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Istanbul Site Closures and Mosque Conversions

I am having a hard time getting clear answers online as to what is open and what is visible in Istanbul. I am about to leave on a vacation that includes Turkey, but am thinking I need to eliminate Istanbul.

  1. Hagia Sophia - Istanbul
    Are all the art and tombs in the floor covered by a green carpet now?
    Have Christian images and human faces been covered during non-prayer visitor times?
    Is access to the upstairs no longer available? If available, is most of the stuff up there covered or restricted?
    Is much of the inside and/or outside covered with scaffolding and under renovation?

  2. Cistern
    Can anybody confirm that this is now closed. I just saw this mentioned for the first time and wanted to confirm. I would have
    been visiting this on roughly June 13.

  3. Blue Mosque
    The tiles on the inside are completely covered with scaffolding and you really can't see anything, correct?
    The outside is scaffolded as well?

  4. Chora Church is now completely closed and is being converted into a mosque?

Many thanks in advance.

Posted by
12 posts

Hello, I live in Istanbul, I'll try to answer what I can.
1- Haven't visited Haghia Sophia after the conversion to mosque, bur AFAIK images are covered only during prayer times with retractable curtains. Google pics show the ground covered with a carpet. Don't know about upstairs, and comments don't mention any scaffolding/reno.
2- The cistern is closed with no set date to reopen, there's a very nice cistern close by called Şerefiye Cistern, although smaller it is arguably as impressive as Yerebatan Cistern.
3- Google comments say Blue Mosque is being renovated also both interior and exterior, I haven't seen it for myself.
4- Chora church is closed and being converted to a mosque, with no set date for reopening. It had been under restoration for years before this conversion thing though, so some parts of it were always closed to the public and there was this protective roof over the church so you can't get a good view from the outside. I waited for the restoration to end before visiting it and I ended up not being able to visit it at all.
Hope this helps, have a nice vacation.

Posted by
1404 posts

Sorry to say the Basilica Cistern is closed for the balance of 2022 and beyond due to renovations, The Chora Church is also closed. The Erdogan government decided to convert the church to a mosque. I don’t know what that means for the irreplaceable frescoes on the Chora Church’s interior
The Blue mosque is still open, although the interior is undergoing renovations with scaffolding interfering with being able to see the Mosque’s iconic blue tiles.
The Suleymaniye Mosque , built by Suleiman the Magnificent is close by and is an alternative.

Posted by
693 posts

I was in Istanbul in November.

  1. Hagia Sophia -- There is a tiny section of the downstairs floor that is not covered with green carpet. The only Christian image I saw was in the entrance foyer. Christian images are covered, even during non-prayer times. You are not allowed to go upstairs to see the mosaics anymore. Renovations are complete, and there is no scaffolding.

  2. Basilica Cistern is closed for renovation. Theodosius Cistern, older but smaller than the Basilica Cistern, is open.

  3. Blue Mosque - You can go inside, but you can't see much. There was some scaffolding on the outside.

  4. Chora Church/Museum/Mosque -- Is closed for renovation and conversion to a mosque. My impression is that there is a lot of disagreement between the Turkish government and UNESCO about how to handle the mosaics, and there is a lot of negotiation going on.

The good news is that Suleymaniye Mosque and Rustem Pasha Mosque, both recently renovated, are open. Both are worth seeing.

Posted by
7049 posts

Despite these closures and the erasure/replacement of Byzantine/ Christian symbols under the rein of Erdogan, I would highly encourage you to visit Istanbul anyway. There are so many interesting sites to see in Istanbul besides the short list you referenced. Some examples: countless interesting mosques like Rustem Pasha, the Archeological Museum and Mosaic and Tile Museums, Topkapi Palace, select modern art museums (some are private and beautifully situated along the Bosphorus), intetesting bazaars like the local Arasta Bazaar and Spice Bazaar, and a wonderful spread of foods and markets. Just a cruise along the Bosphorus is worth it, it was one of my best travel memories of all time.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you Marie. Very very helpful.

Agnes, I agree that there would be a lot to see, but I am feeling I would be supporting bad behavior with my money. The fact that the images are covered and things are restricted is what has in the end driven my decision. In shifting my Istanbul days I may explore coastal Cilesia or Lake Van and North east of there. or Thessalonika and Macedonia.

Many thanks to you all this community is great and has already greatly helped me. I will attempt to return the favor on my return with updates/discoveries.

Posted by
1219 posts

OP I agree. When the spring tours come out Turkey would have been on the top of our list to book. Not anymore. Sicily here we come!