The Magnificent Süleymaniye Mosque In Istanbul

While we certainly haven’t seen all of the prominent mosques in Turkey, Süleymaniye Camii in Istanbul is a definite favourite so far. We visited here on our first trip to Istanbul some years ago – and we’ve been trying to return since.

In February 2010, we trouped up the hill from Sultanahmet, only to be greeted by a locked gate and a photo showing the restoration work going on inside. The restorations – undertaken as part of the 2010 European Capital of Culture work – were to last through to the end of the year, so another visit to Süleymaniye was put on hold.

Süleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul

The peaceful grounds of Süleymaniye Mosque

Last month, after reading Süleymaniye Camii was now fully open, we once again trouped uphill, along the famous Divan Yolu from Sultanahmet to Beyazıt.

The photo above shows one of the reasons why Süleymaniye is a pleasant place to be. It’s tranquil. While thousands of tourists queue up to take a peek inside Sultanahmet Camii (the Blue Mosque), not as many make the short trek up here to Mimar Sinan’s masterpiece.

Built for Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent between 1550 and 1557, Süleymaniye Camii sits high on a hill overlooking the Golden Horn and down the Bosphorus Strait.

The beautiful views are another reason why we like coming here so much. BUT, the tourist gods are working against us at the moment – Gardens (with the beautiful views) and tombs closed for restoration!

Not to worry. We were keen to see the newly restored interior…

Süleymaniye Mosque Lighting

Huge chandeliers cast gentle light around the mosque

We arrived half an hour after the call to prayer (mosques are closed to the public during prayer times) meaning there were only a few other visitors milling around outside waiting to enter. Perfect timing!

Plastic carrier bags were pulled one at a time from a huge roll and we placed our footwear inside them before entering. I pulled my scarf over my head and we went inside.

Decoration In Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul

Intricate paintwork in the central dome of Süleymaniye Mosque

For such a commanding exterior, I find the interior of Süleymaniye Camii to be quite homely. It doesn’t make you feel small and unimportant like Aya Sofya does.

But while the size of Aya Sofya forces an intake of breath, it’s the intricate paintwork of the central dome and surrounding columns of Süleymaniye that force the same reaction.

Süleymaniye Mosque Islamic Art

Eyes up to admire the artwork of Suleymaniye Mosque

There were a few people still praying when we entered the mosque, so most of the photos I took are of the higher levels.

Süleymaniye’s interior is worth a good half an hour of your time if only to appreciate the peace and quiet, the detailed paintwork and colourful, stained glass windows.

And, while many tourists certainly do make the visit to Süleymaniye, maybe it doesn’t see the masses present in Sultanahmet because, from ground level, it’s surprisingly difficult to spot.

Süleymaniye Mosque Sunset

Süleymaniy Mosque dominates the skyline from Karaköy

Despite its elevated position, as you take a right off Divan Yolu towards the mosque, once you’re up close to the grounds, the only thing you can see is a huge, stone wall.

If you do make the effort to get there, continue to follow the perimeter of the wall and eventually, you’ll see the entrance.

Süleymaniye Camii – Useful Information

  • Süleymaniye Camii is in the Beyazıt area of Istanbul. You can walk from Sultanahmet and take a right where you see the row of kebab places in the square. Or take the tram and get off at the Beyazıt stop. You’ll see the kebab places from the tram stop.
  • The mosque is closed to visitors during prayer times and for around 30 minutes afterwards.
  • Entrance to the mosque is free but donations are suggested. You’ll get a receipt for your donation.
  • Females should cover their heads, shoulders and legs before entering.
  • Once they’re open again to the public, give yourself time to visit the tombs and beautiful grounds of Süleymaniye – fantastic views of Istanbul from here.
  • This area of Istanbul is famous for its kuru fasulye (a Turkish bean dish) and there are a few cheap places to eat immediately outside the mosque, along the cobbled streets.
  • Süleymaniye Camii is part of the Historic Areas of Istanbul on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

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  1. These pics are quite a change from the usual Blue Mosque pics everyone shows. Good to see other perspectives.

  2. @ Jim: We couldn’t face queueing up in the cold to enter the Blue Mosque. Süleymaniye was really peaceful in comparison. 🙂

  3. I LOVE the Süleymaniye Camii. Like you, it’s my favourite mosque. The trek up the hill is definitely worth the effort. Besides the superb architecture, the views from the grounds behind the mosque are outstanding. I especially like your opening photo showing the lovely grounds which should not be slighted on time spent there. Glad you made it on this trip.

  4. @ Mark: Yeah we made it again but STILL didn’t get to see the view we wanted to see again. We’re very lucky like that. 😉

  5. In spite of all the time I’ve spent in Istanbul, I’ve never though to visit other mosques that the touristy ones. And from the inside this one seems more beautiful than mavi camii.

  6. @ Italian Notes: It’s a bit of a trek up the hill, especially if you go there from Eminönü but it’s worth it. The Blue Mosque was just so bust when we were there, we gave it a miss. 🙂

  7. Great photo’s…that Mosque is beautiful. I didn’t go last time I was in Istanbul….too tired that day and especially trek up the hill.
    Thanks for sharing.

  8. Gorgeous – the details are stunning.

  9. It’s gorgeous isn’t it? This adds to the stunning, unique and instantly recognisable skyline of Istanbul.

  10. We got caught out earlier this year too ie closed for renovations, and haven’t managed to get back. Your pics are lovely!

  11. @ Erica: Yes, it’s a bit of a trek. Worth the effort though.

    @ Belinda: The details in the paintwork are amazing.

    @ Jack Scott: The skyline wouldn’t be the Istanbul skyline without that mosque. A special place. 🙂

    @ A Seasonal Cook in Turkey: Can’t believe we missed out AGAIN on the lovely views from the grounds. Hopefully, you’ll get to see them again before summer. Can’t remember what they said about reopening times?

  12. These interior shots are amazing!!! (breathtaking!) Really worth a visit.

  13. @ Anjuli: Thank you! 🙂 And yes, it;s definitely worth a visit, for so many reasons. 🙂

  14. I like visiting mosques even better than churches. Something about the architecture, the shape of the buildings, the (often) rounded ceilings in the most beautiful, vivid patterns. I’ll certainly add this one to my “next time in Istanbul”-itinerary.

  15. @ Sophie: Suleymaniye is a definite must-see. So beautiful. Know what you mean about the architecture. I think it’s the vast emptiness of the building that makes a mosque so effective – and then you notice the patterns. They’re peaceful places.

  16. Hey Julia,
    Stumbled upon this post while researching about Suleymanie which, I agree, is quite underrated in comparison with the Blue mosque. Ofcourse, being on the tourist highway has its perks. The view of this mosque during sunset is so captivating that I got off my tram just to appreciate it. 🙂

  17. @ Priyank: Always good to know we pop up in search results for people’s research! 🙂 We’ve never seen the views of the Bosphorus around sunset time from Süleymaniye. Maybe something we should check out next time we’re there. Thanks. 🙂

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