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Hagia Sophia

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The Hagia Sophia (also known as the Aya Sofya, which is taken from the Greek words for ‘Holy Wisdom’) is a unique Byzantine building and an icon of Istanbul. Originally the seat of the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, it was also used as a mosque by the Ottomans before being secularized and converted to a museum. The site is hugely popular and can be extremely busy, so book your tickets in advance to skip the lines!
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Hagia Sophia Museum: Skip The Ticket Line + Audio Guide

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Hagia Sophia: Skip-the-Line Ticket with Guided Tour

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Hagia Sophia Fast-Track Admission with a Licensed Guide

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Museum Pass

Combine your trip to the Hagia Sophia with other museums in Istanbul, and skip the lines when you visit!
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Istanbul: 5-Day Guided Museum Pass

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VIP Istanbul Combo Ticket: Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Baslica Cistern

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Istanbul: Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia Small-Group Tour

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Full Day Istanbul Guided Tour with Lunch

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Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia & More: Istanbul City Tour

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4 Tips for Visiting the Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul at dusk | Photo: David Spender CC BY 2.0
1
The Hagia Sophia is one of Istanbul’s most popular tourist sites, so make sure to arrive before 10 am if you’d like to skip the crowds! In summer the crowds also thin out during the late afternoon.
Hagia Sophia | Photo: Brian Suda CC BY 2.0
2
If you’re planning to take a guided tour then make sure to book your guide in advance, or ask your hotel to help you find a guide. Avoid being taken in by any of the guides outside the Hagia Sophia, as they may overcharge you.
3
The Hagia Sophia is included in Istanbul’s museum pass, which is valid for 5 days after you buy it. You can skip the ticket lines by buying the pass at a less busy museum before visiting the Hagia Sophia.
4
Make sure that you don’t skip the upstairs gallery of the site, which will let you get a great view over the lower floor and get you closer to some of the mosaics on the walls.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Hagia Sophia?

The Hagia Sophia was originally built to be the cathedral for the Greek Orthodox patriarch before being converted into a Catholic cathedral until Constantinople was conquered by the Ottomans. The Ottomans converted the building again, this time into a mosque. Many of the building’s original Christian features were either destroyed or plastered over, with new Islamic additions being made, including the addition of four minarets. It was the most important mosque in Istanbul until the completion of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (also known as the Blue Mosque), which was built nearby in 1616, but its architecture has inspired other mosque-builders around the world. In 1931 the Hagia Sophia was closed to the public for four years, before being reopened as a museum in 1935 under the instructions of the secularist regime of Kemal Atatürk. During this time the plaster which had been covering some of the early Christian mosaics was removed and the building’s entire history was emphasized, and it was banned from being used as a place of worship. Today the question of the Hagia Sophia’s religious status is politically charged, with the current rulers of Turkey pushing for it to return to being a mosque.

What’s inside the Hagia Sophia Museum?

The Hagia Sophia Museum contains religious items from the building’s Christian and Muslim eras, in addition to a handful of sculptures. However, the main draw is the building itself, its exceptional Byzantine architecture, and its glorious mosaics, many of which were hidden while the building was used as a mosque. Once you’re inside you can take the time to explore to your heart’s content.

Should I take a guided tour?

There’s no official guided tour, but plenty of local guides offer tours of the Hagia Sophia. If you do your research then it’s well worth taking a tour as an expert guide can add a great deal to the visit, fleshing out what might be lacking from signs and helping to paint a picture of the importance of the Hagia Sophia to the history of Istanbul. An audio guide is also available in 12 languages including Turkish, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, Persian, Greek, Russian, and Korean, if you don’t want to hire a guide but would like some more context for what you’re seeing.

How long should I plan for a visit to the Hagia Sophia?

If you’re exploring by yourself or using an audio guide then you should plan between 1 and 2 hours for a trip to the Hagia Sophia. If you’re intending to visit with a guide then you may need longer, especially if you’re going to combine the tour with a visit to the nearby Sultan Ahmed Mosque or Topkapi Palace.

General Information

Opening Hours:

In summer, from April 1 to October 31, the Hagia Sophia Museum is open from 9 am to 7 pm, with the final tickets sold at 6 pm. In winter, from November 1 to March 31, the museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm with final tickets sold at 4 pm. The museum is closed during the first days of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, and Eid al-Adha.

Address:

Hagia Sophia Museum
Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi
Ayasofya Meydanı
34122 Fatih/İstanbul

Tickets:

Tickets cost TL60. Free entry is available for Turkish visitors under the age of 18 or over the age of 65, non-Turkish visitors aged 8 or younger, disabled visitors with one companion, members of the Turkish armed forces or Turkish veterans, their spouses, and the children of veterans or those killed while in the military.

How to get there:

The Hagia Sophia is a short walk from the tram stop Sultanahmet (T1) and from bus stop Akbıyık (81, BN1, BN2, and YT-1). It’s also a short walk from the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and a number of Istanbul’s most popular museums.
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