The best mosques to visit in Istanbul are mostly located in the Historic Peninsula. In addition, there are beautiful mosques on the shores of the Bosphorus. Many of these mosques are located in districts such as Beyoglu, Besiktas and Uskudar (Asian Side).
The vast majority of mosques in Istanbul are Ottoman-era structures built between the 15th and 19th centuries. These mosques also show us the transformation of the empire over time.
While the mosques of the early Ottoman Empire were built with Classical Ottoman Architecture, the late period mosques are inspired by Baroque and Neo-Classical architectures. The chief architect of the classical period was Mimar Sinan and the late period architects were the Balyan family.
In this article, you can find the most famous mosques in Istanbul‘s Old City (near Sultanahmet), Beyoglu (near Taksim Square), Besiktas (European shores of the Bosphorus) and Uskudar (Asian shores of the Bosphorus).
Best Mosques to Visit in Istanbul 2023
The Best Mosques to Visit in Istanbul list includes the most popular mosques in Istanbul. As a local tour guide, I tried to give you the basic information you will need when visiting these beautiful mosques.
1. Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is the most important historical monument in Istanbul with its 1500-year history. Hagia Sophia was built as a church during the Byzantine period. The building, which remained a church for 900 years, was converted into a mosque in the 15th century.
Hagia Sophia has been the most respected place of worship in Istanbul throughout history. It existed as the head church during the Byzantine period and as the head mosque during the Ottoman period.
Hagia Sophia, which served as a museum for a long time during the Republican era, was converted back into a mosque again as of 2020. Hagia Sophia ranks first in our list of the best mosques in Istanbul, both with its architectural features and its spiritual significance.
2. Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque is located in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet district and is also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. Dating to the 17th century, the mosque is one of the most famous historical monuments in Istanbul.
The Blue Mosque doesn’t give any clue about its name when you look at it from the outside. However, when you go inside, you see the blue colored Iznik tiles on the walls. Iznik tiles represented the pinnacle of Ottoman pottery.
3. Suleymaniye Mosque
Suleymaniye Mosque is located on a hill in the middle of the Historical Peninsula and overlooks the city. The mosque, which has a wonderful Bosphorus and Golden Horn view, is also the largest mosque in Istanbul.
One of the things that makes Suleymaniye Mosque important is that it was built for the most famous ruler of the Ottoman Empire, Suleiman the Magnificent. The person who built the mosque was Mimar Sinan, the master architect of the Ottoman Empire.
4. Fatih Mosque
Fatih Mosque is located in the heart of the Historical Peninsula. Dedicated to Mehmed the Conqueror, the first Ottoman sultan in Istanbul, the history of the mosque dates back to the 15th century.
Fatih Mosque rises on the foundations of the Church of the Holy Apostles, which was the second largest church in the city during the Byzantine period. The recently restored mosque has a very stylish interior decoration.
5. Bayezid Mosque
Bayezid Mosque is located in Beyazit Square, one of the most crowded squares in Istanbul. Neighboring the Grand Bazaar and Istanbul University, the mosque is dedicated to Bayezid II, son of Mehmed the Conqueror.
Beyazit Mosque was built next to the Old Palace, the first palace built by the Ottomans in Istanbul. It is the most magnificent mosque built before the Classical Period, the peak years of Ottoman architecture.
6. Yavuz Selim Mosque
Yavuz Selim Mosque is one of the buildings that shape the silhouette of old Istanbul. The mosque is located close to Balat, the rising touristic district of recent years. Rising on one of the 7 hills of Istanbul, the mosque overlooks the Golden Horn.
Although Selim I reigned only eight years, he had tripled the borders of the Ottoman Empire. During this period, he took the holy cities of Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. Sultan Selim, the predecessor of Suleiman the Magnificent, left a great legacy to his son.
7. Mihrimah Sultan Mosque
Mihrimah Sultan Mosque is located very close to the famous land walls of Istanbul. Built in the 16th century, the mosque was dedicated to Mihrimah, the daughter of Suleiman the Magnificent.
Mihrimah Sultan’s mosque next to the Theodosian Walls is quite impressive with its dimensions. Built by Mimar Sinan, the most prolific architect of the Ottoman era, the mosque is not the only mosque dedicated to Mihrimah.
Mihrimah Sultan had another mosque built in the Uskudar district on the Asian side. This mosque is smaller than the mosque in Edirnekapi and is located very close to the Uskudar ferry port.
8. Little Hagia Sophia Mosque
Little Hagia Sophia Mosque is a relatively little-known historical monument even though it is very close to Sultanahmet. The original name of Little Hagia Sophia, which was essentially a Byzantine church, was Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus.
Built during the reign of Emperor Justinian, the most famous ruler of the Byzantine Empire, this building has a 1500-year history like Hagia Sophia. Anthemius, one of the architects who built Hagia Sophia, used a revolutionary architectural style in this church.
The structure, which was converted into a mosque during the Ottoman period, was named Little Hagia Sophia Mosque because of its similarity to Hagia Sophia. Byzantine engravings on the walls of the building can still be seen.
9. Kariye Mosque
Kariye Mosque is located on the western side of the Historic Peninsula, at the foot of the city walls. This structure was the church of the monastery known as Chora in the Byzantine period.
Chora Church served under the name Kariye Mosque during the Ottoman period. The building, which was a museum in the Republican era, was turned back into a mosque in 2020, just like Hagia Sophia.
The most striking feature of the Kariye Mosque is that it has the most beautiful mosaics from the Byzantine period. The mosaic collection of Kariye is much richer than Hagia Sophia.
10. Nuruosmaniye Mosque
Nuruosmaniye Mosque is located right next to the main entrance of the Grand Bazaar. This elegant mosque was built in the 18th century, when the Baroque influence began to be seen in the Ottoman Empire.
Nuruosmaniye Mosque represents the transition period when the classical period architecture left its place to modern architecture. Nuruosmaniye Street, full of luxury shops stretching from Sultanahmet to the Grand Bazaar, takes its name from this mosque.
Most people who go shopping in the Grand Bazaar pass through the courtyard of this mosque, but do not visit the inside of the building. However, Nuruosmaniye Mosque is one of the best mosques in Istanbul with its elegant interior decoration.
11. New Mosque
New Mosque is located in Eminonu, the transportation hub of the Old City of Istanbul. New Mosque (aka Yeni Cami) is also adjacent to Spice Bazaar, the famous historical shopping place of Istanbul.
The New Mosque was built in the 17th century by a Valide Sultan (mother of the sultan). In the Ottoman period, a bazaar was built right next to the mosques to cover the maintenance costs.
Thus, the New Mosque and Spice Bazaar were designed as part of the same complex. Today, the square in front of the New Mosque and Spice Bazaar is crowded with people throughout the day.
12. Sehzade Mosque
Sehzade Mosque was built in the 16th century for Prince Mehmed, son of Sultan Suleiman. Suleiman had this mosque built for his favorite son, who died of chickenpox at an early age.
According to some historians, Suleiman had designed this mosque for himself. However, when his son died suddenly, he buried him here and changed the mosque to Sehzade (meaning prince) Mosque in his memory.
The architect of the mosque, Mimar Sinan, had already done his best for the Sehzade Mosque. When it came to building another mosque for Suleiman, he would have to surpass his success in this mosque. Thus, he created his masterful Suleymaniye Mosque.
13. Rustem Pasha Mosque
Rustem Pasha Mosque is located very close to the Spice Bazaar in Eminonu. The mosque among the local markets is often overlooked by tourists. However, this mosque is exactly a hidden treasure.
During the Ottoman period, the construction of palaces, mosques and tombs gained momentum in the Classical Period. The most important decoration element in this period was tiles. Iznik Tiles represented the highest quality.
Rustem Pasha Mosque is decorated with the best examples of Iznik tiles. For this reason, it has a special place among the mosques in Istanbul. Those interested in art history are strongly recommended to see this hidden gem.
14. Eyup Sultan Mosque
Eyup Sultan Mosque is considered the holiest mosque in Istanbul. Dedicated to Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, one of the important figures of the Islamic religion, the mosque is located in the Eyup district on the shores of the Golden Horn.
Eyup Sultan Mosque is actually the first mosque built by the Ottomans in Istanbul after the conquest. However, since the original mosque was destroyed by the earthquake, it was rebuilt in the 18th century.
Although Eyup Sultan Mosque has small dimensions in its current form, it is of great importance. In addition, the mosque’s dome and the walls surrounding it are more impressive than many large mosques, thanks to their perfect proportions.
15. Laleli Mosque
Laleli Mosque is located in one of the busiest districts of the Historic Peninsula. Built in the 17th century by Sultan Mustafa III, the mosque was inspired by the Selimiye Mosque, the pinnacle of Ottoman classical architecture.
Selimiye Mosque was the masterwork of Mimar Sinan, who designed dozens of mosques in the Ottoman period. The dome on the octagonal structure, which is the trademark of Selimiye, was applied here as well.
If you do not have time to go to the city of Edirne to see the Selimiye Mosque, the pinnacle of Ottoman architecture, you can get an idea from this mosque. In addition, Laleli district is among the best places to stay in Istanbul, with large hotels opened in recent years.
16 Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque
Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque is located in Aksaray, one of the transportation centers of the Historical Peninsula. With its baroque structure, the mosque has a different look than in old Istanbul.
The mosque has an appearance that blends Baroque, Neo Classical and Neo Gothic architecture. The mosque, which was built in the 19th century, when the Ottomans had a Western-influenced architecture, was built by the Balyan family.
The Balyan family had made many contributions to Istanbul in the last century of the Ottoman Empire. The family, who worked as a palace architect for several generations, was decisive in the modern period architecture of the Ottoman Empire.
17. Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque
Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque was built by one of the most important statesmen in Ottoman history. Sokullu Mehmed Pasha had served as the Grand Vizier (Prime Minister) during the reign of Sultan Suleiman.
The mosque, which was built by Mimar Sinan, the famous architect of the period, rises on a very hilly area. The mosque complex was built in one of the most crowded settlements of the city at that time and was also a madrasah (school).
The Sokullu Mehmed Pasha mosque is a hidden gem, as is the Rustem Pasha Mosque on the top lines. The most precious Iznik Tiles in Istanbul are found in these two mosques. In addition, the mosque impresses the visitor with its magnificent proportion.
18. Gul Mosque
Gul Mosque is located in Balat, one of the most popular districts of recent years. Gul Mosque, essentially an 11th-century Byzantine church, reflects late Byzantine architecture.
This structure was dedicated to a religious woman (Theodosia) who opposed Iconoclasm during the Byzantine period. Theodosia was later honored with martyrdom by the Eastern Church. The building, named Hagia Theodosia Church, was a place believed to heal people.
This mosque is one of the stops during Fener Balat walking tour. Cibali, Fener and Balat districts, which are out of the tourist route in Istanbul, contain a very rich cultural heritage. On the tour, many places with their own unique stories such as this mosque can be seen.
19. Arap Mosque
Arap Mosque is a hidden paradise among the hardware stores in Karakoy. The building was originally a Roman Catholic church built by the Latins in the 13th century. In the 15th century, it was converted into a mosque by the Ottomans.
During both the Byzantine and Ottoman periods, there were Italian trade colonies on the northern shore of the Golden Horn. Among them, the Genoese left artifacts such as the Galata Tower and Yoros Castle in Istanbul.
This church also belonged to the Levantines operating in the Port of Constantinople during the Byzantine period. The building stands out as the only example of medieval gothic architecture in Istanbul.
The building, which was converted into a mosque at the end of the 1400s, was allocated by the Sultan to the Andalusian Arabs fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. The name of the mosque also comes from them.
20. Kilic Ali Pasha Mosque
Kilic Ali Pasha Mosque is located right next to Tophane Tram Stop. The mosque was built for Ali Pasha, one of the admirals in the peak years of the Ottoman Empire. Ali Pasha, who is of Italian origin, received the title of “Kilic” (sword) because of his boldness.
The most distinctive feature of Kilic Ali Pasha Mosque is that it has the most similar interior to a Byzantine church in Ottoman architecture. The reason for this is that the admiral who built the mosque was a fan of Hagia Sophia.
This mosque was built by the master architect Mimar Sinan, who designed all the buildings of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. Next to the mosque is Kilic Ali Pasa Hammam, one of the best Turkish baths in Istanbul.
As an Istanbulite, this mosque is special to me. I rank Kilic Ali Pasa Mosque in the top five among the best mosques in Istanbul. Because the magnificent proportion of the mosque amazes me every time I visit it.
21. Nusretiye Mosque
Nusretiye Mosque is located on the tram line between Karakoy and Kabatas. The mosque, which is one of the most elegant structures of late Ottoman architecture, has baroque architecture.
Nusretiye has the sharpest baroque lines among the mosques in Istanbul. The reason for this is that it was made by Mahmud II, who made great reforms in the Ottoman Empire and reorganized the army in the Western order.
Mahmud II realized that the Ottoman Empire was far behind the West in terms of technology and military in the 1700s, and he embarked on a major reorganization. The traces of this westernization can be seen in the architecture of the mosque he had built.
22. Dolmabahce Mosque
Dolmabahce Mosque is dedicated to the mother of Sultan Abdulmecid, who ruled in the 19th century. The mosque is also known as the Bezmialem Valide Sultan Mosque and is located right next to the Dolmabahce Palace.
Dolmabahce Palace consists of a single-domed mosque and an adjacent pavilion. The minarets are adjacent to the pavilion, which is also the entrance of the mosque. In addition, these minarets are the thinnest minarets compared to other mosques in Istanbul.
23. Ortakoy Mosque
Ortakoy Mosque is located in one of the most beautiful spots on the Bosphorus. The mosque has an exterior that features Neo-classical and Baroque elements and offers a wonderful view to those who take a Bosphorus cruise.
Ortakoy Mosque is also known as Buyuk Mecidiye Mosque. There is a magnificent Bosphorus view from inside the mosque. In addition, the calligraphy on the plates inside the mosque was made by the sultan himself.
A walk starting from Ortakoy district and ending in Bebek is one of the best things to do in Istanbul. Before taking a walk on this route, you can also visit Ortakoy Mosque, one of the best mosques in Istanbul.
24. Beylerbeyi Mosque
Beylerbeyi Mosque adorns the shores of the Asian side of the Bosphorus. The mosque is located next to the Beylerbeyi Palace and is a baroque Ottoman mosque from the 18th century.
There is a large Sultan lodge in the sea-facing part of Beylerbeyi Mosque. Unlike other mosques, this lodge is not right next to the mihrab. On the contrary, the lodge is in a position to watch the interior of the mosque like a theater stage.
25. Camlica Mosque
Camlica Mosque is the youngest mosque on our list. Located on Camlica, the highest hill on the Asian Side of Istanbul, the mosque was built recently. The building, which draws attention with its dimensions, can be seen from many places in Istanbul.
Although Camlica Mosque was built in modern times, it carries the architectural features of the classical period of the Ottoman Empire. The mosque, which is a blend of the most beautiful features of Ottoman architecture, is worth seeing.
Of course, there are many mosques in Istanbul that are not on this list. However, you can find almost all of the most visited mosques in the city in this article. Most of these mosques are located in the Historical Peninsula, Beyoglu, Besiktas and Bosphorus districts.
In this article, I compiled the historical and architectural features of some mosques with the information I obtained from Dogan Kuban’s book Ottoman’s Istanbul. After the article on the best mosques in Istanbul, the article on the best museums in Istanbul may also interest you.
Written By Serhat Engul
Again, I am in awe of your research and writing, this is such a beautiful and informative article. Thank you for writing this.
I have a question though, when Churches convert into Mosques, are their mosaics removed or are they covered as pictures, idols, and paintings of living beings are prohibited in mosques.?
Moreover, if they are covered then do they get uncovered for visitors during any specific timings maybe?
Serhat Engül says
Hi Moon, thanks for the feedback. Yes, two museums in Turkey have been turned into mosques again. One of them is Hagia Sophia and the other is Kariye Museum (former Chora Church).
The status of the mosaics in Hagia Sophia is not clear at the moment. Only a mosaic (Virgin and the Child) in the center of Hagia Sophia is covered with a curtain. The remaining mosaics are open.
The Chora Museum was converted into a mosque after Hagia Sophia. However, as the walls of Chora were completely covered with mosaics, it was not decided exactly what to do.