Sultan Ahmed Mosque – Blue Mosque

Sultan Ahmet I’s great architectural gift to his capital was this beautiful mosque, now commonly known as the Blue Mosque. His wish was for the building to surpass the Hagia Sophia mosque, which stood directly opposite.

The Blue Mosque thus became the largest mosque in Istanbul. The building is made up of a cascade of houses together with slender minarets rising to the heavens.

Until the time of Ahmed I, it was customary for each sultan to build a mosque bearing his name, and it had as many balconies as the order of sultans of the dynasty that the sultan was in. As the sixteenth sultan, the mosque had 16 balconies.

It was built between 1609 and 1616 and caused a stir throughout the Muslim world when it was completed because it had six minarets (the same number as the Grand Mosque in Mecca). An ordinary mosque could have one minaret, and a sultan’s mosque two to four. Until then, only a mosque in Mecca could have six minarets. Thus, Sultan Ahmed I is said to have had to add a seventh minaret in Mecca to maintain primacy and silence dissenting voices.

The mosque gets its nickname from the interior decoration of tens of thousands of Iznik tiles. The concept of space and the color effects of the interior make the mosque one of the greatest achievements of Ottoman architecture.

Wandering through the gardens between the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia is one of the unforgettable experiences when visiting Istanbul.

If you want to experience the magic of this place even more intensely, come at dusk when the call to prayer is heard.

Arasta Bazaar is located directly behind the Blue Mosque; a great place for a shopping stop as the craft shops here sell high-quality souvenirs.

Even if you’re not interested in sightseeing, head here to check out the Grand Palace Mosaic Museum, which is tucked between the Arasta Bazaar and the mosque.

This small museum displays a fragment of a 250 square-meter mosaic floor that was discovered here in the 1950s. Information panels explain the restoration of the mosaic floor.