Istanbul is well known for its magnificent mosques. Their domes and minarets dominate the skyline of the old parts of the city and quite a few of them allow non-Muslim visitors to take a look inside and admire their intricately decorated walls and ceilings.
Here are four of the most popular ones:
Blue Mosque (built 1609 –1616)
The Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque is probably the most famous landmark in Istanbul.
Here is the exquisite interior.
This building is much older having started out life as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral in 537. It served as a mosque from 1453 until 1931, since when it has been a museum. It is a very popular tourist destination and queues can extend right round the block at peak times. Rather than queuing, pop down a side entrance to the garden of the Hagia Sophia where the tombs of former Ottoman rulers and their close relatives are located. There are three large mausoleums and one small mausoleum with elaborately decorated interiors. There are no crowds here and entrance is free unlike the main museum.
Rustem Paşa Mosque (built 1561-1563)
This small mosque is built above the vaulted shops of the Straw Weavers’ Market, not far from the Egyptian (Spice) Bazaar.
The mosque is named after the Grand Vizier Rustem Pasha who was son-in-law to Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent (Grand Vizier has to be my favourite job title!) The mosque is famous for its blue iznik decorative tiles.
Suleymaniye Mosque (built 1550-1557)
This mosque, named after Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, is considered by many to be the greatest mosque in Istanbul and its hilltop position ensures that it is visible from all parts of the city. It was extensively refurbished in 1956.