Hagia Sophia

When visiting Istanbul, one of the attractions you must see is the Hagia Sophia Museum. This centuries-old building was originally a church, later repurposed as a mosque, and is now a museum. Your first glance at this building is bound to awe you due to its scale, but be prepared to be more amazed once you step inside. This timeless beauty was designed to make your jaw drop.

An ancient museum

Also known as the Aya Sophia (Holy Wisdom), this structure offers up an architectural mix that is truly astounding. Once inside, you will find both Islamic and Christian elements in the details of the building. Its high arching ceilings and spacious interior will blow you away with their scale and beauty. Hagia Sophia's dome is still in the top list of largest domes of the world. In addition to the minute details covering every wall, this old church has intricate interior design pieces and a number of relics and objects on display, some dating back to the 5th century BC. Visit the tombs or early Ottoman sultans and view Viking graffiti in the southern gallery to get a feel for the centuries of history that have shaped this exceptional building. Don't miss out the upstairs galleries, to admire 11th-century to 13th-century golden mosaics of byzantine emperors and their respective wives.

A mammoth construction

The Hagia Sophia began with the original building in the 500s under the reign of Justinian. The emperor hired two architects to design and construct the building on top of a pagan temple, allowing them both to have 100 sub-architects working under them. Each of these, in turn, had 100 workers, meaning there were thousands of people involved. After a colossal construction period, the church was completed, and it served as a church for 916 years. Once Fatih Sultan Mehmed conquered Istanbul, the church was converted into a mosque which was used for 482 years, and in 1935 it was turned into the Hagia Sophia Museum by the first President of Turkey Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. There's no better example of east-meet-west architectural influences in Istanbul. Hagia Sophia has always been a symbol of the buzzing city and inspired other famous buildings like The Blue Mosque and Sultan Ahmed Mosque.

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