Istanbul’s Ottoman-era mosques draw millions of visitors every year. From Süleymaniye Mosque’s grandeur to Rüstem Pasha Mosque’s colourful tiles, the mosques are a splendid part of the city and everyone – Muslim or not – is permitted to enter. It’s understandable to feel anxiety about the proper way to dress to visit these holy sites.
Cover up and remove shoes
Most mosques are still functioning religious sites, so it’s necessary to dress appropriately. In Istanbul, this means that women need to cover their shoulders, legs and heads. Men need to cover their shoulders and legs. This means no shorts for women or men, no matter the heat.
Everyone needs to remove their shoes, as the floors of mosques are covered in thick carpets and it is considered disrespectful to wear shoes inside. Most mosques will have a caretaker who checks that everyone entering is dressed appropriately.
Come prepared to visit
It’s most comfortable to dress in preparation for visiting mosques. For women, bring along a light scarf that can double as a head covering. Wearing trousers or a long skirt makes it easy to cover your legs. Shoes that easily slip on and off make entering and exiting mosques more convenient.
Borrow extra clothes and shoe bags
If you aren’t dressed to visit a mosque and happen to pass by one that you’d like to enter, don’t worry. All mosques in Istanbul have scarves that women can use to cover their heads, and many also have wraps that can be used to cover legs.
Istanbul tries to make it as easy as possible to see these beautiful interiors. Many mosques also provide plastic bags that can be used to carry your shoes.
Be respectful when visiting mosques
Though the mosques, especially the Blue Mosque, are major visitor attractions, they are places where people still pray. Though entry is not allowed during official prayer times, it is possible people will still be praying during visiting hours. Remember to be quiet and refrain from taking pictures of people worshipping.
Otherwise, enjoy some of the most stunning buildings Istanbul has to offer.