The Tombs of the Sultans at Hagia Sophia

The Tombs of the Sultans at Hagia Sophia show that the Ottomans were as serious about their art and decoration in death as they were in life.
Tomb of Sultan Selim II at Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
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The Ottomans were as serious about their art and decoration in death as they were in life. Tucked around the back of Hagia Sophia, accessible through a separate side entrance, is a small courtyard ringed by several small buildings that look like mini mosques. From the outside, they don’t look that impressive, but once you step inside they’re every bit as opulent as the most ornate imperial Ottoman mosque.

These are the **Tombs of the Sultans. And they’re remarkable not just for their lavish decorations, each of which is different, but also because it wasn’t just the Sultan who was laid to rest here in his green-shrouded sarcophagus. His family members joined him, laid alongside, with large sarcophagi for adults and small ones for children. So what you’re seeing here is an entire extended family.

The five tombs are those of:

Süleymaniye the Magnificent, the longest-serving of the Ottoman Sultans, isn’t here. He has his own tomb behind Süleymaniye Mosque.

Photos of the Tombs of the Sultans

Tomb of Sultan Murad III at Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
The tomb of Sultan Murad III. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Tomb of Sultan Selim II at Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
The tomb of Sultan Selim II. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Tomb of the Sultans
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Tomb of Sultan Murad III at Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
The tomb of Sultan Murad III. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Tomb of Sultan Selim II at Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
The tomb of Sultan Selim II. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Tomb of Sultan Selim II at Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
The tomb of Sultan Selim II. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Tomb of Sultan Murad III at Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
The tomb of Sultan Murad III. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Tomb of Sultan Murad III at Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
The tomb of Sultan Murad III. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Tomb of Sultan Selim II at Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
The tomb of Sultan Selim II. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Tomb of Sultan Selim II at Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
Some ornate wooden inlay in the Tomb of Sultan Selim II. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Tomb of Sultan Selim II at Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
The tomb of Sultan Selim II. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com

What to Know Before You Go

  • There’s a separate entrance from the main Hagia Sophia complex. The entrance, which isn’t especially well signed, is on the southeastern corner of Hagia Sophia, around the corner from the main entrance. It’s next to the tourist shops and on the same road that leads into the entrance to the Topkapi Palace (Kabasakal Cd).
  • It’s closed Sundays and open other days 9 to 5.
  • It’s free, although you’ll have to go through the obligatory security checkpoint on the way in.
  • It’s small. There are five tombs in a small courtyard. 30 minutes is plenty of time.
  • You’ll have to remove your shoes before entering any of the tombs.

Where to Next?



Travel Advice for Turkey

You can find the latest U.S. Department of State travel advisories and information for Turkey (such as entry visa requirements and vaccination requirements) here.

The British and Australian governments offer their own country-specific travel information. You can find the British Government's travel advice for Turkey here and the Australian Government's here.

Health & Vaccinations

The CDC makes country-specific recommendations for vaccinations and health for travelers. You can find their latest information for Turkey here.

Guidebooks for Turkey

If you're looking for a guidebook to make the most of your visit, these are some of the most popular ones currently for Turkey. Some are available in both paper and e-book formats.

Fodor's Essential Turkey (Full-color Travel Guide)
  • Fodor's Travel Guides (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
Rick Steves Istanbul: With Ephesus & Cappadocia
  • Aran, Lale Surmen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

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Hopefully, you won't need it, but if something goes wrong, you'll sure be glad you have it!

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