When researching Istanbul, there will be many who tell you that there are quite a few “must see” things in the city. Unfortunately, I’m not here to tell you that this is a lie – in fact, I’m actually going to add something to the list. In my humble opinion, I think you should check out the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque. It is slightly off the beaten path so it will never be a popular site for visitors but that just makes this place of worship extra special. It has a particular vibe that can only be felt at mosques such as this one (another example is Rustem Pasha) but not at those such as the Blue Mosque or Süleymaniye Mosque, both of which are heavily visited.
Mihrimah Sultan Mosque is an Ottoman mosque near the Byzantine land walls in the Edirnekapi neighborhood. It was designed by Sinan for the daughter of Sultan Suleiman (who commissioned the Süleymaniye Mosque, also by Sinan) and was completed in 1565. Princess Mihrimah was supposedly the favorite daughter of the Sultan and it definitely shows in this gorgeous mosque.
If you don’t want to make the trek out to Edirnekapi just for the mosque, combine it with a visit to the fourth century land walls and/or Chora Church. If you do what we did and find Mihrimah Mosque by following the walls, note that when you reach the mosque, you’ll probably think you’re in the wrong spot. The walls lead you to the back of the building which has what looks like where buses go to die.
Ignoring all of that, you do get a vague idea that the mosque is fairly square shaped with a dome on its top and that there is one minaret. Up some steps through a gate and then you’re in the area where people wash and female tourists pick up a scarf if they don’t have one already. And then you’re inside. I dare you to not to instantly smile when you see the inside.
“Light” is the first thing that comes to mind when one first steps inside this mosque – both in the sense of being airy and the actual abundant sunlight that streams through the building. Wide swaths of the walls are windows made up of regular glass and stained glass. The effect is simply stunning. It is bright and just so darn pretty. Some people call it a feminine space but personally, gender assignments like that really annoy me. Why is it when something is bright, light, and happy, it is automatically called “feminine”? Anywhoo.
The other bonus to this mosque is that there is no restricted space so you can roam to your heart’s content – and the lack of crowds makes it easy to do so. When we went, there were maybe three or four people just chilling. Other than that, it was a wonderful hour of taking photos and being silent in a peaceful uplifting space, just taking in the fact how amazing it was to be surrounded by such architectural beauty.