Still, there are others medium sized mosques like Nuruosmaniye, Bayezid II, Mirmirah Sultan, Rustem Pasha that are worth a visit. If you’d like a more intimate feel, then be sure to check out Little Hagia Sophia, Sokollu Mehmet Pasha and the Sakirin Mosque.
Do note that when visiting these wondrous, religious attractions in Istanbul, there are certain mosque rules that you need to abide by.
1. Hagia Sofia
2. Sultan Ahmed Camii
Also known as the Blue Mosque, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is the most grandiose in Istanbul. Many love it for its well-adorned madrasah, hospice, and Ahmed’s tomb. The building construction of this mosque started in 1609 and ended in 1617. At present, it is roughly 412 years old.
The purpose of the mosque was to show Sultan Ahmed’s legitimacy as a true leader. Ahmed ruled the Ottoman Empire at a young age, and before him was the glory of Sulthan Mehmet and Sultan Suleiman.
Unlike his predecessors who expanded the reach of the Ottoman Empire like it was a board game, Sultan Ahmed was not very good at warfare. And with the Ottoman Empire at a decline during his rule, he needed something that would act as a symbol of political stability.
So the building of a mosque was planned. However, there was a hitch! Sultan Ahmed didn’t have the resources that his predecessors had due to winning wars. This pushed him to make a very controversial decision that would shake his ranks, using the empire’s own wealth.
To start the project, many Byzantine castles of Ottoman officials had to be demolished. The building of the mosque gained more political protest as a result. Even so, the building commenced. The inauguration of the mosque happened before Sultan Ahmed’s untimely death. But during that time, the mosque wasn’t completed. Providing the final touches for the mosque was his successor Sultan Mustafa I.
When Ottomans greatly abhorred the building of the mosque in the past, thankfully experiencing its grandiose today are the people of the present. Sultan Ahmed Mosque attracts 5 million visitors per year. One of the most notable icons to set foot on its floor was Pope Benedict XVI.
3. Eyup Sultan Camii
The Eyup Sultan Mosque stands magnificently in the Eyup district of Istanbul which spans from the Bosporus’ Gold horn up to the coast of the Black Sea. This was named after Eyup Sultan who, in his residence, admitted Prophet Muhammed during his travel.
Commissioning the building of Eyup Sultan Mosque in the past was Sultan Mehmed II. However, the original architectural plans didn’t come from the sultan himself. The mosque’s grandeur should be attributed to Mimir Sinan; one of the most sought-after architects in the Ottoman Empire.
Mimir Sinan was known by many for his vast knowledge of Byzantine architecture, which he was highly interested in. However, it’s surprising that the architect used Baroque elements for the mosque as is evident by the curvaceousness and richly carved surface of its dome.
Earthquake left Eyup Sultan Mosque in ruins during the 18th century. As a result, two rebuilding projects had to be done. Sultan Selim III – considered to be a great leader but was assassinated – ordered the whole structure to be rebuilt except for the two adjacent minarets. The minarets, on the other hand, were rebuilt by Mahmud II who decommissioned the Janissaries that assassinated Selim III.
At present, the Eyup Sultan Mosque holds great significance for the religious life of the Turks as there’s a nearby mausoleum where the corpse of Abu Eyup Sultan is believed to be buried.
4. Suleymaniye Camii
The Suleymaneyi Mosque is one of the largest mosques in the city of Istanbul coming second to the Camilica Mosque. Commissioning its building from 1550 – 1557 was Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent; the longest-reigning ruler of the Ottoman empire who managed to conquer contesting powers in Central Europe, the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, and North Africa.
Just like Eyup Sultan Mosque, the genius behind Suleymaneyi’s wonderful architectural elements is Mimir Sinan. The salient features of the mosque is a peristyle with rich columns, a courtyard with four minarets in its corners, a dome that rivals that of Hagia Sophia, tympana filled windows, and red Iznik tiles which were the first of their kind.
When Sultan Mehmet died in 1566 during the Battle of Szigetvar, a mausoleum was built within the mosque’s vicinity, and he was buried there.
Before Camilica Mosque existed, Suleymaneyi Mosque was the largest mosque in Istanbul. And as such, it served not only religious purposes but cultural purposes as well. In the past, Muslims visit the mosque for public bathing, education, medicare, and food.
At present, Suleymaneyi Mosque is famous because it provides a wonderful view of the Bosporus as it proudly stands on Istanbul’s third hill.
5. Camlica Camii
The Camlica Mosque is proof of the timeless beauty of Ottoman architecture. Just like other mosques in Istanbul, Camlica generates a lot of revenue and keeps Islamic heritage at its peak. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its twist and turns.
Camlica mosque is a result of the Turkish Government’s mega building project. Initiating its building is the Turkish AK Party with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the head. The building of the Camlica was mainly for boosting the economy for an additional mosque means that there will be more attractions to see, which will increase the traffic of tourists visiting Istanbul. And with more tourists, there will be more job opportunities for the people.
The second purpose of the mosque was for boosting Islamic heritage. Turkey has been subject to terror attacks. The existence of a new mosque would help to reinforce the unity of the populace despite trying times. Just like the construction of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the construction of the Camlica Mosque invited political protests, especially from the opposing political parties that saw the building of the mosque as improper amidst Turkey’s poor economic performance in the past.
Nevertheless, the opposition seems wrong. Right now, Camlica Mosque is perfectly serving its purpose. It is now a symbol of the undying Ottoman heritage of the Turkish people. Moreover, it’s also the first mosque in Istanbul that caters greatly to females.
6. Ortakoy Camii
Although it’s officially known as the Buyuk Mecidiye Mosque, anyone riding the Bosporus cruise won’t be able miss the Ortakoy Mosque. After all, it’s built on a riverbank of the Ortakoy pier – a famous district in Istanbul known for its welcoming riverside restaurants and scenic views.
Sultan Abdulmecid, the son of Mahmud II who funded the rebuilding of the Eyup Sultan Mosque, commissioned the building of Ortakoy Mosque in 1853. Plans came from Nigogos Balayan – art consultant of Sultan Abdulmecid – and his father, Garabet Almira Balayan. Materials for making the mosque were concrete, white stone, and marble.
Ortakoy Mosque is smaller compared to the other mosques at the Golden Horn. It’s as beautiful nevertheless. Using neo-baroque style architectural elements featuring mounting columns embedded with carvings and relief, two rows of slim windows with arches; flower frescoes, and pink mosaics, the Balayans provided Ortakoy Mosque with a look that’s as lively as the hubbub of the Bosporus.
Right now, the Ortakoy is a famous stop for Bosporus tours using routes that allow them to visit Istanbul’s Besiktas district. Tourists visit to take pictures of the mosque’s magnificence.
7. Fatih Camii
The Fatih Mosque symbolizes Ottoman Victory over Constantinople. It is one of the many museums that Sultan Mehmed erected within Istanbul. Upon seizing control of Constantinople, Sultan Mehmed decided to build the first mosque in his new city 10 years after. The location that he fancied was the location of the Byzantine Church of Holy Apostles, where the corpse of Constantine was lying.
The Church of Holy Apostles was already badly damaged at that time. As a result, chief architect Atik Sinan had to take it down. Replacing the Church of Holy Apostles was a mosque consisting of 2 minarets, 8 madrasahs, a hospital, hospice, caravanserai, a public market, a school, and a public kitchen.
In 1509, several years after its inauguration, an earthquake devastated Istanbul. It didn’t leave the Fatih Mosque untouched. The dome got heavily cracked so with the four columns supporting it. Fatih Mosque was rebuilt soon after. However, other strong earthquakes shook Istanbul in 1557 and 1574. These left Fatih Mosque greatly devastated.
The earthquake of 1766 completely destroyed Fatih Mosque. Rebuilding wasn’t a solution because the mosque was turned into rubble. As a result, a new Fatih Mosque had to be built which is very different from the original.
To cut the story short, there are actually two Fatih Mosques – one that’s built-in 1463-1470 and one that’s built after the earthquake of 1766. Therefore, the Fatih Mosque that you see today is just a stand-in for the original.
8. Nuruosmaniye Camii
This impressive mosque is built near the entrance to the Grand Bazaar and dominates its surroundings. The building is considered to be one of the best examples of an Ottoman Baroque-style mosque. It has a magnificent dome that is 26 meters in diameter, making it the fourth dome largest in Istanbul.
Sultan Mahmud I, commissioned the mosque in 1748 but did not survive to see it finished. His brother, Osman III finished it on his behalf, and it officially opened in December 1755.
Noruosmaniye translates as The Light of Osman in recognition of Osman III. It is also a reference to the many windows that allow natural light to flood into the mosque’s main hall. There are 32 windows that surround the dome alone.
9. Yeni Camii
The New Valide Sultan Mosque or simply the New Mosque which sits in the Eminonu district of Istanbul isn’t the original. It’s built according to the design of the Valide Sultan Mosque that might have been more majestic if not destroyed by the Great Fire of Istanbul in 1660.
The construction original mosque, where the New Mosque was built on, was funded by Safiye Sultan. Two chief architects took the task of building it, Davut Aga who was an apprentice of Mimir Sinan that died in 1599, and Dalgic Ahmed Cavus who came after as a replacement.
The building of the old Valide Sultan Mosque created political turmoil within the court of Sultan Mehmed III. Its purpose was noble nevertheless. At the time of Sultan Mehmed III, lots of jews lived on the Eminonu and Safiye Sultan saw it fit to build a mosque to uphold Islamic teachings.
Continous strife within the Ottoman government hampered the building of Safiyi Sultan’s mosque, and the death of Sultan Mehmed completely placed it on a halt. The incomplete old Valide Sultan Mosque was greatly burned and damaged during the Great Fire of Istanbul, which lasted for two days. Reconstruction of the mosque took place during the reign of Sultan Mehmed and ended in 1663. The mosque was opened in 1665 and was named New Valide Sultan mosque which was later on shortened as New Mosque.
10. Sehzade Camii
In Faith district, on its third hill, is the Sehzade Mosque considered one of the most monumental projects of Suleiman the Magnificent. It exists to symbolize the great lengths that a loving father can do to uphold the memories of a favorite son..
While returning from a victorious Hungarian expedition, Sehzade, one of the sons of Suleiman the Magnificent suffered an untimely death. The sultan greatly grieved his death for he’s a favorite primarily because he’s the only offspring that he had from his legal wife, Hurrem Sultan.
Sehzade’s death didn’t only affect his father but the Ottoman empire as well. This was because he was supposed to ascend the throne after Suleiman the Magnificent. After mourning for 40 days, Suleiman the Magnificent ordered Mimir Sinan to build a grand mosque for his dead son. Sehzade Mosque is notable because it’s the first mosque that Suleiman the Magnificent commissioned but was, nevertheless, the most beautiful.
At present, Sehzade Mosque houses the tombs of Sehzade, Grand Vizier Rustem Pasha, Humasah Sultan, Sehzade Cihangir , and Vizier Ibrahim Pasha.
11. Yavuz Selim Camii
Yavuz Selim Mosque is another mosque that Suleiman the Magnificent built. Its original purpose was to commemorate the Sultan’s father, Selim I.
After Selim I succumbed to sirpence, Suleiman the Magnificent commanded the building of a mosque in Cukorbostan, a small area that stares down on the Golden Horn.
Mimir Sinan wasn’t the one who designed the mosque. The architect who oversaw its building is unknown too. However, some suggest that the builders tried to copy Mimir Sinan’s architectural style.
At present, Yavuz Selim mosque contains the corpses of Selim I, Sultan Abdulmelcid I, and the four children of Suleiman the Magnificent. Yavuz Selim serves as a good location for taking photos due to its image that seems to touch the horizon from afar.
12. Bayezid II Camii
The Bayezid II Mosque holds a notable degree of historical and cultural significance as it served as Istanbul’s most established medical center in the past. People from all regions of the Ottoman empire came to get treated. Some even came from as far as the Balkan region.
Initiative and resources for the building of this mosque came from Sultan Bayezid II who was famous for consolidating the Ottoman empire, thus opening the rise of his son’s power, Salem I. As for the architects who came up with the design, historians are still uncertain. However, most claim that the core plans came from Yakubsah Bin Islamsah.
Bayezid II Mosque consists of a public kitchen, a medical school, several prayer rooms, and a hospital. The area of the hospital within the mosque spans up to the first courtyard filled with columns of verd antique, granite, and porphyry. The first courtyard is divided into several inpatient and outpatient rooms.
Though it doesn’t act as a center of medical treatment in Istanbul anymore, tourists come to see the mausoleums within the vicinity of the mosque. One of these contains the remains of Sultan Bayezid II.
13. Rustem Pasha Camii
The Rustem Pasha Mosque is a cultural center in Istanbul. It was built to commemorate the services of Rustem Pasha, who served as the highest official in the court of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.
Rustem Pasha was famous in history as an example of a model government official. Though rich, his wealth didn’t come from bribes, and he didn’t flaunt it. Rustem Pasha also initiated a number of Ottoman government projects with his own funds. After dying because of hydrocephalus in 1651, the building of a mosque was planned two years later. Acting as the chief architect was Mimir Sinanconsidered to be the greatest architect of Class Ottoman Architecture.
Unlike other mosques in Istanbul which have a tomb of their namesakes, Rustem Pasha Mosque doesn’t have the corpse of Rustem Pasha. Instead, it’s on the Sehzade Mosque alongside the corpse of Sehzade Mehmed, his benefactor’s favorite child.
Rustem Pasha, at present, acts as a religious school. It’s where youngsters learn the core of Islamic teachings. It also helps to build a strict foundation for those aspiring to be imams and rabbis.
14. Little Hagia Sophia
The Little Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is a mosque that’s isn’t actually a mosque. It was originally an Eastern Orthodox Church built during the reign of Justinian.
Before being transformed into a mosque, Little Hagia exists to give thanks to Saint Sergius and Saint Bacchus, who attested for Justinian’s innocence after being accused of plotting the assassination of his uncle who was emperor during his younger years, Justin I.
Historians believe that the design of Little Hagia Sophia aims to imitate the bigger Hagia Sophia. However, historical evidence and architectural research show that it isn’t. In fact, Little Hagia Sophia is more likely to be inspired by the architectural elements of the Church of St. Polyeucuts.
After successfully seizing Constantinople, the Ottomans left the church untouched until the reign of Sultan Bayezid II. During his time, the Little Hagia was transformed into a mosque, and fountains, a madrasah, and minarets were added.
To this date, Little Hagia Sophia is open for worship and public visits. However, tourists have to be careful because the administrators did painstaking efforts to preserve the integrity of the building.
15. Mirmirah Sultan Camii
The Mirmirah Sultan or Isekele Mosque is one of the best-known attractions in Istanbul’s Uskudar district. Many love it because provides a scenic view of the nearby ferry harbor.
Commissioning the building of Mirmirah Sultan was Rustem Pasha’s wife, Mirmirah Sultan. As for the purpose, it was originally built to showcase Mirmirah’s noble status.
Having fully served its purpose since its founder has long died, Mirmirah Sultan Mosque now acts as a cultural center. Inside it is a religious school and college, tombs, and a Turkish bath.
16. Kilic Ali Pasha Camii
Kulliyesi translates to complex in English, and the mosque gets its name from Kilic Ali Pasha, who organized its construction and is buried within the grounds. The complex was designed and built by the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. The design of the mosque is reminiscent of the Hagia Sophia with its central dome and two semicircle recesses called exedra.
The complex initially stood on the shores of the Bosphorus but following land reclamation, and subsequent building works, now sits several streets back, and right next to the Tophane Fountain.
An interesting historical story is that the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes was a slave involved in building the Kilic Ali Pasha Complex. The Turkish researcher Rasih Nuri Leri claims to have found written evidence in the complex’s foundation documents.
17. Arap Camii
The Arap or Arab Mosque was originally a church when Istanbul existed as Byzantium. Making use of it were the friars of the Dominican Order It went by the name of Mesa Dominico.
However, the Ottomans took down Mesa Dominico and transformed it into a mosque. They drove the friars away and transferred them to the Galata. Ordering this was Sultan Mehmed II. After it was completed, Arap Mosque served as a refugee site of Muslims that were persecuted during the Spanish Inquisition.
By 2oth century, the Arap mosque was in a poor state. The interior and the walls took time’s toll. A comprehensive rebuilding project was initiated in 2010 to improve their condition and was completed in 2013.
18. Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Camii
Sokhollu Mehmed Pasha is a famous mosque within the Faith district of Istanbul, southwest of Ayosafya Camii and southeast of Beyazid II Mosque. Commissioning its building in the past were Sultan Mehmed Pasha and his wife, Ismihan sultan who was a granddaughter of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.
Sultan Mehmed Pasha, Ismihan Sultan, and Mimir Sinan planned the building of this mosque together. Its most striking feature is the Iznik tiles on the interior which form numerous colorful patterns on the floor, walls, and ceiling. Facing the dome from the courtyard, one can see a minaret on the right portion of the mosque.
Though today, it stands near the Ataturk Bridge and can be accessed by foot easily, Sokollu Mehmed, in the past, was the only building where it now stands. Ataturk Bridge was built a few years after Sokollu Mehmed Pasha mosque existed.
At the moment, Sultan Mehmed Pasha mosque is famous to tourists due to its picturesque interior. Most come to take photos of what’s inside.
19. Sakirin Camii
The Sakirin Mosque is a modern mosque in Istanbul. It’s popular because studies have shown that it’s the most carbon-neutral mosque of all mosques in Turkey.
Another notable thing about the Sakirin Mosque is that it’s the first mosque in Turkey that a female designed. Understand that Islamic culture limits the participation of women in terms of religion, society, and politics.
With that being said, the Sakirin mosque not only acts as a place of worship but also as a place that reflects a more inclusive view of women’s participation in Islamic culture.
20. Kalenderhane Camii
The Kalenderhane Mosque was originally an Eastern Orthodox Church that the crusaders and the Franciscans used. But before the it was built, a building existed first which served as a Roman bathhouse.
After the Ottomans arrived, the church was turned into a public kitchen by Sultan Mehmed II. A madrasah and public school were added shortly after. To complete its transformation as a mosque, the remaining space of the church was added with a mihrab, a minibar, and a mahfil.
At present, the Kalenderhane Mosque serves as a representation of the strong Ottoman and Byzantine influences on the old existing buildings in Istanbul.