I don’t know why, but Süleymaniye Camii always seemed unattainable to me.
Proudly perched on one of the city’s Seven Hills overlooking my beloved Eminönü, the mosque always seemed to mock me.
|A view of Süleymaniye Camii from the Golden Horn.|
I had trekked all over Istanbul, from Arnavutköy to Zeytinburnu, but somehow couldn’t reach the city’s largest mosque. I would weave through the maze of streets leading to the mosque, catching a glimpse of it now and then, but then it would disappear out of sight. I was always in a hurry; and thought, 'someday I'll get there.'
Finally, in the last weeks leading up to our move, we made a bucket list of things remaining to do in Istanbul. Visiting the Süleymaniye Camii was a priority on our list. (Seeing the Seaviews from the Sağır Han also made the list.) That someday was now.
|The view of Süleymaniye Camii as seen from Atatürk Bulvarı.|
Instead of trekking through the backstreets of Eminönü or coming from the Grand Bazaar, we took a public bus to the Valens Aqueduct. For whatever reason, we thought it would be easier to approach from this direction. Plus, I got some good photos of this Roman aqueduct that used to serve the citizens of Constantinople.
After a 10-minute walk through some dusty city streets, we finally reached Süleymaniye Camii, which was finished in 1557, designed by the Ottoman Empire’s greatest architect, Mimar Sinan, and named after Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. The mosque dominates the city’s Third Hill and overlooks the Golden Horn. You even have seaviews from the Bosphorus to the Asian side.
How had I missed this grand mosque?
Unfortunately, we timed our visit just before the afternoon call to prayer. We didn’t have much time to admire the interior’s detailed, painted dome and colorful, stained glass windows. The mosque underwent extensive restorations, costing 21 million TL, between 2008-2010.
Still, it’s difficult not to immediately be wowed by Sinan’s masterpiece. The mosque is beautiful.
Outside the mosque, we watched as Turks performed their washing ablutions and then strolled around the peaceful grounds. You easily could spend an hour in this area. Nearby is Sinan’s tomb as well.
After taking all the photos I wanted, we continued to stroll down towards Vefa so my husband could try Turkish boza for the first time. Let's just say that I like the fermented drink better than he does. We also found a quaint, second-hand bookstore called Labirent Kitap Evi that’s worth a stop.
Now, I think that visiting the Süleymaniye Camii and drinking boza should be on everyone’s to-do list in Istanbul.
How to get here:
You can walk from the Grand Bazaar to here; or, take any of the public buses from Taksim, Eminönü or Karaköy that are heading to Unkapanı.
Şifahane Sokak (See map)
- The mosque is open every day for free, but donations are suggested.
- Be sure to heed the call to prayer times which you can find here.