The Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul on the Golden Horn: UNSECO world cultural heritage
The Suleymaniye Mosque is one of the four UNSECO World Heritage Sites in Istanbul.
Together with its surrounding park and striking minarets, it is enthroned on a hill in the southern part of the Golden Horn.
From its vantage point, the mosque offers you a wonderful view of the city’s sights.
Compared to the Blue Mosque known as Sultanahmet, the Suleymaniye Mosque in the centre of Istanbul’s old town is not nearly as heavily visited by travellers.
That makes it an interesting excursion destination in the old town.
I brought a few photos from my last visit to the Suleymaniye Mosque. I’ll also share my impression of one of the three great old mosques in Istanbul.
The UNSECO world cultural heritage Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul
The fastest way to reach the Suleymaniye Mosque is to enter via the Grand Bazaar. Just take the T1 tram to the Beyazit stop. From there, just follow the signs towards Basar/Süleymaniye Mosque.
Alternatively, you can go up from the Galata Bridge to the hill on which the Suleymaniye Mosque stands.
Both ways will bring you directly to the entrance of the mosque after a 15-minute walk.
Its inner courtyard is laid out in a similar way to that of the Blue Mosque. There are large lawns and buildings which accompany the mosque.
These are, for example, Islamic schools (madrasas), an astronomical observatory and the mausoleum of Sultan Sülyeman I.
The mosque was built on his behalf between 1550 and 1557. This makes it a century older than the Blue Mosque.
You can enter the mosque either through the main entrance or through the visitor entrance.
At that point I will briefly explain the rules for visiting a mosque in Turkey
Men & women: covered legs (long pants/skirt) and covered shoulders.
Men & Women: Remove your shoes
Women: A scarf to cover your head
At the visitor entrance to the Sülyemaniye Mosque, you can borrow for free a clean headscarf and skirt to wear for free. It’s a courtesy for guests, so you don’t have to bring long trousers or a skirt from the hotel.
Last time I visited, there was no plastic shoe bag to take with you to the mosque. You can place your shoes on the shelves next to the entrance just like any other mosque visitor.
Shoes are taken off in the mosque, by the way, because the floor is covered with a carpet and because the forehead should touch the floor during prayer. Street shoes would bring in too much dirt to be kept clean.
The inside of the Suleymaniye Mosque is divided into three parts. Only the rear half is freely accessible to visitors.
A small wooden fence ensures that the men praying in the front part of the mosque are not disturbed. The same applies to the area next to the entrances to the mosque, which are separated for the women, who are also praying.
Coming through the main entrance, you are standing directly under the large dome of the mosque. In comparison to the “Blue Mosque in Istanbul” and the “Green Mosque in Bursa”, the decorations in the Suleymaniye Mosque are red.
Of all mosques in Istanbul and Turkey, I like the decorations in the Suleymaniye Mosque best of all. In comparison, the red colours stand out much more against the white marble of the walls than in the Blue Mosque. The ornate paintings on the dome can be seen much more clearly.
The second dominant object in the interior is next to the dome is a large chandelier. As in all other Ottoman mosques in Istanbul, it hangs on chains from the dome. In bad light, it looks like it is only floating a meter or two above your head.
Within the mosque, you can still see the side aisles and the rear prayer area for women. You have your own area in the mosque, separated by a wooden screen.
Overall, what is interesting about the Suleymaniye Mosque is its harmonious design. The architecture and its decorations are perfectly coordinated. In contrast to the Greek Orthodox churches that you will find in Istanbul, the simplicity of the mosque dominates the appearance of the mosque.
You can spend 15 to 30 minutes in the mosque itself. It depends on how closely you want to look at, or study, its details.
You can still spend some time in the park of the Suleymaniye Mosque. Young Turks like to meet there. Most of the time they have a few blankets with them so they can sit comfortably on the lawn.
You should definitely take your time browsing through the buildings belonging to the Suleymaniye Mosque. They are all spread out around the mosque park.
You can see, for example, the mausoleum of Sultan Suleymaniye I and his wife Roxelana, an astronomical observatory, schools which study the Koran, an old hospital and schools for aspirants (madrasas).
Unfortunately, the purpose of each building is not explained as well on the information boards. Istanbul travel guides are quite good at that. You can book a guide anywhere in the entrance area of the mosque. Make sure they have ID cards on their necks. And always set the price for a tour in advance.
You can book guided sightseeing tours through Istanbul instead of the local guide. This makes travelling to the mosque easier for you, because you will usually be picked up directly from your hotel.
Most of the time you will see other nearby attractions such as the Grand Bazaar or the Spice Bazaar during the half-day tours.
So, is it worth visiting the Suleymaniye Mosque?
“Yes”. Because of its harmonious red decorations, for me, it is clearly the most beautiful mosque in Istanbul.
In addition, the view from Süleymaniye Mosque park overseeing the Golden Horn and the Bosporus is reason alone to visit them.
My tips for a visit to the mosque and the surrounding buildings
Entry to the Suleymaniye Mosque is free.
The easiest way to get to the Suleymaniye Mosque is with the T1 tram. Either drive to the Grand Bazaar to go from the south to the mosque or to the Galata Bridge to go from the north to the mosque.
Follow the rules for visiting a mosque in Turkey!
It is best to visit the mosque before sunset. The best time is the afternoon.
The Suleymaniye Mosque is closed to visitors during prayer times. In this case, it is best to just look at the buildings around. Prayer times do not last very long.
Visits to the Sülyemaniye Mosque are included in many day tours of Istanbul. You can find an overview of the possible offers on Get your guide. That way, you can book the tours online with hotel pick-up.
How did you like the Suleymaniye Mosque? Do you also think it’s more beautiful than the Blue Mosque?