The Mosque of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent(1557) is Istanbul's largest and grandest.
After three years of extensive restorations by architects and calligraphers under the watchful eye of architectural historians, and expenses of TL21 million, the mosque was re-opened to visitors during Kurban Bayramı in 2010.
To get the full effect of the architect's design and Süleymaniye's grandeur, you should walk to the northwest side of the mosque on Şifahane Sokak and enter the courtyard by this main entrance and through the grand courtyard.
The mosque is open every day, for free. If you are not Muslim, avoid visiting within 30 minutes after the call to prayer, and from noon to late afternoon on Friday (the Muslim holy day). More...
Inside the Süleymaniye is simply breathtaking in its expanse, a near-square 58 meters (63 yards) by 59 meters (64 yards). Süleyman—and his genius architect, Mimar Sinan—attempted to rival the spaciousness ofAyasofya (Hagia Sophia) by hiding the massive buttresses that support the dome, incorporating the buttresses into the walls, and adding rows of porphyry monolith columns beneath the tympanums on either side. Although not as large as Ayasofya, the Süleymaniye exceeds it in feelings of light and openness.
The mosque complex(külliye) includes a hamam, imaret (soup kitchen, now a fine restaurant serving Ottoman cuisine), theological colleges (medrese), a hospital (darüşşifa) and medical school, a primary school, and a caravanserai/hostel for travelers. Some of these, such as the hamam and imaret, are still open to the public.
You'll also want to visit the beautiful, elaborate tombs of Süleyman and his sultana Roxelana (Hürrem Sultan) in the garden behind the mosque (donations accepted). The tomb of Mimar Sinan is outside the complex at the intersection of Mimar Sinan Caddesi, Fetva Yokuşu and Şifahane Sokak (map).
—by Tom Brosnahan