Places to Visit Around Hagia Sophia

Right in the heart of Istanbul lies a living testimony of the Turkish capital’s wildly fascinating past as the coveted capital city of three great empires. The Hagia Sophia, the most distinguished landmark of Istanbul, is deemed one of the world’s greatest monuments. There are several iconic places to visit near Hagia Sophia which are testament to the vivid past of the city. Remnants of the Byzantine era can be found in the Basilica Cistern, which is Istanbul’s largest surviving Byzantine Cistern. The nine-storeyed Galata Tower dates back to the mediaeval era of the Byzantines and is one of the oldest towers in the world.

As the seat of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul has numerous iconic structures constructed by different Sultans of the powerful dynasty. Witness the magnificence of Turkey’s largest mono-block palace and Istanbul’s first European-style palace at the Dolmabahce Palace. Prepare to be awed by the stunning blue interiors of the last great mosque of the classical period, the iconic Blue Mosque.

Experience the lively spirit of the ancient city come to life at the Byzantine-era hippodrome, Sultanahmet Square. And after a day full of sightseeing, shop to your heart’s content at the world’s largest covered market, the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul.

Dolmabahce Palace
Dolmabahce Palace

One of the most popular places to visit near Hagia Sophia, is the Dolmabahce Palace, Turkey's largest mono-block palace and Istanbul’s first European-style palace. The 19th-century palace combines Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassical styles with classic Ottoman elements in its interiors.

Its land was originally a bay that was reclaimed and transformed into a grand palace. The two-wing arrangement is adorned extensively with gold and crystal and houses the world’s largest collection of Bohemian and Baccarat crystal chandeliers. The seat of the last Ottoman Sultans and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk currently has on display a valuable collection of oil paintings.

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Galata Tower
Galata Tower

Adorning the Istanbul skyline is the Galata Tower, one of the oldest towers in the world. The nine-storeyed structure is among the most visited places near Hagia Sophia. Originally constructed as a watchtower, it currently stands as a museum narrating Istanbul’s glorious history. The tower offers stunning panoramic views of the Turkish capital city and its magnificent attractions. Offering an iconic conical roof on top of the Tower, along with its stunning purple and blue shades, make Galata Tower one of the most distinguishable landmarks of Istanbul.

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Blue Mosque Istanbul
Blue Mosque Istanbul

A stunning architectural marvel in the heart of Istanbul, the Blue Mosque is among the must-visit places near Hagia Sophia. Constructed so it would surpass Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque combines the traditional Islamic architecture of the Ottomans with Byzantine architectural elements. This last great mosque of the classical period has five main domes, eight secondary domes, and six minarets. The Blue Mosque’s interiors are adorned with more than 20,000 blue Iznik tiles that showcase traditional Ottoman motifs and are the reason behind its name. Lit up by more than 200 stained glass windows and gorgeous chandeliers, the Blue Mosque is a beautiful sight to behold.

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Basilica Cistern
Basilica Cistern

One of the oldest places to visit near Hagia Sophia, the subterranean Basilica Cistern dates back to 532 CE. Istanbul’s largest surviving Byzantine cistern had 336 columns, several of which have finely carved capitals. The huge cistern was forgotten when the Byzantines relocated from their Great Palace and was later discovered by the Ottomans who made it a dumping ground for junk and corpses.

Currently one of Istanbul’s most popular attractions and among the must-visit places near Hagia Sophia, the Basilica was renovated and opened to tourists in the 1980s. A walk along the raised wooden platforms of the cistern with water dripping from the vaulted ceiling is an unmatched experience.

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Sultanahmet Square
Sultanahmet Square

Constructed as a Byzantine hippodrome in the 4th century, Sultanahmet Square today has several renowned historical attractions like the German Fountain, Colossus, Serpentine Column, and the Egyptian Obelisk.

This place near Hagia Sophia has a peaceful yet lively atmosphere and leads visitors to Istanbul’s most famous landmarks, historical places, fountains, museums, churches, mosques, and restaurants. Some popular attractions that can be explored on foot or seen from a distance from Sultanahmet Square include the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern, and Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts.

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Grand Bazaar of Istanbul
Grand Bazaar of Istanbul

Witness the grandeur of the Ottomans come alive in the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, which is among the world’s most popular tourist attractions. Among the must-visit places near Hagia Sophia, the Bazaar is the world’s largest covered market and dates back to the mid-fifteenth century. The Bazaar has 64 streets and small lanes, which house more than 4,000 shops and are like a mini city with a post office, mosque, banks, and police station. The market has a variety of objects on offer, ranging from Turkey’s famous carpets, kilims, lamps, lanterns, ceramics, metalware, nargile, jewellery, spices and Turkish delights.

Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace, adjacent to the iconic Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, is a historical gem. This magnificent palace served as the primary residence of Ottoman sultans for centuries. It boasts stunning architecture, lush gardens, and a vast collection of royal treasures, including jewelry, manuscripts, and artifacts. Visitors can explore its opulent chambers, harem, and enjoy breathtaking views of the Bosphorus, making it an essential stop for those exploring the rich heritage of Sultanahmet.

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FAQs for Places to Visit Near Hagia Sophia

What is interesting about Hagia Sophia?

    The Hagia Sophia is the most distinguished landmark of Istanbul and a living testimony of the Turkish capital’s fascinating past. The structure, deemed as one of the world’s greatest monuments, was rebuilt from a destroyed church into its current magnificence. Constructed in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian, the then Church of Holy Wisdom was the world’s largest cathedral for a millennium.

    When Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) fell to the Ottomans in the mid-fifteenth century, the Cathedral was converted into a mosque, the Hagia Sophia. It was with the 20th-century modernisation of Turkey that the Hagia Sophia became a museum, and was recently reconverted back into a mosque. Hagia Sophia is a unique amalgamation of Christian and Islamic traditions and is one of the world’s greatest architectural and cultural icons.
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