Table of Contents
The Hagia Sophia is one of the most popular sights in Istanbul, and for good reason – it’s an incredible place!
If you’re planning a trip to Istanbul, make sure to put the Hagia Sophia on your list of must-sees.
Guided Hagia Sophia tickets are relatively inexpensive, and there are a few different ways to buy them. You can purchase tickets at the door, or in advance online. We recommend buying your tickets online ahead of time to avoid any lines or crowds at the attraction. Trust us, visiting the Hagia Sophia is an experience you won’t want to miss!
Buying tickets for to the Hagia Sophia
However, buying Hagia Sophia tickets can be a bit confusing, especially if you’re not familiar with the city or how Turkish ticketing works.
To save you some trouble (and help you make the most of your trip!), here’s a quick guide on how to buy tickets to see the Hagia Sophia. The first thing you need to know is that there are two types of tickets: a regular and free entrance ticket and a guided tour ticket.
The regular free entrance ticket will gain you access to the Hagia Sophia, but doesn’t include any information or guidance about the building itself. On the other hand, the guided tour ticket includes an audio guide as well as access to certain parts of the Hagia Sophia that are usually closed off to visitors. If you’re looking to learn more about the history and story behind this incredible piece of architecture, we recommend going with the guided tour option!
However, if you’re short on time or just want to explore at your own pace, then getting a regular entrance ticket would suffice.
Good to know about visiting Hagia Sophia
Purchasing Hagia Sophia tickets is a simple process, but there are a few things you should keep in mind before you buy.
First and foremost, it’s important to know that the Hagia Sophia is closed on Mondays.
Secondly, admission to the Hagia Sophia is free, unless you would like to have a guide, telling you more about this beautiful building and its history.
Then we recommend buying a tour in advance online. Not only will this save you time, but it’ll also allow you to take advantage of discounted rates for groups of 10 or more people. So how do you purchase tickets online?
Decide how many tickets you need. Then simply fill out your contact information and hit “submit.” It’s that easy!
If you want to visit other nearby attractions like the Topkapi Palace or the Sunken Palace, then you’ll need to purchase a multi-site ticket.
Once you have your ticket, simply show it to the security guard at the entrance and enjoy your visit!
For guided tours you’ll have a free admission for children under 2 years old. Discounted ticket prices for children 3 to 7 years old (with valid photo ID). Audio guides available depending on the ticket option booked.
Hagia Sophia Highlight Tour with Guide and Audio Guide App
This is a ticket for an exclusive, guided VIP tour of the Hagia Sophia. Book your Hagia Sophia Tour online now and enjoy the Highlights Tour with included Audio Guide App!
- Bestseller Tour
- Instant Confirmation
- Free Cancelation
- Directly Available
How the Hagia Sophia visit works
After you place your order, you will receive a confirmation with the meeting point and details for downloading the Hagia Sophia Audio App. Your Istanbul Welcome Card guide will meet you at the Hagia Sophia and escort you inside for a 30 minute tour, providing essential historical information along the way. After the tour, feel free to ask your guide anything about the Hagia Sophia, Byzantine Empire or Istanbul. You’ll also receive a Hagia Sophia map so that you can explore on your own and learn more through audio commentary on your smartphone app.
You won’t be able to cut the security line. During high season, the security check can take up to 30 minutes.
Be flexible – You determine the start time and pace
Individual Travel – You don’t dependent on a group!
Combi ticket: Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Sunken Palace Basilica Cistern and Audio Guide App
You may cancel these Hagia Sophia tickets up to 24 hours prior to the start of the experience to receive a full refund.
This VIP combo ticket will save you time and money as it allows you to easily visit Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Sunken Palace. After your reservation, you will receive a confirmation with meeting places and times, as well as download details for the Audio Apps. Your guide will meet you in front of Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and the Basilica Cistern. You will skip the ticket lines (except Hagia Sophia) and enjoy a 30 min highlights tour with a licensed local tour guide inside each museum. Afterwards, you can stay at each sight as long as you want and listen to exciting stories in your included audio guide apps on your smartphone.
Combo ticket Istanbul is valid for 3 days
You can visit all 3 museums in 1 day or at different days. Your name will be on our list for 3 days. You can come at the available times, to our meeting points and visit with your Istanbul Welcome Card guide these top museums.
You can skip ticket lines with guides, but can not skip the security line.
Be flexible – You determine the start time and pace
Individual Travel – You don’t dependent on a group!
Sunken Palace: Quick entry with highlights tour + audio guide
– Quick admission to the Sunken Palace
– English speaking tour guide
– Audio guide
Cancellation deadline: You may cancel these tickets up to 24 hours prior to the start of the experience to receive a full refund.
This is a VIP ticket for the Basilica Cistern. Buy it online to save time by skipping the long ticket lines. Plus, you’ll get a highlights tour and an audio guide app!
Afterwards, you can spend as much time as you want indoors, listening to the informative audio guide app on your smartphone, and discovering the Basilica Cistern at your own pace.
Hagia Sophia visitor information
Hagia Sophia is situated in the European side of Istanbul, in the Sultanahmet district (Old City), close to Topkapi Palace. It’s only a few minutes’ walk from the hotels in Sultanahmet. Istanbul International Airport is 20 km away.
Hagia Sophia is open every day except Mondays.
April 15-Oct 1 it is open 9 am-7 pm with last admission at 6 pm;
Oct 1-April 15 it is open 9am-5pm with last entry at 4pm.
Hagia Sophia closes for Ramadan and Eid Ul Adha holidays.
Is the Hagia Sophia barrier-free?
The first floor is accessible for wheelchair users.
However, the upper floor is not accessible due to the many steps and cobblestones.
Is photography allowed in Hagia Sophia?
Yes, photography is allowed inside the Hagia Sophia.
However, the use of tripods is prohibited.
Is there a dress code to follow at Hagia Sophia?
Yes, since it is a religious site, all visitors are expected to dress modestly. If possible, shorts and sleeveless tops should not be worn.
Women must wear a headscarf to enter the mosque. Free headscarves can be found near the entrance.
In addition, visitors must leave their shoes outside.
More useful information about the Hagia Sophia
Over time, Hagia Sophia has withstood numerous events and disasters, such as the fall of powerful civilizations, fires or earthquakes.
Today, this landmark hides plenty of fascinating stories. What started as the Church of St. Sophia eventually became the Hagia Sophia Mosque, then it was run as a museum and after some time it was converted back into a mosque.
Find out what makes this famous landmark so special here:
Hagia Sophia is one of those places that always seems to have something new to offer. No matter how many times you visit there’s always some fresh secret waiting to be uncovered. It’s part church, part mosque – but its rich history means that there’s much more to learn about this place than meets the eye.
Let us take you on a tour through some of the most interesting facts and figures surrounding Hagia Sophia…
Extraordinary architecture and short construction time of Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia was built in an incredibly short amount of time – only six years! The architects who designed it were ahead of their time, using knowledge of mechanics and mathematics that was unusual for the era.
The building itself is a completely original design, combining features of a longitudinal basilica and a centralized building. It has a huge, 32-meter main dome that hangs from the ceiling, as well as two semidomes (half-domes) on either side of the longitudinal axis. In terms of its layout, the building is almost square. It has three aisles, which are separated by columns.
There are also galleries above the aisles, and large marble pillars that support the dome. The walls above the galleries and the base of the dome have windows that let in natural light. This hides the columns during the day, giving the impression that the canopy is floating in mid-air.
Hagia Sophia Architecture
Hagia Sophia is an awe-inspiring architectural achievement and the first of its kind in Byzantine architecture. It remained the largest cathedral in the world until Seville Cathedral was built. The vestibule located outside the eastern part of the atrium is currently closed off.
To access the inner atrium, there are five doors one can enter through. From this vestibule, there are nine doors leading into the nave itself. Access to upper galleries is made possible by ramps – a common feature among Constantinople churches under construction during that time period.
Hagia Sophia Mosaics
The Hagia Sophia was beautifully decorated with mosaics during the Byzantine period, depicting the Virgin Mary, Jesus, saints and emperors or empresses. The history of the earliest mosaics is unknown, as many of them were destroyed or covered during the storming of the cathedral. The mosaics reached their peak during the reigns of Basil I and Constantine VII. During the Fourth Crusade in 1204, the Latin Crusaders looted many Byzantine buildings, including Hagia Sophia. Many beautiful mosaics were removed and shipped to Venice.
After the Ottoman occupation of Constantinople in 1453 and the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, the mosaics were whitewashed or plastered. With the restoration of the Fosatti brothers in 1847, the mosaics were uncovered. But they remained covered until 1931, when a restoration program began under the direction of Thomas Whittemore.
In 1934, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk ordered that Hagia Sophia become a museum. The restoration and expansion then took place. However, many of the great mosaics uncovered by the Fosatti brothers were probably destroyed with the 1894 earthquake.
Tunnel of the Hagia Sophia
According to legend, Hagia Sophia was important for the Vatican. There were tunnels leading from Hagia Sophia to the Princes Islands (Kinaliada). The underground tunnels ran through the city of Constantinople. The huge cistern was located underground.
The tunnels under Hagia Sophia reached the hidden rooms with secret writings that were hidden there during the sieges. Researchers revealed some tombs under the Hagia Sophia. Among them were the tombs of St. Antinegos, the first person to be buried in Hagia Sophia, and Patriarch Athanasius.
Leading to Sultanahmet Square and Topkapi Palace are two narrow corridors about 70 centimeters high, possibly used by Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II as a hidden escape route to avoid being seen by citizens in times of danger or strife.
History of Hagia Sophia
The first church on the site of Hagia Sophia was probably built by Constantine I in 325, on the foundations of a pagan temple. His son, Constantius II, consecrated it in 360. It was damaged in 404 by a fire that broke out during a riot, after the second exile of St. John Chrysostom, who was then the patriarch of Constantinople.
The church was rebuilt and enlarged by the Roman Emperor Constans I, and then rededicated by Theodosius II in 415. During the Nika revolt of January 532, the church was burned down again. Justinian I used this as an opportunity to build an even more magnificent replacement.
Today’s structure is essentially the same as the building from the 6th century, although an earthquake caused a partial collapse of the dome in 558 (which was then restored in 562). There were two other partial collapses after that, after which the structure was rebuilt smaller and reinforced from the outside.
For more than a millennium, it served as the cathedral of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. However, it was sacked by the Venetians and Crusaders in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade.
After Constantinople was conquered by the Turks in 1453, Mehmed II had the church converted into a mosque. A wooden minaret, large chandelier, mihrab (niche indicating the direction of Mecca), and minbar (pulpit) were added. The red minaret at the southeast corner of the building was most likely built by Mehmed II or his son Bayezid II. The narrow white minaret on the northeast side of the mosque was built by Bayezid II. The two identical minarets on the west side were commissioned by Selim II or Murad III and built by Ottoman architect Sinan in the 1500s.
The building was converted into a museum in 1935 by Turkish President Kemal Ataturk. Art historians believe the building’s beautiful mosaics provide critical insight into the state of mosaic art in the period just after the end of the iconoclastic controversy in the 8th and 9th centuries.
Hagia Sophia is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, which also includes other historical buildings and sites in Istanbul, such as the Blue Mosque.