Hagia Sophia and Things to do in Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey - Things to do in Santa Sophia and Istanbul

Things to do in Istanbul

For so many years, I have wanted to go to Istanbul City. I never really had an idea about what it would be like, but knew that it was a right dab in the middle of the East and the West.  Straddling both Europe and Asia, making it the only city in the world to sit across two continents.  Somehow, Istanbul City has managed to retain its character through centuries of successive change.

Wander the Streets of Istanbul City

The sights and sounds that are Istanbul City are so difficult to explain, as I tried to thru my Journey thru the Streets of Istanbul photographs.  At first, I was so overwhelmed with the mass difference from the USA, that I had a hard time describing my emotions and thoughts about this place.  It has taken me awhile to get them into words. When you visit,  there are the “must see sights”.

Visit Chora Church

But the one thing that struck a chord with me more than any other place I visited was the Chora Church.  Maybe it is because I am Christian and I was in a Muslim world and everything was so starkly different than what I am used to.

Chora Church, Istanbul, Turkey But I have to tell you, as a Christian, there was no other place that was more mesmerizing than Chora Church.  Simply the taxi ride from our hotel on the Bosphorus in Istanbul City to the Chora Church made my mind wander. My fingers clicking every other second on my camera, as there was a photo opportunity around every corner.

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Sometimes, I feel like I could take that ride over and over again and never really describe the cab ride up the mountain to Chora Church. Upon arrival, I was almost questioning as to whether or not this was really the place, as it didn’t seem like it could be something spectacular.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.  It was the highlight of the trip for me.  Of course, I enjoyed the vendors of traditional ceramics, art and Turkish souvenirs before the entry, but the exterior did not reveal as to the magnificent interior gem inside. I was stunned upon entry, as this was no ordinary church.  I was utterly speechless, so make sure on your trip to Istanbul you don’t miss this place.

Things to do in Istanbul

Santa Sophia Istanbul

Hagia Sophia (known by many other names, like Santa Sophia Istanbul, Santa Sophia, Aghya Sophia, Aye Sophia or simply Sophia)

The Hagia Sophia (Greek) or Aya Sofia (Turkish), or Santa Sophia is a former Byzantine church that became a mosque in Ottoman times and became a museum in 1935.  This former church, later mosque, now museum turned 1,478 years old in 2015.

Santa Sophia Istanbul

Once you are inside, don’t rush to walk through the large bronze doors, which offer glimpses of the interior, but linger in the passage way.

Santa Sophia Istanbul

Santa Sophia Istanbul

The entrance known as the Imperial Gate was the entrance used only by the emperors. Above it, is the Imperial Gate Mosaics dating from the 9th or 10th century.  Look closely at the image above the door, it depicts the emperor of the time bowing down before Jesus Christ.

 

At the ground level, most things have an Islamic background. In the apse of the mihrab (semi-circular niche in an Islamic building) is a marble structure indicating the direction of Mecca. At the upper level there are many Christian sights, like a mosaic of the Virgin and Child, and so it is quite a contradiction and yet a joining of religions and cultures. I was even more amazed to notice that the Mecca-pointing Mihrab was nestled just off center from the orientation of the Christian apse itself.

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

In the world we live in today, with so much focus on ideological contrast and conflict, the two juxtapositions against each other was mesmerizing, as we each stood there in awe, Christians and Muslims together, staring at its beauty.

Santa Sophia Istanbul

The Santa Sophia Istanbul was actually constructed in 3 phases (beginning in 360 A.D.) and the structure that you see today was completed in 537 A.D. It was a Greek church, in what was then the new capital of the Roman Empire.

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul Turkey

When the Ottoman army conquered Constantinople in 1453, the building was quickly converted into a mosque. That helped to serve a goal – to place the firm stamp of Islam upon the city without completely disenfranchising the majority Christian population of Istanbul at the time; while preserving one of the world’s architectural wonders.

The Santa Sophia Istanbul was the largest cathedral in the world for hundreds of years and today the museum is Istanbul’s second most visited site. (Topkapi Palace is first, but honestly if pressed for time go with the Santa Sophia Istanbul.)

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

 

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

 

 

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

 

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

 

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Santa Sophia Istanbul Information:

You can visit all days of the week except Monday’s and the entrance fee is 25 Turkish lira (~$14).

I recommend taking your time to wander around this area which has seen the passing of 3 intercontinental empires, a world war, and the birth of the world’s first secular and democratic Muslim-majority nation.

Things to do in Istanbul

Don’t forget to visit the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, the Chora Church, Galata Tower and Bridge, and the Basilica Cistern.

Things to do in Istanbul

Grand Baazar

Things to do in Istanbul

Grand Baazar

Oh, and Discover those Istanbul cats!

Istanbul Cats

Istanbul Cats

Istanbul Cats

Istanbul Cats

And If you can catch Istanbul City on Republic Day, you are in for a spectacular fireworks show like you have never seen in your life!

The flags of Istanbul, Turkey

The flags of Istanbul, Turkey

Amazing fireworks show on the Bosporus river in Istanbul, Turkey

Amazing fireworks show on the Bosporus river in Istanbul, Turkey

Other Articles about Istanbul, Turkey:

Chora Church

Republic Day in Istanbul

The Cats of Istanbul

Cistern Istanbul 

 More street scenes from Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

2018-11-27T12:17:36+00:00

7 Comments

  1. Monica Suma January 31, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    Istanbul is lovely. I had the same feeling, I’ve wanted to visit ever since I can remember and this summer I confirmed it truly is amazing. I’m not the biggest fan of Hagia Sophia, not sure why, but am fascinated in general by the Middle Eastern culture.

    • admin January 31, 2013 at 8:18 pm

      I hope you get to visit! It is an experience. Tonight I was writing a post about the difference between traveling and being a tourist. One of my thoughts was that I want to go on an adventure, a journey. Not a tour. It seems to me that is what you have to do in Istanbul. Oh, and don’t miss Chora Church!! (see my post on this one!)

      • Monica Suma January 31, 2013 at 8:25 pm

        Oh, I did see Istanbul, that’s why I said I wasn’t the biggest fan of Hagia Sophia. I wrote a few posts about it as well. But I don’t think I saw Chora Church.

        • admin January 31, 2013 at 8:49 pm

          Sorry, I misunderstood, thinking you had not been there. But I now understand that you visited the Hagia Sophia. I loved Chora Church, IMHO (in my humble opinion) it is the #1 reason to visit Istanbul.

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