When you visit Istanbul there is an uncountable list of places you can visit, of course on this list you will find Ayasofya. But what is Hagia Sophia? As many people wonder about this matter, we have decided to explain you all about this popular monument of Istanbul. We will tell you the 10 facts you should know about Hagia Sophia, including the best time to visit Hagia Sophia, its hours of operation, entrance fee and more…
- 1) What is Hagia Sophia? Mosque, Church or museum??
- 2) Best time to visit Hagia Sophia
- 2.1) Sunrise and Sunset
- 2.2) At night
- 3) Hours of operation
- 4) Entrance fee
- 5) History
- 6) Interior
- 7) Where is it located?
- 8) Other Interesting facts
- 8.1) Different names
- 8.2) The Weeping Column
- 8.3) Building time
What is Hagia Sophia?
Mosque, Church or Museum?
When asking yourself What is Hagia Sophia, the first thing you should know is that it is one of the most important monuments in Istanbul (if not the most).
But what you probably want to know is if the monument is either a church or a mosque… and the truth is that right now, it´s none of those, because it´s a museum. Since 1935, the famous building of Istanbul is not related to any religion, it´s just a museum where you can go inside and see its beauty.
Of course, that was not like that years ago! Ayasofya started as a cathedral from 537 until 1453, then, in 1453 until 1931 the cathedral was converted into a mosque, and at the end in 1935 was finally converted into a museum, until now.
Best time to visit Hagia Sophia
Between 3.5 and 4 million people visit it every year and is the number 1 tourist spot for visitors in Turkey. Of course, that´s good as it means that the place is really nice, but the bad thing is that it gets really crowded. So, we are going to give you tips to discover your best time to visit Hagia Sophia.
On one side, you need to know which season of the year you want to go. We went during winter season and we were lucky and saw it with snow (It was beautiful!). That´s why we would always recommend going during wintertime. With the flowers of Spring season, it´s beautiful as well.
No matter the season you choose we will always recommend you going at sunrise or sunset time. And believe it or not we enjoyed a lot going at night as well. See our reasons bellow:
Sunrise and Sunset
Once again, sunrise is the best time to visit a place…Everywhere you go keep in mind that there is nothing better than seeing a place at sunrise time.
In this case the reason is obvious…Hagia Sophia gets really crowded but if you go early in the morning you will have the whole square for you, plus you will get to see the colours and have amazing pictures.
On another hand, if you were not able to wake up for sunrise, you can still go at sunset time. Of course, you will not have the advantage of having the place empty for yourself, but you will still be able to see it with a beautiful and colourful sky.
Hagia Sophia at night
Visiting places at night is not for everyone. It has many disadvantages, like being in the dark in a city that is not your own city, or that the light of course, won´t let you take the best shots possible.
Anyway, during our time in Istanbul, we decided to go to Hagia Sophia at night and it was better than what we expected. Although there were still some people around, getting to see it with less crowds is always nice, plus the light to the building wasn´t so bad.
It´s for sure not the best time to visit Hagia Sophia, but if you couldn´t make it earlier, going at night can be worth it as well.
Hagia Sophia Hours of Operation
- Summer schedule (1st of April to 31st of October)
opening hours: 09:00Am to 19:00Pm
Entrance must be before 18:00PM
- Winter season (1st November to 31st of March)
Visiting hours: 09:00Am to 17:00Pm (Entrance must be before 16:00PM)
Hagia Sophia entrance fee in 2019
There are two different ways to get your tickets for Hagia Sophia:
Of course, you can buy them at the entry to Ayasofya (there is normally a queue but if you go early you probably don´t need to wait much time). Over there you will pay the entrance fee to Hagia Sophia, which is 72TL (about 11€).
Another option is to buy the tickets online at the official website of Hagia Sophia.
In case you are thinking on going to more museums in Istanbul, we advise you to get the Museum Pass, which is about 220TL and it will allow you to go to 14 different museums in 5 days.
FREE ENTRANCE to Hagia Sophia
- Turkish citizen of 18 years old or less and 65 years old or more have a free entrance.
- For foreigners, children of less than 8 years old have a FREE entrance.
Brief history of Hagia Sophia
Although you will be impressed by its beauty, Ayasofya is one of those places that are worth to learn about its history.
The old church/ mosque has been through many changes during its long history. Just so you can have an idea, until the origin of the actual Hagia Sophia, another two examples of it were built. (Not really good results).
In the 6th century the emperor Justinian I, ordered to build the final Hagia Sophia, at that time, it was built as a cathedral and its name was: The Cathedral of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. It became a Mosque in 1453 by the orders of Mehmed II when the Turkish finished conquering Constantinople. In 1935 Kemal Atatürk, decided that it was a monument for everyone and made it transform into a museum. Now is an UNESCO world heritage, and one of the most visited monuments in Turkey.
The interior of Hagia Sophia
If you know us, you may know that we are not the kind of people who visit many inside places, but this time it was a must. As we said, Hagia Sophia has been through many cultural changes, and that means you can still find a mix of all of those inside the museum…That makes it quite impressive.
On one side you can see Byzantine elements like the grand dome, the pillars, or the impressive mosaics which show the faces of Jesus or the Virgin Mary. But also, you can find Islamic signs, like the round placards with names of Allah and Muhammad.
Seriously, mixing these two cultures in the same place is something unique and paying the price to go inside is totally worth it.
Where is Hagia Sophia located?
Hagia Sophia is located in the European part of Istanbul, more concrete in the old town, the Sultanahmet area.
There are many touristic places near the museum, like The Blue Mosque, which is just in front of it, The Basilic Cistern, which is about 1 minute far, or the Topkapi Palace, just 3 minutes walking.
There is an easy access, you can get there using metro or tram. The closest station is “Sultanahmet station”.
Here is the Hagia Sophia location on the map.
Hagia Sophia to Blue Mosque
Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are for sure two of the most iconic places to visit in Istanbul, but sometimes people tend to compare them. The reason is because one is in front of the other (1-minute distance) and both are huge and beautiful buildings. We don´t have a preference, we actually like both, what about you?
Regarding these two buildings we have one of our best photography tips for your trip to Istanbul. On the second floor of the museum, there is a window from where you have an amazing view to the Blue Mosque. Make sure to be the first one because once one person sees it, everyone wants the same picture.
Other interesting facts about Hagia Sophia
This was the list of the most important things you should know about Hagia Sophia, but there is so much to learn about this iconic building. See bellow some other interesting facts about Hagia Sophia:
Different names through its lifetime
The famous historical landmark has gone through several and different names through its history. Originally was named “The Great Church” (Magna Ecclesia in Latin, Megale Ekklesia in Greek). In 430 CE, the popular building got the name of “Hagia Sophia” which has the meaning of Holy Wisdom in Greek. When the Ottomans conquered the area, they changed the name to “Ayasofya” and now it´s known as “Ayasofya Müzesi”.
Healing Powers of the
There are 107 columns in Hagia Sophia, one of them is known as the Weeping Column or the Wishing Column and it´s located in the northwest of the museum. The pillar is recognized because is partly covered in bronze and it has a whole in the middle. It is said that this column has healing powers because of the blessings of St. Gregory.
Short building time
To finish our list of 10 facts about Hagia Sophia you should know that its building time was almost a record. While some of the most popular buildings like Notre Dame or Sagrada Familia has been forever under construction, the church, took just about 6 years to build it. The exact time was 5 years, 10 months and 4 days. It is said that it took more than 10.000 men to build it.