented architects, offer a unique blend of beauty and backstory. While the largest mosque in Istanbul, the Çamlıca Mosque (Opened in 2019), with its 63,000-person capacity, is certainly impressive, it lacks historical significance and its architecture is similar to traditional Ottoman styles even though built in the 2010s. Therefore it is not included in this list.
Instead, I will focus on lesser-known but equally breathtaking mosques that are worth the visit.
Please note that the mosques in this list are not ranked in any particular order!
1. Hagia Sophia Location: Sultanahmet
The Great Hagia Sophia at Sunset
Hagia Sophia is a monument of immense historical and cultural significance. Built-in the 6th century as a cathedral, it served as the principal church of the Byzantine Empire for almost a thousand years.
After the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople, it was converted into a mosque and served as a center of Islamic worship for almost five hundred years. After that in 1935 it was converted into a museum until 2020. In 2020 it was converted into a mosque again.
Today, Hagia Sophia is one of the most iconic landmarks in Istanbul, attracting millions of visitors each year. The building’s unique blend of Byzantine and Ottoman architectural styles, as well as its rich history, make it a symbol of religious harmony and a testament to the cultural diversity of the city.
2. Sultanahmet Mosque (Aka. Blue Mosque)
With its 6 Minarets, It is easy to recognize the Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque, also known as the Sultanahmet Mosque, is an iconic landmark located on the historical Peninsula at opposite Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. It is considered important for several reasons.
Firstly, the mosque is renowned for its stunning architectural design, featuring intricate blue tiles and six minarets, which distinguish it from other mosques in Istanbul. Secondly, the mosque holds significant historical importance, as it was commissioned by Sultan Ahmed I in the early 17th century and served as a center of Islamic worship for several centuries.
The Foreigners call this Mosque “The Blue Mosque” because of the blue tiles inside
The Blue Mosque also represents the Ottoman Empire’s architectural and cultural achievements and is a testament to the empire’s influence on the Islamic world. Additionally, the mosque remains an active place of worship and a spiritual center for Muslims in Istanbul, making it an important cultural and religious institution in the city.
3. Süleymaniye Mosque
Courtyard of the Süleymaniye Mosque
The Süleymaniye Mosque, located in Fatih, is considered one of the most important for mosques in Istanbul. The mosque is a magnificent architectural masterpiece, designed by the famous Ottoman architect Sinan and featuring an impressive dome and multiple minarets.
Let us take a small break here to introduce you to the most influential architect in Ottoman history: Sinan.
Statue of Mimar Koca Sinan in Edirne in front of Selimiye Mosque
Architect Sinan was a prominent Ottoman architect and engineer who lived in the 16th century. He is widely regarded as the greatest architect of the Ottoman Empire, and his designs have had a lasting impact on the architectural landscape of the Islamic world.
Sinan’s works include numerous mosques, madrasas, caravanserais, and other buildings, many of which are considered masterpieces of Ottoman architecture. Some of his most famous works include the Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul, the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne, and the Şehzade Mosque in Istanbul.
Sinan’s innovative designs and use of techniques such as ribbed domes and complex architectural compositions set him apart as one of the greatest architects of all time, and his legacy continues to influence architects and designers today.
Various sources state that Sinan was the architect of at least 374 structures which included 92 mosques; 52 small mosques (masjid); 55 schools of theology (medrese); 7 schools for Koran reciters (darülkurra); 20 mausoleums (türbe); 17 public kitchens (imaret); 3 hospitals (darüşşifa); 6 aqueducts; 10 bridges; 20 caravanserais; 36 palaces and mansions; 8 vaults; and 48 baths. Sinan held the position of the chief architect of the palace, which meant being the overseer of all construction work of the Ottoman Empire, for nearly 50 years, working with a large team of assistants consisting of architects and master builders.
You can witness the architectural genius of Sinan in the Süleymaniye Mosque, as displayed below in the video.
The Süleymaniye mosque holds historical significance as it was commissioned by the powerful Ottoman Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent in the 16th century and served as a center of Islamic worship for several centuries.
The Süleymaniye Mosque also represents the Ottoman Empire’s architectural and cultural achievements and is a testament to the empire’s influence on the Islamic world. Additionally, the mosque remains an active place of worship and a spiritual center for Muslims in Istanbul, making it an important cultural and religious institution in the city. Its location on one of Istanbul’s highest hills also provides panoramic views of the city, further enhancing its significance as a landmark.Booking.com
4. Ortaköy Mosque (aka. Great Mosque of Sultan Abdulmejid)
The Ortaköy Mosque is considered one of the most photogenic mosques in the world.
You will probably recognize Ortaköy Mosque from the blog’s cover picture on the homepage. The Ortaköy Mosque is rather small but perhaps it is the most beautiful mosque on this list.
It was built in the 19th century and is known for its beautiful Ottoman-style architecture and its location on the shores of the Bosphorus Strait. The mosque is considered one of the most picturesque and popular tourist destinations in Istanbul, attracting visitors from all over the world. It is also an important place of worship for the local community, serving as an active mosque for Friday prayers and other religious events.
5. Fatih Mosque
Fatih Mosque is a historic mosque located in Fatih District. It was built in the 15th century and is named after the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, also known as Mehmed the Conqueror (In Turkish: Fatih Sultan Mehmet)
Fatih Sultan Mehmed is significant in Turkish and Ottoman history for several reasons. He was the Ottoman Sultan who conquered Constantinople in 1453, bringing an end to the Byzantine Empire and making the Ottoman Empire the dominant power in the region. This event marked a turning point in the history of the Ottoman Empire, as it allowed the empire to expand its influence into the Balkans and establish itself as a major player in European politics.
The mosque is considered one of the largest and most important in Istanbul, serving as a central place of worship for the city’s Muslim community. Fatih Mosque is considered a symbol of Ottoman power and a symbol of Istanbul’s rich history and cultural heritage, attracting both worshippers and tourists from all over the world.
6. Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque
Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque has Beautiful Architecture
Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque is a historic mosque located in Fatih District. It was built in the 19th century and is named after Pertevniyal Sultan, the mother of Ottoman Sultan Abdulaziz.
The mosque is known for its beautiful Ottoman-style architecture and is considered an important cultural and historical landmark in Istanbul. It is also an active mosque, serving the local community as a place of worship for Friday prayers and other religious events. The mosque is located in the Aksaray neighborhood of Istanbul and is a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors from all over the world who are interested in the city’s rich history and cultural heritage.
7. Eyüp Sultan Mosque
Eyüp Sultan is a really important Mosque for the Muslim Community
Eyüp Sultan Mosque is a historic mosque located in Eyüp and is considered significant for several reasons.
Firstly, it is considered the most important mosque in Istanbul for the city’s Muslim community, as it is believed to be the final resting place of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad. This makes the mosque an important place of pilgrimage for Muslims from all over the world.
In addition, Eyüp Sultan Mosque is considered a symbol of Ottoman power and cultural heritage. It was built in the 15th century and was one of the first buildings to be constructed after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople.
It was also one of the largest and most important mosques in the empire, and served as a central place of worship for the Ottoman ruling elite. The mosque is also known for its beautiful Ottoman-style architecture and its location on the shores of the Golden Horn, making it a popular tourist destination. The surrounding area is also an important cultural center, with many traditional Turkish shops, restaurants, and historic sites located nearby.Booking.com
8. Molla Zeyrek Mosque
A Mosque which looks like Byzantian Church is not something you can see everyday
Molla Zeyrek Mosque was originally built as a Byzantine church in the 12th century and was later converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
The mosque is named after Molla Zeyrek, a famous scholar and theologian who lived and taught in the mosque during the Ottoman period. The mosque is known for its unique architecture, as it is one of the few surviving examples of Byzantine church architecture in Istanbul. It is also considered an important cultural and historical landmark in the city, attracting tourists and history buffs from all over the world.
The mosque is located in the Fatih neighborhood of Istanbul and continues to be an active mosque, serving the local community as a place of worship for Friday prayers and other religious events. The surrounding area is also an important cultural center, with many traditional Turkish shops, restaurants, and historic sites located nearby.
9. Şehzade Mosque
Şehzade Mosque was built in the 16th century and is named after Şehzade Mehmed (who died at the age of 22), the son of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. The mosque is considered one of the finest examples of Ottoman architectural style and is known for its impressive dome, intricate tilework, and beautiful calligraphy.
It is said that after the death of Mehmed, his father Suleiman mourned for 40 days at Mehmed’s temporary tomb in Istanbul. To honor his son, an elaborate mausoleum for Mehmed was built by the imperial architect Mimar Sinan as part of a grand mosque complex dedicated to the princely heir. This was Sinan’s first major imperial commission and one of his most ambitious architectural projects, even though it was completed early in his career.
The mosque is an important cultural and historical landmark in Istanbul and is considered a symbol of the city’s rich heritage and cultural diversity. It continues to be an active mosque, serving the local community as a place of worship for Friday prayers and other religious events.
The mosque is located in the Fatih neighborhood of Istanbul and is a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors from all over the world who are interested in the city’s history and cultural heritage.
Bonus: Sancaklar Mosque
Sancaklar Mosque is a modern mosque located in Büyükçekmece. It was designed by Emre Arolat Architects and completed in 2012. The mosque is known for its minimalist design, which features clean lines, simple shapes, and a focus on natural light and the surrounding landscape.
The mosque is located in the Sancaklar neighborhood of Istanbul and serves the local community as a place of worship. It is considered a unique example of contemporary Islamic architecture and is a popular destination for tourists and architecture enthusiasts who are interested in modern design.
Sancaklar Mosque is also considered a symbol of the changing face of Istanbul, as it reflects the city’s growing interest in modern design and its commitment to preserving its cultural and religious heritage. The mosque is surrounded by residential areas and is a popular gathering place for the local community, offering a peaceful and contemplative environment
for visitors and Locals.
Overall, Sancaklar Mosque is considered an important example of contemporary Islamic architecture and a symbol of the changing face of Istanbul. Unlike the other historical mosques on this list, Sancaklar Mosque appeals to those seeking a contemporary Islamic architectural experience. However, it is located far from the central city and tourist hotspots.