Istanbul Hagia Sophia in the Evening View

How to Visit Hagia Sophia in Istanbul ?

Visiting the iconic Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is a journey back through the annals of history, an experience that resonates with the echoes of empires and faiths that have shaped our world. If you’re planning a trip to this majestic marvel, here’s your guide to making the most of your visit.

Istanbul Hagia Sophia Inside View

Istanbul Hagia Sophia Inside View

The Hagia Sophia was built in 537 AD by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I as a Christian cathedral. It has been a prominent landmark in Constantinople, now Istanbul, for centuries. After the Ottoman conquest in 1453, it was converted into a mosque by Mehmed the Conqueror. In 1935, it was secularized by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, and converted into a museum. Hagia Sophia Museum accepted visitors until it was converted back into a mosque in 2020. Despite the change in status, it continued to be open to visitors of all faiths and backgrounds, without an entrance fee. Starting from January 15, 2024, new access rules will apply to ensure that both Turkish citizens and international visitors can fully enjoy their visit to this iconic site.

Turkish Citizens: As per the latest regulation announced by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Turkish citizens can enter the lower section of Hagia Sophia for worship without a fee. This section is primarily designated for religious activities.

Foreign Visitors: For foreign tourists, an entry fee of 25 Euros is required to access the upper gallery, which functions as a museum. This fee allows you to explore the rich collection of Byzantine mosaics and Ottoman architectural additions, providing a glimpse into the historical and cultural evolution of Hagia Sophia. However, please note that this ticket does not grant access to the main worship area on the ground floor.

Istanbul Hagia Sophia and Bosphorus View

Istanbul Hagia Sophia and Bosphorus View

Special Access During Prayer Times

During designated prayer times, foreign visitors who are Muslim can enter the main prayer area through the main gate on Hagia Sophia Square, free of charge, to participate in prayers. This option is only available during prayer times, and it is important to arrive early to ensure entry.


New Entry Point and Ticket Purchases

According to new rules January 15, 2024, visitors can access Hagia Sophia Gallery via a temporary entrance located opposite the Ahmed Fountain, near the Imperial Gate of the Topkapı Palace, also known as the “Bâb-ı Hümâyun.” There, you will find the ticket office for purchase your entry tickets. After entering, you will be guided up a ramp to the gallery level. You can explore the sanctuary floor of the mosque and view the additional structures from the Ottoman period.

Important: ICOMOS, IPC, and press cards are not valid for entry into the Hagia Sophia. Children under 8 years old are admitted free of charge if accompanied by an adult and presenting a valid passport or identity document.

Visiting Hours

Hagia Sophia welcomes visitors daily from 09:00 AM to 07:30 PM. Please note that on Fridays, the visiting area of the mosque will be closed from 12:30 PM to 02:30 PM due to Friday prayers. Make sure to plan your visit accordingly to avoid these times.


Most Recommended Istanbul Tours


hagia sophia museum istanbul1. Getting There

Located in the heart of Istanbul’s historic peninsula, Hagia Sophia is easily accessible by public transportation. Sultanahmet tram stop is your gateway to this historical site, with Hagia Sophia just a short walk away. If you’re staying in the city center, walking to the square will be a pleasant option, as it allows you to discover the vibrant street life of Istanbul.

2. Best Times to Visit

To avoid the crowds and enjoy a more serene experience, aim to visit early in the morning or during the weekdays. The site tends to be busiest on weekends and during religious holidays. Considering Istanbul’s climate, spring and autumn are ideal seasons to visit, offering less rainfall and mild weather..

3. Dress Code

As Hagia Sophia is a place of worship, visitors are expected to dress modestly. Men should wear pants and shirts with sleeves, while women should cover their heads, shoulders, and knees. Scarves are often available at the entrance if you need one.

4. Photography Tips

Photography is allowed inside Hagia Sophia, but tripods and flash are prohibited. The interior is dimly lit, so a camera with good low-light performance is recommended. Capture the stunning mosaics and the grandeur of the dome — just be mindful not to disturb those who are there to pray.

5. Explore the Surroundings

Hagia Sophia is part of a larger historic complex that includes the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and the Basilica Cistern — all within walking distance. Allocate a full day to explore these sites thoroughly.

Istanbul Hagia Sophia Inside View

Istanbul Hagia Sophia Inside View

6. Local Eats

No visit to Istanbul is complete without trying some local cuisine. There are numerous eateries around Hagia Sophia offering traditional Turkish dishes like kebabs, baklava, and Turkish delight. For a quick bite, don’t miss out on sampling a simit (a sesame-encrusted bread ring) from a street vendor.

7. Cultural Etiquette

Understanding a bit of Turkish etiquette can go a long way. A simple “Merhaba” (hello) or “Teşekkür ederim” (thank you) can warm interactions with locals. Also, when entering a mosque, it’s customary to remove your shoes, so wear something easy to slip off.

8. Souvenirs and Shopping

Near Hagia Sophia, the Arasta Bazaar and the Grand Bazaar offer a plethora of shopping opportunities, from handmade carpets and jewelry to spices and ceramics. Bargaining is expected, so don’t hesitate to negotiate on prices.


9. Tours for Hagia Sophia

Enhance your experience at Hagia Sophia with guided tours that introduce you to its rich history and architectural marvels.

Opt for a private tour led by knowledgeable guides who can give you an insight into the significance of each section of the monument. They offer a tailored experience that you can explore at your own pace while benefiting from the experts’ commentary.

Look out for combination tours that include visits to nearby attractions such as Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque to maximize your time and cultural immersion in Istanbul’s fascinating cultural heritage.

With a Best of Istanbul Tour you are sure to find the perfect way to discover the wonders of Hagia Sophia and its surroundings.


Visiting Hagia Sophia is more than just a tick on your travel bucket list; it’s a deep dive into a crossroads of history and culture. Prepare well, respect the local customs, and you’re sure to have a memorable experience delving into the heart of Istanbul’s rich heritage. Happy travels!

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