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Blue Mosque Istanbul

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The Blue Mosque in Istanbul was built by Sultan Ahmed I (1603-1617) at the request of Sedefkar Mehmed Agha, the chief architect of the period. The complex, built between 1018 and 1029 (1609-1620), consisted of a mosque, khunkar pavilion, sanatorium, madrasah, arasta, bathhouse, darussif (with mazhid and bathhouse), imaret and amire (kitchen, bakery, storehouse, dining room), inn, darukkur, shrine, fountains, stores, rooms, cellars, coffee houses and houses. Among these buildings no cellars, coffee houses, houses, daroussifa (except the bath), an inn, some stores and three fountains have survived. The complex observes a free plan. The buildings of the complex, not symmetrically located, were placed taking into account the topography, the position of the land and the monuments of the Atmeidana. Although the buildings of the complex seem disorganized at first glance, they form a unity with their functions. The mosque and the Hyunkar pavilion adjoining it from the southeast corner are located in a large outer courtyard. There are three gates on the walls of the outer courtyard in the north, east and west directions and two gates in the south direction. The gate on the west has recently been blocked and closed. To the south of the courtyard are the arasta, rooms, bathhouse, fountain and fountainhead. To the east of the courtyard is a school and to the north of it is a madrasa. The darulkurra and the mausoleum in the northeast corner are enclosed by a separate wall around the perimeter. In the corner of the tomb facing Atmeidana, a muvakkithane is built instead of a fountain. Again, in the direction facing Atmeydana, there are external courtyard gates and fountains in addition to several stores. At the end of Atmeydana Street in the direction of the Sea of Marmara (on the spandrel wall of the Hippodrome) the terrace houses the kitchen, bakery, pantry, refectory, dining room, tabkhana, rooms, houses and stores from the darussif and imaret buildings.

Blue Mosque Istanbul
Blue Mosque Istanbul Interior


The Sultan Ahmed Mosque has one main dome, six minarets and eight secondary domes. The design is the result of two centuries of Ottoman mosque development. It combines some Christian elements of the nearby Hagia Sophia with traditional Islamic architecture and is considered the last great mosque of the classical period. The architect Sedefkar Mehmed Agha synthesized the ideas of the master Mimar Sinan, striving for grandeur, power and splendor.

Inner facade

On the lower floors and on each pier, the interior of the mosque was made in Iznik (formerly Nicaea) in more than fifty different tulip patterns. It is lined with more than 20,000 handmade Iznik-style ceramics. The tiles on the lower floors are in traditional Anatolian designs, while the gallery floor features floral, fruit and cypress patterns. The ceramics were made in Iznik by the hands of the best craftsmen. The price to be paid for each pottery was determined and paid by sultan’s decree. Each pottery had its own art. On the upper floors, the interior is dominated by blue colors. There are more than 200 windows with intricate patterns that receive natural light today, complemented by chandeliers. Ostrich eggs lie in front of the chandeliers to ward off spiders and prevent cobwebs from appearing inside the mosque. The decorations include Quranic verses, many of which were written by Sayyid Qasim Gubari, considered the finest master calligrapher.

The floors are covered with mumin donated carpets, which are regularly replaced as they wear out. Very large windows give the impression of spaciousness. The floor is decorated with the finest rugs. There are five windows in each corner, some of which are blind. There are 14 windows in each half-dome and 28 in the central dome (four of which are blind). The colored glass for the windows was a gift from the Sultan to the Signoria of Venice, which was specially made. Most of these colored windows have been replaced by modern versions, which no longer have much artistic value.


The most important element inside the mosque is the mihrab, made of carved marble, with a suspended niche and a panel with a double inscription. It is surrounded by many windows. The adjoining walls are covered with ceramic tiles. To the right of the mihrab is an ornate pulpit where the imam stands, preaching during midday prayers or on holy days. The mosque is designed so that everyone in it can see and hear the imam even in the most crowded times.

Many of the lamps in the mosque were once covered with gold and precious stones. Among the glass bowls were ostrich eggs and crystal balls. All of these decorations have been removed for museums. Wonderful tablets on the walls are inscribed with the names of caliphs and verses from the Koran. They were originally made by the 17th century calligrapher Seyyid Qasim Gubari in Diyarbakir but have been restored several times.


The façade of the large front courtyard was constructed in the same way as that of the Sulaymaniye Mosque, with the addition of turrets on the corner domes. The inner courtyard is as large as the mosque itself and is surrounded by a multidome bazaar. There are ablution places on both sides. The central hexagonal fountain is small compared to the courtyard. The monumental but narrow passage leading into the courtyard stands out architecturally against the background of the bazaar. Its half-dome has a slender stalactite structure, which is crowned by a small fluted dome on a long silobate. The Historical Elementary School (Sibyan Mektebi) is used as the “Mosque Information Center” which is adjacent to the side wall of Hagia Sophia. It is here that they offer visitors a free introductory presentation about the Blue Mosque and Islam in general. Above the entrance to the courtyard on the west side hangs a heavy iron chain. Only the Sultan was allowed to enter the mosque courtyard on horseback. The chain was installed in such a way that the sultan had to bow his head every time he entered the courtyard to avoid hitting his head. This was a symbolic gesture designed to ensure humble behavior before the Deity.