Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, the most visited place by tourists travelling to Turkey

In addition to Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, the Mevlana Museum in Konya and the archaeological site of Pamukkale and Hierapolis are the favourite places for tourists.

The Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul continued to be in 2019 one of the most visited monuments by tourists during the past year, according to data recently released by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

According to this information, around 3.72 million people visited this ancient Byzantine basilica converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, and finally transformed into a museum in the early twentieth century, after the founding of the Turkish Republic.

After Hagia Sophia, the Mevlana Museum in Konya was the 2nd most visited place by tourists in Turkey during the past year, receiving 3.46 million visits, while the archaeological site of Pamukkale and Hierapolis ranked third with 2.55 million tourists.

A Byzantine basilica converted into a mosque, and later into a museum

Inaugurated in the year 537 under the reign of the Eastern Roman emperor Justinian I, Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya, in Turkish), name that in Greek means “Holy Wisdom”, served as Christian basilica and seat of the Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church until the conquest of the city of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453.

After capturing the city, which meant the end of the Roman Empire of the East or Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II transformed the building into a mosque, and later the current minarets were added in addition to part of the decoration that even today can be observed inside.

Hagia Sophia continued to function as a mosque until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after the defeat of the so-called Central Powers in World War I. In 1923 Mustafa Kemal “Atatürk” founded the new Turkish Republic on the remains of the empire, and in 1931 the doors of Hagia Sophia were closed; they would not be reopened until 1935, when the building became a secular museum, a function it maintains to this day.