• The Blue Mosque of Istanbul – a City Break Essential

    by  • August 12, 2015 • Architecture, City Breaks, Film, Istanbul

    Images of Istanbul Adorn the Silver Screen.

    When watching a film, as well as the story depicted on the big screen, I’m always interested in finding out more about the movie locations used as backdrops to some of cinema’s most successful releases. And last night’s film choice was no exception: The Water Diviner, Russell Crowe’s directorial debut, tells the story of an Australian man’s journey to Turkey in a quest to find his three missing sons following the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915.

    Whilst many of the landscapes shown in the film depict Australia and the Gallipoli peninsula, much of the film is based in Istanbul, with dedicated screen time given to the jewel in the Turkish capital’s crown, the iconic Blue Mosque. Indeed, The Water Diviner is the first film ever to have been given official permission to be shot inside this most prestigious religious landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and thus pays rightful homage to the Mosque’s stunning interior.

    Built during the early 1600s on the site of the palace of the Byzantine Emperors, the Sultan Ahmed or ‘Blue’ Mosque serves as the national mosque of Turkey and, alongside the nearby Hagia Sofia and the Grand Bazaar, is one of Istanbul’s must-see treasures. Regarded as one of the greatest masterpieces of Islamic architecture, the Blue Mosque dominates the Istanbul skyline with its six slender minarets and a series of domes cascading down from the grand central cupola. Complemented further by the arcades running beneath, the interior courtyard is said to be the largest of all mosques throughout the Ottoman Empire.

    Actually one of several to be known as the ‘Blue Mosque’, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is so named because of the distinctive Iznik blue tiles adorning its interior walls, some 20,000 in total featuring flowers, trees and abstract patterns. Lit by the light streaming in through the mosque’s 260 windows, the interior domed ceiling is truly a sight to behold.

    As well as capturing the essential photographic reminders of the mosque’s exterior beauty, a visit inside is an absolute pre-requisite on any Istanbul city break. Of course, the mosque is still used for daily worship, with prayers taking place five times a day. The best time to arrive at the Hippodrome (west entrance) is mid-morning and female visitors should be prepared to respectfully cover their heads. Visit after dusk in the summer months and you’ll be rewarded with a memorable ‘Son et Lumière’ (sound and light) show.


    With a French grandmother, childhood holidays on the continent and a degree in French and Spanish, a love of languages and travel has always been in my blood. Fresh from university with an unfettered enthusiasm to show off my linguistic ability and first-hand knowledge of the world beyond the UK, I entered the travel industry and, 16 years on, I’m still there! With several years spent in the luxury sector planning escorted holidays across Europe for the American market, followed by an even longer tenure designing short breaks with a difference in the must-see cities of Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Amsterdam, Madrid, Prague, Florence, Brussels, Venice, Salzburg, Milan, Krakow and Berlin (to name but a few), it’s fair to say that Europe is my passion! Today my travels have taken me far beyond the boundaries of Europe with so many destinations still to discover, yet the continent abounds in such a wealth of treasures – historical and architectural, cultural and musical, gastronomic, artistic and linguistic – that its appeal, for me, will be eternal.