Istanbul’s Imperial Mosques

Everyone knows Istanbul‘s famous Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque, but few realize that this is a city of manyimperial mosques, those built for members of the Ottoman imperial family over the centuries.

The Blue Mosque is overwhelmed with visitors when it’s not closed at prayer times, while the other great mosques, comparable in size and architecture, receive far fewer visitors, making a visit to them a much more fulfilling experience.

I won’t suggest that you not visit the Blue Mosque (though that’s a possibility), but I strongly suggest that you spend some time in another of Istanbul‘s numerous imperial mosques, where you’ll have more time to appreciate its architectural grandeur and decoration.

Plan your visits to avoid prayer times so as not to disturb worshippers. Mosques may be closed to visits then. Also, here’s etiquette for mosque visits: how to dress and act when you visit any Turkish mosque.

Süleymaniye Mosque

Largest of Istanbul‘s imperial mosques, the Süleymaniye is as impressive—or more so—than the Blue Mosque. A bonus: the splendid tombs of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent and his wife Hürrem Sultan (Roxelana). More…

Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque

Best-known and most conveniently-visited of Istanbul’s imperial mosques, it’s also the most crowded. Visit it if you must, but spend some quality time in another imperial mosque as well. More…

Yeni Valide Mosque

Conveniently located right next to the Egyptian (Spice) Bazaar in Eminönü, you’re sure to see this splendid mosque from the outside as you pass through, so take the time to go inside. The decoration is breathtaking, the colored tiles a lot easier to see than those in the Blue Mosque. More…

Mihrimah Sultan Mosque

One of my favorites, this beautiful—and beautifully-restored—mosque out by the Chora Church and City Walls is wonderfully feminine, having been built by a princess, Mihrimah Sultan, daughter of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. More…

Sultan Beyazıt Mosque

Conveniently located in Beyazıt Square next to Istanbul University and the Grand Bazaar, the Beyazıt Camii is currently (2013) under restoration. More…

Fatih Mosque of the Conqueror

The smaller Mosque of Mehmet the Conqueror (Fatih Camii) is the landmark in the traditional Fatih district of Istanbul. It’s a favorite with the pious Muslims of the district, and a good place to see Islamic daily life.

Grand Mecidiye (Ortaköy) Mosque

Commonly called the Ortaköy Mosque, the Grand Imperial Mosque of Sultan Abdülmecid I is a late example of the architecture (1854), but this Ottoman Baroque gem occupies one of the most striking sites in Istanbul, right on the European shore of the Bosphorus in the village of Ortaköy. More…

—by Tom Brosnahan


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