Much more than places for prayer, Turkey’s mosques are a beautiful homage to the beauty of Islamic art. From their ornate interiors to the grand dimensions of their exteriors, these ten mosques are as architecturally significant as they are stunning.
As a place of religious worship, you will need to adhere to strict etiquette rules. It’s inappropriate to walk in front of a person while they’re praying. You can photograph anything, but you mustn’t use flash, and you must ask permission before you take photographs of people. Do not photograph people while they’re praying.
Dress modestly: for men, that means shorts beneath the knees, a t-shirt, and you should remove hats when in front of an altar. For women: you should cover your head, chest, legs, and shoulders. You can borrow a headscarf and a wrap to cover your hair and legs.
1. The Blue Mosque
Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, also known as Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is one of Turkey’s most recognisable landmarks and most beautiful places of worship. Towering over Istanbul’s Old City, the Blue Mosque was erected in 1616 under Sultan Ahmed as a symbol of the Ottoman’s renewed power in Istanbul. One of its most defining characteristics is its pale blue colour that includes more than 20,000 blue tiles inside, 6 massive minarets and stunning interior lighting.
2. Grand Mosque of Bursa
Built between 1396 and 1399 I during the Ottoman Empire, Grand Mosque of Bursa is a true marvel of the Ottoman architecture that was heavily influenced by the Seljuk architectural style. The display of calligraphy on the walls and columns of the mosque is the best site to see Islamic calligraphy. The rectangular structure of the mosque stands over a stretch of 5000 sq.m of land and contains 2 minarets and 20 domes.
3. Şakirin Mosque
Şakirin not only stands out with its modern exterior but also its interior, which was designed by Zeynep Fadıllıoğlu, notably making her the first woman to design a mosque in modern Turkey. From its water-drop shaped glass globe chandelier to the decorative motifs, Şakirin is a true beauty.
4. Süleymaniye Mosque
With its hilltop position, the Süleymaniye Mosque (Süleymaniye Cami) is one of Istanbul's most familiar skyline landmarks.
Built during the reign of Sultan Süleyman I ("Süleyman the Magnificent" reigned from 1520 to 1566), this grand architectural project was one of the famous works of Sinan, the Ottoman era's most celebrated architect.
Although superseded in tourist affections by the Blue Mosque, the prayer hall's vast domed interior, with its mihrab of Iznik tiles, stained-glass windows, and elaborately embellished woodwork details creates a more serene interior ambience than the younger mosque down the hill.
The surrounding buildings of the original mosque complex have all survived, and been restored, here, so a visit offers the chance for visitors to imagine how the great Ottoman mosques of the city would have functioned in the imperial heyday. These attached buildings originally housed a soup kitchen, medrese (theological school), inn, and hospital.
5. Kocatepe Mosque
The largest mosque in Ankara, the Kocatepe Mosque was built between 1967 and 1987, and can be seen from almost anywhere in Turkey’s capital city. Located in the Kocatepe quarter of the Kızılay neighborhood, the giant mosque can accommodate about 24,000 worshippers.
6. Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is one of the most recognisable mosques in the world and serves as a symbol of Istanbul’s complicated and diverse past. Originating as a Byzantine church in the 6th century of then Constantinople, it is one of Turkey’s oldest and most beloved places of worship. In the 1400 years that it’s been around, it’s survived a massive earthquake, a transformation from church to mosque and countless battles. Today it remains one of the most beautiful mosques in the country and is home to some of Turkey’s most beloved artworks.
7. Chora Mosque (Kariye Camii)
This building has a similar fate to the previous entry. It was built in the 4th century. It was turned into a mosque in the 1500s, a museum in 1945, and, again in 2020, it was a mosque again.
The Byzantium Empire’s influences are visible because the interior was uncovered and restored. Interior walls still have their mosaics which are covered during worship. The mosaics survived because they were covered with plasters instead of being removed.
8. Selimiye Mosque, Edirne
One of the most magnanimous structures stretched over an expansive land of 28,500 sq.m, Selimiye Mosque was built by the Mimar Sinan for Sultan Selim II of Edrine. Many feature on its cap the mosque can accommodate 6,000 people in its prayer hall, has been touted to be his masterpiece by Mimar Sinan himself and has been listed in UNESCO world heritage site in the year 2011.
9. Fatih Mosque
This stunning mosque was named after the Ottoman sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, who captured Constantinople in 1453. Built between 1463 and 1470, it was later rebuilt in 1771 after a major earthquake. The structure also had a school of traditional Islamic sciences, which was established by the Persian astronomer Ali Qushji.
10. Divriği Grand Mosque & Darüşşifası
Sitting on a hill overlooking the tiny village of Divriği (166 kilometers southeast from Sivas) is one of Turkey's most beautiful mosque complexes, allotted UNESCO World Heritage Site status for its fine artistry.
Divriği's Grand Mosque (Ulu Cami) and attached darüşşifası (hospital) dates from 1228, when much of Anatolia was ruled over by separate Seljuk-Turk principalities (which would later coalesce into the Ottoman Empire).
Divriği was the capital of one of these principalities, and ruled by Emir Ahmet Şah and his wife Melike Turan Melik who commissioned this ambitious building project.
The stone doorways of the mosque and darüşşifası are its most celebrated feature. The four doorways (one reaching 14 meters high) are covered in richly detailed and intricate carved reliefs of floral motifs, animal designs, and geometric patterns. They are rightly considered a masterpiece of Islamic architecture.