Built as a Roman public building (also known as a ‘basilica’) this huge Cathedral situated in Istanbul, Turkey, now stands as a museum after having also been a mosque during its rich history.
The reason the Hagia Sophia was chosen as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world was because of its quintessential Byzantine architectural style. It embodies the culture and design of the time it was built (532 AD) as well as including Ottoman influences within its décor and structure. It is quite a sight to behold; surrounded by four pointed minarets stretching high into the sky, the building is topped by a magnificent dome with forty windows around its base.
There were two churches that existed on the site of the Hagia Sophia before it was built; each of which considered a wonder of the world in their own right. The first church, built in c.360 BC, was burned to the ground during riots, and the second church was built in c. 415 BC was also burned down in c. 532 BC by the Nika Revolt. The third church built on the site is the one that we know and can visit today; adorned with pendentives, minarets, decorative urns, mosaics and marble doors.
Today the Hagia Sophia is used as a museum, although many are campaigning to restore it back to being a practising church, and a small section of it is used as a mosque for the staff to pray inside during their shifts.
The third church that was built on this site is the one that we know today, and it is the main one that was ever to be considered a wonder of the medieval world. It has, over its time, been reconstructed and maintained, but the majority of what we see today is what was built originally in c.532 BC by the Emperor Justinian I.
The Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque in 1453 and much of the restoration occurred then under the order of sultan Mehmet II. It wasn’t until this mosque was then converted into a museum that the carpets were removed to reveal the beautiful patterned marble floors. These are still visible today, along with all the original mosaics and Byzantine religious artwork that this structure was drenched in. The interior of the dome has, in particular, undergone a lot of restoration over the past decade.
The only discrepancy about the Hagia Sophia’s authenticity is due to re-constructive work that was carried out in 1847, 1848 and 1849. Many people are doubtful that the tomb claiming to hold the Doge of Venice, is, in fact, nothing more than a symbol of his death.
How to Get There:
Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport is just a 40 minute drive from the Hagia Sophia itself, so you may choose to stay in a hotel somewhere in between and navigate this part of Turkey’s largest city by taxis or rented cars. The Ataturk International Airport is a busy and large one, so there will be plenty of taxis waiting outside and also tourist operators to help you find your way to your accommodation.
Bear in mind that the Hagia Sophia is closed on Mondays, and opens at 9 from Tuesday to Sunday, closing at 7.30 so you will need to visit between those times.
Where to Stay:
There are almost 100 hotels within just one mile of the Hagia Sophia, so as you can imagine this is an incredibly metropolitan area, with lots of choice for visitors.
Try the Hippodrome Hotel located less than half a mile away from the Hagia Sophia, for a mid range stay (rooms cost approximately $145 dollars per night). Or you could have a luxury stay at the Orient Express Hotel with rooftop pool, for around $190 per night. The best budget hotel in this area of Istanbul is the Ersu Hotel, where rooms will set you back around $85 per night.