A visit to the Blue Mosque (or officially the Sultan Ahmed Mosque) will cost you no money and little time, but will leave you with a great insight into the muslim culture and a desire to mosaic all the ceilings and walls of your home. Arguably the most photogenic building in Istanbul, the mosque was the grand design of Sultan
Ahmet I (r 1603–17) during the Ottoman Empire. It was his idea to build
an imperial mosque over the site of the bygone hippodrome which served as the
social center for the capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople.
Upon first arriving in the Sultanahmet precinct, the mosque’s exterior will wow you with its cascade of domes and six slender minarets. It is these six minarets that make the mosque especially unique among all other mosques, as only a few mosques can lay claim to having more, with no mosque having more than the seven minarets in the mosque in Mecca. The best spot to appreciate the exterior of the building up close is in the courtyard placed inside the entrance via the Hippodrome (rather than Sultanahmet park). The courtyard, which is the same size as the mosque’s interior, is especially stunning in the morning or evening hours as the acute angle of the sun casts shadows through the arches of the courtyard. The entrance located in the courtyard is also conveniently the only entrance where tourists can enter, with the main door on the Sultanahmet side being limited to use only by worshippers. Visiting times are a bit all over the place, with the mosque being closed to visitors during the 5 daily prayers times and Friday sermon, but signs are posted around the courtyard and entrances clearly detailing entrance times for tourists. When/if you decide that you’ve seen enough of the mosaic haven, exit through Sultanahmet Park and enjoy the view whilst celebrating the beautiful things in life looking back towards the mosque from the fountain pool.
How to get there:
If not staying in the Sultanahmet precinct, the easiest way to reach the mosque is to take the tram from your closest station to the Sultanahmet tram station (on the T1 line). Once alighting the tram you will be able to see the Blue Mosque adorning the skyline (alongside the Hagia Sophia). To catch the tram just pop 4 lira into the Jetonmatik (located at all tram stations) where you will be given a token in exchange which you just need to pop into the ticket gate to reach the platform. If you need to take connecting trams you will need an extra token for each extra tram. You can find the tram map here.