Founded as a Greek colony and built in the Western style as the capital of Rome, Istanbul did not meet Eastern architecture until the arrival of the Ottomans. Istanbul is today home to an excellent mixture of the East and the West influences thanks to its deep historical heritage.
This hybrid culture is evident especially in Hagia Sophia. Built as a church and converted into a mosque later, Hagia Sophia harbors the heritage of both religions. Since it is a joint heritage of humanity, it serves now as a museum. Hagia Sophia is therefore not only Istanbul’s most important church but the most important mosque as well; however, since it is officially a museum, it won’t be on the list, though its origins bear mention.
The mosques listed below are all located in the touristic areas and can conveniently be visited by those who allocate two or more days in Istanbul to sightseeing.
This remarkable Ottoman Mosque is among the top three attractions in Istanbul. Every tourist knows about Blue Mosque (the real name of which is Sultanahmet Mosque), famous for its incredible ceramics. That is why there are long queues in front of it during the high season. Blue Mosque can be best seen at Sultanahmet Park. A pool located at the center of the park provides a great view of Blue Mosque on one side and Hagia Sophia on the other. When you step in the Mosque, you will see a huge dome, 45 meters high, and four elephant foot pillars supporting it. Hand drawn paintings, calligraphy, and ceramics on the dome are glamorous.
Those who visit Istanbul for a brief period of time only have a chance to see Blue Mosque and as a result often miss this masterpiece, only ten minutes walking distance from the Grand Bazaar (another must-see place in the city). Besides its sublime architecture, there are two details which make Süleymaniye Mosque very important: it was built in the name of Ottoman’s most famous Sultan, who is widely known as Suleiman the Magnificent, and it was built by the most famous and talented architect of the Ottoman Empire, Mimar Sinan. The mosque is located on the dominant hill of Historical Peninsula and is quite an eyeful, especially from Golden Horn.
Rüstem Paşa Mosque
This secret jewel of Ottoman architecture was built by the famous architect Mimar Sinan. Built for the Grand Vizier of Sultan Suleiman, Rüstem Paşa, this mosque is small yet splendid. When it comes to ceramic tiles, most people think of Blue Mosque, but the most valuable Iznik ceramic tiles can be seen in Rüstem Paşa Mosque. The location of the mosque is convenient, since it is located only five minutes walking distance from Spice Bazaar, which is another must-see attraction in Istanbul.
This mosque was constructed in the name of Valide Sultan, meaning the mother of the Sultan. Although its name is new, it is indeed 350 years old. On the square in front, doves can be seen flying, just like in San Marco Square of Venice. It is the main attraction of Historical Istanbul’s silhouette for those coming through Galata Bridge or on a boat from the Asian part, as it is located in Eminönü, which is the meeting point at the historical part of the city. It is located just next to Spice Bazaar, which was actually founded in order to cover the maintenance and repair expenses of this mosque.
Ortaköy Mosque, the actual name of which is Büyük Mecidiye Mosque, is known as the jewel of the Bosphorus. Its fame comes from its location in the Ortaköy — one of the most beautiful districts of the Bosphorus — and its elegant Baroque architecture. Providing great scenery for people on a boat tour, the mosque offers a great view of the Bosphorus for people inside it, as well. It is one of the top structures reflecting the hybrid culture of Istanbul.