Of all the grand mosques in Istanbul, the Suleymaniye Mosque is the largest (yes, even larger than the famous Hagia Sophia).
Compared to many other Istanbul mosques, the Suleymaniye Mosque is a relative newcomer that was built in the mid 1550s on the Third Hill of the city. Built during the Ottoman period, it reflects the dramatic architecture of the time but also including Byzantine forms and styles. The construction of the mosque was ordered by Sultan Suleyman and the design created by Mimar Sinan.
The exterior is white with high blue domes and blue-spired minarets. There is a huge courtyard on the west side of the main mosque building, surrounded by marble columns, arches and an open colonnade.
The mosque itself is a square design with a huge central dome filled with gold inlay on the inside. Walking through the open space, you are surrounded by smooth white marble and lots of delicate gold fretwork. There is a unique spiral chandelier of lights that hangs low in the center of the space, that seems to hover just above your head.
Walls, domes and ceilings are covered in very elaborate mosaics of Ottoman style and Arabic script. There is something beautiful on nearly every surface.
There is more to see than just the mosque itself though. A hamam soup kitchen is now an Ottoman cuisine restaurant, and you can also visit the tombs of Suleyman himself.
Major fires and earthquakes have caused some damage to the structures, but everything has been restored and repaired to currently look its best. Unlike some other mosques in Istanbul, this hasn’t been converted into a museum and is still an active place of worship. Though open to the public, entrance is restricted to Muslims only during the various prayer times of the day.
If you are planning on seeing the best mosques in Istanbul, the Suleymaniye should be your first stop.
Visiting the Sulemaniye Mosque:
Location: Near the intersection of Vefa Cd. and Fetva Yks.
Hours:Open every day, though prayer times are restricted to Muslims only