Built in the sixth century by Emperor Justinian I as the Church of the Saints Sergius and Bacchus, the Kucuk Ayasofya (Little Hagia Sophia) later took its name from its resemblance to the larger Hagia Sophia, which was built nearby a few years earlier. After the Ottomans conquered Constantinople, the church was converted into a mosque.
The Kucuk Ayasofya has a distinctive irregular octagonal shape. After a restoration in 2006, the mosque’s interior was returned to its Ottoman-era decoration, though some aspects that date to Byzantine times are still visible. Kucuk Ayasofya still functions as an active place of worship.
Some small-group and private walking tours combine a visit to Kucuk Ayasofya Mosque with other sights nearby, including Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Suleymaniye Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and the Chora Museum.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Kucuk Ayasofya is a must-visit for architecture buffs.
- This is an active mosque and is closed to visitors during prayer times.
- Bring a scarf or wrap to cover up appropriately before entering, and wear shoes that are easy to remove.
How to Get There
Located in the Kumkapi neighborhood, the Kucuk Ayasofya is walking distance from the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia in Sultanahmet Square. It is easily accessible by bus and from the Sultanahmet tram stop.
When to Get There
The Kucuk Ayasofya is open daily from the morning until evening. Arrive early to beat the crowds. The mosque is closed to non-Muslims during prayer times, which are longer on Fridays; check times online. Muslim and Turkish holidays can affect opening hours as well.
How to Visit a Mosque
To enter a mosque in Istanbul, it is necessary to dress appropriately. All visitors must remove their shoes and cover their shoulders and knees; women need to cover their heads as well. Most Istanbul mosques provide coverings if you need them, but plan ahead and bring your own scarf—or wear long pants or a long skirt and something on your shoulders—to visit mosques more easily and efficiently.