My Favorite Mosque in Istanbul
The more I travel, the more I enjoy being surprised.
When thinking of a certain place, archetypes and well known monuments usually come to mind first. Paris and the Effiel Tower, New York and Times Square, Istanbul and the Hagia Sofia. It’s only natural to associate things with other things. It helps us make connections and ultimately, make sense of the world.
While the well known places are fun to visit and usually well known for good reason, I think the surprises, the places we just happen to stumble upon, offer the best travel experiences.
Süleymaniye Mosque was one such surprise.
At first I loved it because it wasn’t swarming with touts trying to sell me anything and everything. There was no line to go inside and even during prayer time, it didn’t have the unnatural/theatrical feeling I felt in the Blue Mosque.
When I walked inside, I loved it even more. It was bright, and the painted motifs were colorful and warm. It felt like a perfect and very natural place to communicate with a divine power. I felt calm the moment I walked in.
Built under the rule of Süleyman the Magnificent, it is the largest mosque in the city. It is built on a hill (making the walk to get there a little more challenging) and is close to the Univeristy of Istanbul. The vibe is amazing, the grounds extensive, and it is very easy to lose track of time here. There is also a Hammam (Turkish bath) that shares the same name and is part of the mosque complex.
The other wonderful thing about this mosque are the restaurants/cafes across the street. The one we ate at once functioned as a soup kitchen but is now a cheap place to eat, serving simple yet delicious food. It was full of students and the view unbeatable. I also didn’t have someone try to sell me socks while I was eating. (bonus!)
We ended up staying near the mosque all evening, people watching and wandering through the courtyard and the surrounding streets. It wasn’t until we heard the final sound of the riveting call to prayer that we called it a night and headed back to bustling Sultanahmet.
While the Blue Mosque is exquisite, I found Süleymaniye to be equally so and a much more authentic mosque experience.
What do you think? Would you consider visiting Süleymaniye? Which is your favorite Istanbul mosque?