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.
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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 back into a mosque again with a decision taken in 2020.
Hagia Sophia could be visited free of charge as a mosque between 2020 and 2023. However, during this period, endless queues were forming at the entrance of the building. For this reason, paid entry for foreign tourists has been reinstated as of January 2024.
Thus, those who want to visit the building for touristic purposes will not disturb the worshipers downstairs while visiting the upper floor. Since there are two different entrances to the building, the routes of worshipers and touristic visitors are separated.
4. How Much is Hagia Sophia Entrance Fee for 2024?
Hagia Sophia entrance fee is 25 Euros as of January 2024. After purchasing this ticket, you enter the building through the door of Hagia Sophia reserved for tourists and visit the galleries on the second floor.
After Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque in July 2020, visiting the building was free between 2020 and 2023. However, as of January 15, 2024, only locals who want to worship inside will be able to enter the building free of charge from the door on the park side.
As you can see in the photo below, a separate entrance was designed for tourists next to the monumental entrance gate of Topkapi Palace. Tourists entering from here will reach the galleries on the second floor and take panoramic photographs of the building from the upper floor.
Hagia Sophia’s upper floor galleries have been closed for restoration for the last few years, but have been opened as of January 2024. So here you can see Christian mosaics from the Byzantine period.
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.
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.
In the photo above, you can see the main entrance of Topkapi Palace and the new tourist entrance of Hagia Sophia to the left of it. After entering from here, you reach the upper floor of Hagia Sophia after climbing a slightly inclined ramp.
6. Hagia Sophia Opening Hours 2024
Hagia Sophia opening hours are between 09:00 in the morning and 19:30 in the evening as of 2024. You can buy a ticket from the box office and enter the building at 19:30 at the latest, and at 20:30 the upper floor galleries reserved for foreign tourists will be completely closed.
As of 2024, the opening hours of Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace are both 09:00. As an insider, my advice to you is that if you come to Sultanahmet early to visit Hagia Sophia, buy tickets for Topkapi Palace as well and start visiting the buildings later.
The ticket office of Topkapi Palace is very close to the newly designed ticket office of Hagia Sophia. Between April and November, which is Istanbul’s tourist season, both box offices will become increasingly crowded at every hour after 09:00.
7. Hagia Sophia Prayer Times 2024
In order to predict the prayer times of Hagia Sophia in 2024, you can follow the prayer times in Istanbul on this official site. The main gate of Hagia Sophia on the park side opens shortly before the adhan time for local and foreign Muslims who want to worship.
It should also be noted that the main entrance of Hagia Sophia is open to Turkish citizens throughout the day (whether it is prayer time or not). However, foreign Muslim visitors can only pass through the main gate to pray during adhan time.
In the photo above that I took on January 16, 2024, while foreign tourists were visiting the galleries on the upper floor, the Muslim community was praying on the lower floor. You can experience this atmosphere if you time your visit to Hagia Sophia during prayer time.
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.
8. Are the Mosaics in Hagia Sophia open?
Yes, the mosaics in Hagia Sophia are open. The mosaics inside Hagia Sophia are dated between the 9th century and the 13th century. As an exception, “the Virgin and the Child mosaic” in the main space is covered with a curtain.
The most important works of art that have survived from the Byzantine Empire are these religious mosaics. If you want to learn more about Hagia Sophia mosaics, you can also read this article decorated with rich visuals.
As of 2024, visitors to Hagia Sophia can see all the mosaics on the upper floor, and when leaving the building, they can also take a look at “the mosaic of Emperors Justinian and Constantine” at the south door of the ground floor (don’t forget to check it out, it’s a 1000-year-old masterpiece).
However, as of 2024, only the upper floor is open to foreign tourists and the lower floor is open to Muslims. For this reason, “the Emperor Leo VI mosaic” on the Imperial Gate on the ground floor remains outside the tour route of foreign tourists.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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