Hagia Sophia is among the most popular historical artifacts in Istanbul. Hagia Sophia, which has served as a museum for many years, was converted into a mosque again in 2020. Thus, Hagia Sophia entrance fee and opening hours have also changed.
Hagia Sophia is located in Sultanahmet, Istanbul’s most touristic district. This 1500-year-old historical monument is visited by an average of 3 million people annually. In this article, you can find the details you need to know when visiting Hagia Sophia.
Table of Contents
Useful Information About Hagia Sophia
You can find useful information about Hagia Sophia in the following lines. As a private tour guide in Istanbul, I tried to bring together the things that visitors are most curious about.
1. When Was Hagia Sophia Built?
Hagia Sophia was built as a church in 537. It was the most important church of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. It was built for Justinian, the most famous emperor of Byzantium, by two architects named Anthemius and Isidore.
2. Why Is Hagia Sophia So Important?
Hagia Sophia was a revolutionary building considering the early church architecture. Roman churches were modeled after the Basilica, an ancient Roman structure. There would be no flashy domes in these structures.
Hagia Sophia was the first Roman church to have a giant round dome. It was only during the Renaissance that domes of this size were built in Europe. Hagia Sophia had achieved this 1000 years ahead. Therefore, Hagia Sophia is very important in world architectural history.
3. When Did Hagia Sophia Become a Mosque?
Hagia Sophia became a mosque in 1453 when the Ottomans conquered Constantinople. Hagia Sophia, which served as a mosque until the 1900s, remained a museum for about 90 years during the republic period.
Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque again with a decision taken in 2020. For this reason, there is no longer a need to buy tickets at the entrance. Anyone can worship in it or visit it to explore the building.
4. How Much is Hagia Sophia Entrance Fee?
The entrance fee to Hagia Sophia was 100 Turkish Liras before it was converted into a mosque. After the building was converted back into a mosque, entrance was free for local and foreign visitors for 3 years between 2020 and 2023.
Hagia Sophia Ticket Price for 2024
However, according to the official statement made on October 31, 2023, an entrance fee will be charged for foreign visitors to Hagia Sophia as of January 15, 2024. The ticket price of Hagia Sophia in 2024 is not yet clear. I will update this section soon.
After visiting Hagia Sophia, you can visit the adjacent Sultan Tombs free of charge. The interior decoration of these mausoleums carries works from 16th century Ottoman architecture. Especially the ceilings decorated with Iznik tiles and wooden works inlaid with mother-of-pearl are worth seeing.
5. What Day is Hagia Sophia Closed?
When Hagia Sophia was a museum, it was closed on Mondays. This information still exists in un-updated guidebooks, but is no longer valid. Hagia Sophia is open every day of the week.
6. Hagia Sophia Opening Hours 2024
Hagia Sophia opening hours are between 09:00 in the morning and 23:30 in the late evening as of 2024. As an exception, Hagia Sophia is closed to touristic visits on Fridays until 14:30 due to congregational prayers.
As of November 2023, Hagia Sophia is closed during prayer hours. Istanbul mosques, including the Blue Mosque, do not accept touristic visits to the indoor section during prayer hours.
During your visit to Hagia Sophia, I recommend you to join a guided group tour so that you can get inside more easily and learn the history of Hagia Sophia from a professional. You can reserve your place in the guided tour from this link.
You can see long queues at the entrance of Hagia Sophia. This is because visitors are admitted in groups. Even if you are at the end of a queue that seems very long, you can enter in a short time when the entrance of the mosque opens to the next group.
Prayer Times of Mosques in Istanbul
You can follow the opening and closing times of mosques (including Hagia Sophia) in Istanbul from the table on this link. Mosques are usually closed for prayer 1 hour before the prayer and opened 30 minutes after the prayer.
For example, if we assume that the noon prayer is at 13:00, the mosque will close at 12:00 and open at 13:30. The best time to visit Hagia Sophia is 3 hours after it opens at 09:00 in the morning.
All mosques in Istanbul can be visited uninterruptedly from 09:00 in the morning until 12:00. If you make your plan accordingly, the visiting hours, which constantly change according to the hours of worship, will not affect you.
7. How to Get to There?
In order to get to the Hagia Sophia from Taksim Square, you can first take the Funicular F1 to Kabatas. Funicular F1 is inside the metro station in Taksim Square.
You can take Tram T1 from Kabatas Tram Station to Sultanahmet. This journey will take approximately 15 minutes. During the tram ride, you will see touristic places such as Galata Bridge and Spice Bazaar.
In order to get to the Hagia Sophia from Sultanahmet, it is enough to find well-known spots such as Sultanahmet Square or Sultanahmet Tram Stop. With its distinctive architecture, Hagia Sophia will be in your view from these points.
8. Are the Mosaics in Hagia Sophia open?
Yes, the mosaics in Hagia Sophia are open. Hagia Sophia mosaics are covered only during prayer times and are opened for visitors to see during the rest of the time.
The mosaics inside Hagia Sophia are dated between the 9th century and the 13th century. It reflects the religious art of the Byzantine Empire. You can also review this post for more information on these mosaics.
The Latest Situation of Hagia Sophia Mosaics
The mosaics on the lower floor can be seen. As an exception, “the Virgin and the Child mosaic” in the main space is covered with a curtain. On the other hand, the upstairs gallery is closed for renovations.
According to the official statement made in October 2023, the upper floor galleries will be opened to touristic visits as of January 15, 2024. However, tourists entering Hagia Sophia will be charged a museum entrance fee as of this date.
9. How to Take a Guided Tour?
You can make a reservation from this link to take a guided tour of Hagia Sophia. Tours are organized under the guarantee of GetYourGuide, an international travel platform.
Participants of this tour meet with their guides at the entrance of Hagia Sophia and enter as a well-organized group. If you tour with a guide, you will discover many things that you could not learn by yourself.
10. Where to Stay in Sultanahmet
Sultanahmet district, where Hagia Sophia is located, is full of beautiful boutique hotels. There are many historical buildings that have been converted into hotels with the restoration of Ottoman mansions.
In order to decide where to stay in Sultanahmet, you can check out the best hotels in Sultanahmet post. Sultanahmet is also the place where traditional Turkish cuisine is best represented in Istanbul. The best restaurants in Sultanahmet post can help you find the best cafes and restaurants in the area.
Written by Serhat Engul