Things to Do with Kids in Istanbul: Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia is the most important thing to see in Istanbul for anyone of any age. I am still shocked that this incredible building, that I saw so many times on history programmes, and read about in texts during my studies, is currently walking distance from where we are living. I was delighted that on Friday, when we asked Matti what he would like to do, Hagia Sophia was his answer. It is really hard to capture the significance of this building in a few lines, or it's immensity with my camera, but I will be content to try many times while I live in its shadow. The first church on this site (there have been three, lasting through three empires) was dedicated in 360 CE and it was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years. Hagia Sophia feels like a vast cave in the clouds. It is dark and still but light plays across the marble, dances across mosaics revealing their glimmer, lights the faces of our children, time going by, day and night, caught inside this Byzantine wonder as it has for nearly 1,500 years. It is fascinating to search with the children for the clues to the building's function of church and then mosque: crosses scraped off rock, seraphim faces, some hidden, some exposed, mosaics painted over or revealed. According to some sources, the walkway to the upper floor was once used by horses, and it does feel like a mountain path. Every time I walk around the upper floor and peer down into the depths of the building I wish my Dad was not in the UK, with his history programmes, but next to me. Though there are a thousand reasons to want his company, sharing these sights is not an insignificant one. I also wish that I could take any of you that have not been to the inner doors where you catch the first breath-taking view of the interior. I do not yet have the skills or the equipment to do the drama of the building justice so I have begun by trying to capture some of its whispers. Of course now that Matti and Anton have discovered chocolate-filled açma, we had to begin with that....

Some practical information: The cost is 25 TL. It is closed on Mondays. Toilets are good. The cafe is very expensive. If you have children with you just walk to the start of the queue, the policy is to let you straight in. The queue can be very long. It is worth the wait.

Simit seller

Anton and his chocolate-filled açma.

Matti taking it in.

Just a glimpse

The way to the upper floor.

On the upper floor

Oblivious Neve

On the upper floor

Not so ancient graffiti


Through a window


Upper floor


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11 thoughts on “Things to Do with Kids in Istanbul: Hagia Sophia

  1. Really beautiful post Julia and the photographs are just stunning. After seeing so many of your lovely posts about Istanbul I have added it to the list in my head of places I need to visit. Fancy being my tour guide? ;-)

  2. Definitely Rach! Come and stay with us, bring your beautiful kids! I am serious.

  3. Oh my gosh Julia! That third photo, on the cement steps, it just takes my breath away! The lighting and the look on his face...just beautiful.

  4. Love the photo of the baby sleeping. In fact, love ALL of them.

  5. Wow what an amazing place! Love each one of these!

  6. You go on some amazing adventures - your story and pictures make me feel like I am right there with you!

  7. Anonymous12:44

    I think your photos absolutely do it justice. They are stunning. I have always regretted not making it to Istanbul, but it's still on my must see list. Perhaps I shall do it with three children in tow :-) What a wonderful childhood you have given your children.

  8. How amazing would that be?! You wouldn't want my rowdy lot imposing on you all though. :-)

    How often do you manage to get back here?

  9. Rach: We'd manage!! I think we are moving to a bigger place in August so if that happens it would be easy. We had my sister and her four energetic boys for nearly three weeks last summer. I am the eldest of 9 so don't get stressed out by extra kids. I think our boys look much quieter in the photos than they actually are! We are coming to the UK on the 8th of March because Ville is speaking at Oxford Uni but we can only come for a week so not much scope for much else than trying to get round all my siblings. We will be here another 6 years at least though so you've got time for a visit!

  10. It looks like such a beautiful place to explore. I like how you have played with the light and shadows in all of these photos. You do such a good job of conveying the atmosphere of the place. Love the fifth one down, the way the light reveals the texture of the stones. It's beautiful and mysterious and makes me feel as if I'm right there. Well done, Julia!

  11. Julia all I can say is that would be amazing. You are so generous.

    As for being one of nine that must be amazing and stressful all at the same time; it explains why your posts always come across so calm and you seem to take everything in your stride.

    Enjoy your trip back here and when you get more than one week maybe we could squeeze in a little cuppa?



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