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One of Istanbul's, or rather Turkey's, most recognizable landmarks, the Blue Mosque is a wonder of the country and a historic site of significant importance that visitors should never skip out on. Dominating the skyline, it's a prolific tourist attraction and a magnet for photos - but it serves as far more than mere eye candy and Instagram-worthy shots. With its magnificent architecture and stunning decor, the breathtaking Blue mosque is an active religious establishment deep-rooted in the history of Turkey - a vibrant nation where two major continents collide.

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About The Blue Mosque In Istanbul

The Blue Mosque is widely considered to be the last remaining great mosque of the classical period, representing a beautiful blend of two religious aesthetics: the Byzantine Christian style intertwined with traditional Islamic architectural elements. The staggering structure is one of the finest symbols of Islamic architecture and calligraphy, whose representations of old-world Muslim designs and artworks remain impeccably intact for all to take in. Interestingly, some of the Grand Palace of Constantinople was destroyed in order to accommodate this enormous structure - a marvel of architecture and design of its olden time.

Also referred to as the 'Sultan Ahmet Camii' and the 'Sultan Ahmed Mosque' - named after the Sultan who ordered its construction - the building undeniably keeps its place among the most regal Ottoman mosques in Turkey. Famed for its five main domes, eight smaller domes, and its six minarets, its infrastructure is wholly unique and unlike any other of its kind. In fact, it's one of only three mosques in the country boasting this number of the minaret, which is as impressive as it is a treat to the eyes and camera lens, to say the least.

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When Was The Blue Mosque Built?

Turkey's Blue Mosque was constructed between 1609 and 1616 by architect Sedefkâr Mehmet Ağa, whose design of the building was shadowed by Sultan Ahmed I - a monarch who, amazingly, only ascended the throne in 1603 when he was only a child at 13 years old. In the aftermath of the Fifteen Years’ War that took place between the Ottoman Empire and the Habsburg Monarchy, the Sultan felt he needed to garner his people's trust in the empire, which had noticeably dwindled throughout the volatile era.

Conjuring up ideas to earn the public's confidence, boost morale, and reassert his authority, he decided to commission the Blue Mosque to complement the nearby Hagia Sophia Mosque, another imposing building of almost equal splendor facing it from across Sultanahmet Square. As an imperial spectacle of strength, his intention was to surpass the majesty of the Hagia Sophia with his new design, which featured four 'elephant foot-like pillars and a large central dome measuring 23.5 meters in diameter and 43 meters high, with the dome being encompassed by four half-domes - creating a finished structure that was almost square in shape.

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The Blue Mosque also showcases over 20,000 handmade ceramic Iznik tiles, decorating its elegant interiors with patterns and designs of roses, tulips, lilies, and carnations, each illuminated by 260 majestic windows. Finished off with an enormous courtyard adorned with highly detailed and lavish decorations, it's surprising that the entirety of the splendid property isn't deemed among the wonders of the world.

While Sultan Ahmed I did indeed achieve his goals of building a domineering Islamic structure of immense grandeur, it did not come without cost; he won nothing in the Fifteen Years’ War prior to the Blue Mosque's construction, instead propping up the expensive project through treasury funds. Still pricey it may have been, but it served its purpose - and continues to do so today, existing as an incredible feature on Istanbul's horizon, attracting travelers from around the globe to come to bask in its stupendous glory, soak up its exquisite awe on tours, and take a few photos as souvenir keepsakes, too.

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The Historic Controversy Of The Blue Mosque

As mentioned, one of the Blue Mosque's most distinctive features is its six minarets; most of Istanbul's mosques only have two or four, making it one of the city's outstanding and outlandish buildings that immediately catch the eye. However, legend tells that the grand total of six minarets was actually a misunderstanding; Sultan Ahmed I decreed there should be 'altın' minarets - meaning 'gold' minarets. According to historic rumors, the architect heard 'altı' minarets (six minarets), which is, of course, an easy mistake to make, not to mention one that would have greatly impacted the budget and final look of the build. At the time, the Blue Mosque and its six majestic minarets did bring about some controversy; the Prophet’s mosque in Mecca was the only other one with six minarets, so to overcome the issue, the Sultan ordered a seventh to be built at the one in Mecca.

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How To Visit The Blue Mosque

With its illustrious history, cultural and religious importance, and striking size and beauty, the Blue Mosque is one of the most popular attractions in Istanbul - moreover, Turkey. Although it's open to visitors for tours, it's important to be aware that it is still a functioning mosque, which means it's closed to tourists during Muslim prayer.

Generally, the mosque's daily opening hours are from 9 am until around an hour before dusk each day, with exceptions including the 90-minute duration of each prayer time and the two hours during Friday's noon prayers (Friday is the Islamic holy day of the week). Naturally, visitors to the mosque - and any mosque in general - are advised to behave respectfully and wear modest clothing when inside that covers the shoulders, arms, and legs, while women are also required to wear a hair covering as per Muslim tradition. However, anyone who doesn't have the appropriate attire need to worry not, for shawls and outer garments are provided to guests at the door.

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How Much Does It Cost To Visit The Blue Mosque?

Fortunately for guests, the Blue Mosque does not impose any entrance fees; it's free for all to visit, including children. It's considered a revered place to visit and pray to Allah (the Muslim God) and not a gallery, museum, or tourist site; therefore, it remains a holy place without monetary demand.

How To Get To The Blue Mosque In Istanbul?

Probably the easiest and most convenient way to get to the Blue Mosque is to hop on board a tram to Sultanahmet - from there; it's only a two-minute walk. Also, visitors can explore its sibling - the Hagia Sophia - as it's only a couple of minutes away on foot. Still, visitors intending to check out out any or both of these two iconic Istanbul landmarks should take into account that long queues can occur during the peak vacation season and on Turkish holidays.

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What Other Attractions Are Near The Istanbul Blue Mosque?

Being located in Istanbul's old historic city, the Blue Mosque and its mesmeric counterpart - the Hagia Sophia - are close to a number of other awe-inspiring sites worthy of visitors' time and attention. Fantastic places to discover include Topkapi Palace, the Basilica Cistern, the Grand Bazaar, and the Archeology Museum, all of which will complete an Istanbul itinerary and enrich one's vacation - whether it's one's first time in Turkey or fiftieth. In addition, it's also possible to visit the one and only tomb of Sultan Ahmed I - a beautiful burial site with ornate decor featuring an array of 17th-century Iznik tiles, much like the mosque itself. Located just outside the precinct wall to the Blue Mosque's northwest, the tomb is free of charge to visit and is a must for anyone fascinated by the mosque's story, as well as Turkish history as a whole.