A distinct Istanbul landmark, the world-famous Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii in Turkish) opened in 1616 and is renowned for its slender minarets and collection of domes. The Sultan Ahmet I conceived the structure as a project to rival the nearby Byzantine Hagia Sofia—formerly a church and now a museum—which stands opposite the mosque in the city's busiest square. The Blue Mosque was constructed over the site of an ancient hippodrome and Byzantine palace, and although much of the original complex was torn down in the 19th century, what remains today is one of the most beautiful mosques in Turkey.
Guarded by its six minarets, topped by its cascading domes and built around an enormous internal courtyard, the mosque's vast and curvaceous, vaulted interior is ablaze with 20,000 delicate blue Iznik tiles—after which it gets its moniker of the Blue Mosque—featuring flowers, garlands and intricate patterns. All are beautifully floodlit by sunlight that streams in through 260 stained-glass windows.
The Blue Mosque can be visited on a small-group or private tour of the Sultanahmet neighborhood and is often paired with tours of Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sofia and the Hippodrome. Full-day options may cover the rest of Istanbul and also include a Bosphorous cruise, lunch or visits to sites such as the Grand Bazaar and the Yerebatan Sarayi (Basilica Cistern).
Located at Meydani 21 in Istanbul's Sultanahmet, the Blue Mosque is open daily from 9am–6pm but closes for 90 minutes around each of five daily prayer times. Non-Muslims can visit outside prayer times and must use the northern entrance in the Hippodrome façade of the mosque to visit. Admission is free but donations are appreciated. All visitors must remove shoes, cover legs and shoulders, while women must wear shawls around their heads (available outside the mosque). The tram can be taken to Sultanahmet, and the mosque can be accessed via the northern entrance.