Hagia Sofia means The Church of Holy Wisdom in Turkish. The first church on this site burned down in 404 and the one that exists today is the third one, built in 537. It is really amazing to see something still standing despite the countless natural disasters such as earthquakes and the many wars in the area.
The exterior of the building is not exactly as it was constructed because buttresses were added to secure the structure. This distracts a little from the original shape. It looks more mosque-like in its current form with the tall minarets at the corners.
Inside the structure, the galleries are where the women prayed and there are some wonderful mosaics inside left from the church days. Many of the columns inside were scavenged from the pagan temples and reused in this structure
In 1453, the church was turned into a mosque. The mosaics were plastered over and the mihrab and minbar were added along with the calligraphic roundels. The mosaics were not discovered until 1930 and since 1934, the structure has been a museum. The history of the structure and being inside it was amazing.
The Hagia Sophia is located on one end of Sultanahmet Square directly across from the Blue Mosque. It is opened every day from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. during April-October. In the winter months, the hours are 9-5.
There are two floors inside Hagia Sofia and there is a cemetery with tombs and some artifacts outside. There are a nice bar and place to sit outside and restrooms are outside. Security is tight in this museum and all of the monuments and museums, so plan a little extra time to get through the lines. The weekend lines were very long, but during the week, they were not too bad.
While you are in line guides will approach you and offer their services. This can be a good way to cut through some of the lines and save time as they enter through another door. They will have tickets to sell and add on the cost of the guide services.
Another option in an audio guide which lets you get the information, but go at your own pace. It is available in many languages. The cost of the ticket to enter is 40 Turkish lire, or about $10 and the audio guides is 20 lire or about $5.