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The Mystical Charm of Sultan Ahmed’s Blue Mosque Unveiled

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Lovers of great Ottoman architecture know well the graceful, seemingly weightless domes and intricate mosaic tiles that are the signature of the classic Ottoman style.

Striking an elegant balance between heaven and earth, light and shadow, these structures — primarily religious in purpose — transformed the landscape of Turkey beginning in the early 1400s.

Recognized as the master architect of this period, Mimar Sinan blended the traditional Turkish style with the ornate elements of Byzantine architecture to create more than 300 buildings across the country. Turkey’s crowning glory, however, is not one of Sinan’s creations — it is the work of his student, Sedefkâr Mehmed Ağa.

The architect strove to synthesize his master’s teachings while surpassing his achievements, resulting in the creation of Istanbul’s Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque.

What is the Blue Mosque?

Aerial view of the Blue Mosque and Istanbul cityscape with domes and minarets.
mehmet – stock.adobe.com

Blue Mosque, known as the Sultan Ahmet Camii or Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is located directly across from its inspiration. The historic Aya Sofya Mosque is a spectacular collection of superlatives. It is one of the most famous and popular tourist destinations in Istanbul.

It was built between 1609 and 1616 by architect Sedefkâr Mehmed Ağa and is considered one of the masterpieces of Islamic architecture. The mosque is unique because it has six minarets, more than any other mosque in Istanbul.

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What to See at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul

Blue Mosque Sultan Ahmed Istanbul Architecture
Daniel Carpio / Adobe Stock

The Blue Mosque is open to visitors daily except during noon prayer times. The interior is decorated with blue Iznik tiles and features six minarets. It is one of the largest mosques in Istanbul. Large mosque complexes, like Sultan Ahmed Mosque, are constructed for the public’s benefit and represent pious and benevolent rulers.

Its excellent design is reflected in its large central dome, eight secondary domes, minarets, and central hexagonal fountain, which spills out in a lavish display.

The six minarets and eight secondary domes are finished in the lead, with copper standards atop each minaret. The courtyard, nearly as large as the great mosque, features a graceful vaulted entry with a centrally located fountain. Once inside, the view of the mosque is very nearly overwhelming.

The massive interior of the mosque is primarily open and filled with many spacious windows. Four gigantic columns support the great central dome, which is highly decorated with 50 different tulip designs and other floral elements.

Dome in The Blue Mosque
Photo: kayyen

The highest reaches of the dome feature decorative tile from Iznik, representing the absolute pinnacle of this city’s outstanding workmanship.

These tiles’ signature blue and white colors have given the Sultan Ahmet Camii its better-known name — the Blue Mosque. Additional tiles, only slightly less exquisite and made in Kutahya, bring the total number of decorative tiles to more than 20,000.

The dome is decorated with verses from the Koran, displayed in elegant calligraphy. The Interior space is softly lit by 260 stained-glass windows, which once contained the finest Venetian stained glass.

But it was gradually replaced with a glass of a lesser value. Other decorative treasures include masterfully carved wooden doors, stained glass window frames, and touches of fine mother-of-pearl inlay.

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How to Get There

Illuminated Sultan Ahmed Mosque Night Fountain Display
Ivan Kmit / Adobe Stock

The easiest way to visit Sultan Ahmed Mosque is by walking from Taksim Square or a bus tour. The journey should take around 20 minutes, and it’s a nice walk through the old city. You can also take the tram to Sultanahmet, a few minutes walk from the mosque, or visit it during a city tour.

Tips for Visiting Blue Mosque

Plaza In Front of Blue Mosque

If you’re planning a trip to Istanbul, a visit to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is a must. Also known as the Blue Mosque, this striking structure is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your visit.

  • Dress modestly. A mosque is a place of worship, and visitors are expected to dress accordingly. It means covering your shoulders and knees and wearing loose-fitting clothing.
  • Be respectful of worshipers. A mosque in Istanbul is an active place of worship, and visitors should be mindful of those praying.
  • Take off your shoes. Like many mosques, Sultanahmet requires visitors to remove their shoes before entering. There are usually storage areas where you can leave your shoes while you’re inside.
  • Be prepared to wait in line. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is one of Istanbul’s most popular tourist attractions, and a long line can often exist.
  • Take your time. The mosque is large and contains many beautiful details. Be sure to explore all of its wonders.

The imperial mosque is one of the most beautiful and impressive sights you tour in Istanbul, and it’s well worth a visit. Just remember to dress modestly, be respectful of worshipers, and take your time to enjoy all this wonderful mosque has to offer.

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Why is Sultan Ahmet Mosque called Blue Mosque?

Exterior Building of Blue Mosque

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is called the Blue Mosque because of its interior’s blue tiles. Sultan Ahmed I built the mosque in the early 17th century, one of Istanbul’s most famous and iconic landmarks.

Legends of the Blue Mosque

The story will depend on which legend you prefer. Either Sultan Ahmed I built the Sultan Ahmed Mosque as an offering to Allah after forty years of military defeats or in an attempt to create a monument in his name that would rival the great mosque of Aya Sofya.

Either way, the Sultan’s legacy is a powerful work that defines the skyline of Istanbul today. There are also stories surrounding the Blue Mosque’s six slender soaring minarets, which were an absolute scandal. The holiest of all Ottoman imperial mosques, Masjid al-Haram, the Grand Mosque in Mecca, had six minarets.

Constructing a mosque with an equal number of minarets was taken as sacrilege and an expression of incredible hubris on the Sultan’s part. To correct his error, Sultan Ahmet financed the construction of a seventh minaret for the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

Sadly, the great Sultan did not live long enough to enjoy his magnificent mosque. He died of typhus at 27, just one year after the mosque was completed.

He is buried in a mausoleum adjacent to the interior walls of his great legacy — the awe-inspiring masterpiece of traditional Islamic architecture known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque.

Splendid Architecture

Interior of Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque is known for the blue tiles that adorn its interior. It is one of the world’s most splendid examples of Islamic architecture. Sultan Ahmet I commissioned the mosque in 1609, which took seven years to build. The architect was Mimar Sinan, who also designed some of the most famous mosques in Istanbul.

The Blue Mosque is one of the few mosques in Istanbul that allow visitors to enter during prayer times. It is also one of the only mosques in Turkey with six minarets. The mosque’s interior is decorated with over 20,000 Iznik tiles, most of which are blue.

These tiles were made in Iznik, a town near Istanbul known for its ceramics industry. The Blue Mosque is usually very crowded and is one of Istanbul’s most popular tourist destinations.

The Blue Mosque was heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1766 but was restored soon afterward. In 1847, a fire destroyed much of the mosque’s interior, but it was rebuilt using the same designs and materials. The Blue Mosque is still used today and is one of Istanbul’s most popular tourist attractions.

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Nearby Attractions

Sultan Ahmed Mosque is one of Istanbul’s most iconic landmarks, and many other notable attractions surround it.

Hagia Sophia

Building Exterior of Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia is a former Greek Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a primary imperial mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. Byzantine emperor Justinian I constructed The building from 532 to 537 AD. 

Hagia Sophia was the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years until the completion of the Seville Cathedral Building. It is one of the best-preserved examples of Byzantine architecture. The interior of Hagia Sophia is decorated with mosaics and sculptured marble carvings, including the most famous and beautiful mosaic.

Topkapi Palace

Gate and Entrance of Topkapi Palace

The Topkapi Palace, the former home of the Ottoman sultans, is another must-see for its lavish interiors and stunning city views. Explore the place through a Topkapi guided tour.

Byzantine Hippodrome

The Byzantine Hippodrome, or Hippodrome of Constantinople, was a circus used for horse and chariot racing. It was built in the 6th century and was used until the Ottoman conquest of the city in 1453.

The stadium could hold up to 100,000 spectators for plays and processions. It was near the Ottoman royal residence, Topkapı Palace. Several other notable landmarks are within walking distance of Sultan Ahmed Mosque, making it the perfect place to visit.

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