Hagia Sophia has been a legendary structure throughout its history. Built 1500 years ago by the Emperor Justinian, the building marked a breakthrough in the history of architecture. Hagia Sophia remained the largest church of Christianity throughout the Middle Ages.
The excitement and curiosity created by Hagia Sophia continued for centuries. People took shelter in Hagia Sophia to be protected from natural disasters such as earthquakes and storms. The Byzantines crowned their emperors here and celebrated their victories.
Hagia Sophia became a mosque in 1453 when the Ottomans conquered the city. Hagia Sophia, which was a church for 900 years, remained a mosque for about 500 years. Converted into a museum in the 1930s, Hagia Sophia is one of the rare places where Christian and Muslim heritage can be seen together.
Hagia Sophia has been turned back into a mosque since July 2020. However, the Byzantine mosaics inside can still be seen. If you take a private guided tour of Hagia Sophia, you can better understand the mosaics and other historical artifacts inside the building.
Guided Tour Options for Hagia Sophia
There are two options to visit Hagia Sophia with a guided tour. The first is to buy tickets online and join the group tour by meeting the guide at the entrance. The second is to organize a private guided tour. Of course, you can visit Hagia Sophia yourself, and I have prepared an article to make it easier for you.
1. Skip the Line Guided Group Tour
You need to purchase tickets online in advance to join the skip the line guided group tour. Those who book Hagia Sophia tickets meet with the guide at the entrance of the museum with the reference number given to them.
You enter with a group and you are given general information about the history of Hagia Sophia. If you want this option, which is cheaper than a private guided tour, you can buy your tickets from this link.
2. Short Byzantine History Tour
I am Serhat Engul, a licensed tourist guide who has been working in Istanbul for 15 years. My area of expertise is the Roman and Byzantine history of Istanbul. I prepared a tour program for those who are interested in history and want to take a private guided tour of Hagia Sophia.
Hagia Sophia alone is not enough to summarize the Roman and Byzantine periods of Istanbul. For this reason, the short Byzantine history tour I recommend includes the Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia and Basilica Cistern. You can find details about this tour in the following lines.
3. Self Guided Tour of Hagia Sophia
Of course, you can visit Hagia Sophia alone. It may even be better for you if you know enough about the history of Istanbul. You can carefully examine historical artifacts and take photos without being rushed by a tour group or guide.
If you want to take a self-guided tour of Hagia Sophia, I can suggest an article that can help you. The article titled Things to See in Hagia Sophia may help you prepare a basic route for your visit.
How to Visit Hagia Sophia in 2021
I would like to convey the necessary information to properly visit Hagia Sophia under several headings. I try to keep the information in this section as up to date as possible.
1. Where is Hagia Sophia located?
Hagia Sophia is located in Sultanahmet district. Sultanahmet is considered as the heart of Istanbul Old City and houses the most popular places to visit in Istanbul.
When you get to Sultanahmet area by tram, you can find the top tourist sites within walking distance. Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Basilica Cistern located next to each other, only a few minutes walk from each other.
2. Hagia Sophia Opening Hours
Hagia Sophia opening hours are between 9 am and 5 pm. During these hours, it will be closed to touristic visits during prayer hours. Prayer times change almost every day.
The opening and closing times of Hagia Sophia are the same as its neighbor, Blue Mosque. If you visit the Blue Mosque first, you can see the schedule of prayer times updated daily.
The recommended time frame to visit Hagia Sophia is between 09:00 and 11:30 in the morning. This time window is most convenient as the morning prayer is very early and the next prayer is at noon.
3. Hagia Sophia Entrance Fee
Hagia Sophia entrance fee was 100 Turkish Lira before turning back into a mosque. You do not need to buy ticket any more. Previously, I suggested Museum Pass for those who will visit Hagia Sophia.
Although the Istanbul Museum Pass is not required to visit Hagia Sophia now, it still offers a fast track advantage for the nearby museums. It can be especially useful for entering places such as Topkapi Palace and Istanbul Archeology Museums.
Hagia Sophia Private Guided Tour
Istanbul has a history of 2700 years. Istanbul, which carries its ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman heritage, has a very rich culture.
If you would like to gain a deeper knowledge about Istanbul’s history, Hagia Sophia is the right place to start for it. History of Hagia Sophia is associated with Roman emperors, religious figures and the riots. So that it would be a great experience to listen to its stories.
A knowledgeable tour guide can make the history come alive for you by telling you all the narratives about Hagia Sophia. If you have an interest about Roman, Byzantine or Ottoman history, Hagia Sophia promises an unforgettable experience for you!
I offer a 2-hour private guided tour of Hagia Sophia. However, this tour includes two more places that complement the history of Hagia Sophia. It would take 30 minutes to visit Hippodrome and 1 hour to visit Hagia Sophia and 30 minutes to visit Basilica Cistern.
I start with the history of Hippodrome. This is a perfect place to give you an overview about Istanbul’s history. There are the oldest monuments of Istanbul such as Obelisk of Theodosius and Serpent Column. We talk about the chariot races and the rivalry between the Green and Blue teams.
2. Hagia Sophia
I tell you about the two leading figures in the Roman and Byzantine history of the city: Emperor Constantine and Justinian. Then we move forward to courtyard of Hagia Sophia to talk about the 1st and 2nd generation churches which were destroyed in riots.
There are quite a few stories to tell about these unique incidents. Then we will discover the mystery of Hagia Sophia together. The most important part of the narratives in Hagia Sophia consists of Byzantine mosaics made between the 9th and 13th centuries.
3. Basilica Cistern
The history of the Basilica Cistern is complementary to the Hagia Sophia tour. Basilica Cistern, just like the Hagia Sophia was built by the Byzantine emperor Emperor Justinian and is of great importance in the history of the city. The medusa heads in the Basilica Cistern will definitely interest you.
Hagia Sophia Tour Guide
Hello, I’m Serhat Engul. I have been a professional tour guide in istanbul for 15 years. If you want to uncover the 1500-year history of Hagia Sophia, I recommend you to hire a tour guide for Hagia Sophia. A knowledgeable tour guide can make the history come alive in your eyes.
In order to fully understand the history of Hagia Sophia, it is necessary to visit some places around it. I prepared a two-hour history tour to make this experience possible. If you take the tour that I recommend, you will have a real historical experience by seeing the Hippodrome and Basilica Cistern along with Hagia Sophia.
If you want to hire a private tour guide for Hagia Sophia, you can contact me by filling out the contact form. It should be noted that there is no group tour to join and private guided tour is offered only.
Istanbul Clues Travel Blog
The Hagia Sophia tour is offered by the author of the Istanbul Clues travel blog. You can find hundreds of articles about Istanbul in this blog visited by tens of thousands of people.
If you want to get an idea about Istanbul’s history, museums, food and activities, I recommend you to visit Istanbul Clues travel blog.
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Hagia Sophia Private Guided Tour 2021