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I am planning a trip that will involve changing planes in Istanbul (IST) airport. This is a routing that a travel agent chose to save my client money, and I've agreed to it because I've never been there before, and even if I don't leave the airport, it should be cool.

What would be even cooler is if I could slip out and see something - and the number one something everyone says to see is The Blue Mosque. In order to evaluate whether a given layover would work for such a purpose, I need to know:

  • the minimum connecting time (coming from North America and headed into Europe, or vice versa). There will be a terminal change apparently.
  • how long it takes to get to The Blue Mosque by train or taxi or whatever else is quick
  • how long the lineups typically are to enter it
  • how long to spend inside to feel that you at least saw it. I'm guessing 30 minutes for this though it would be nice to have longer.

Add all those up and I can evaluate whether any itinerary being proposed to me would be able to include such a side trip or not.

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Do you know the arrival time of the day? this will make a big difference because Muslims have 5 prayers a day, mosque will be closed during prayers (like an hour or more for each prayer). The first prayer is in the early morning then the second prayer is around mid noon, this will be the perfect time to visit. So what time your flight arrives? –  user1712 Jul 19 '13 at 22:46
    
It would be great if your answer included those times for me. Then I could say "that's a long enough layover, but at a time when it is closed." One possibility is 3:40pm-7:35 pm, another is 2:45pm-6:50pm. They won't be in the morning just because of when I need to be other places. –  Kate Gregory Jul 19 '13 at 22:49
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If the Blue Mosque is closed due to prayers, the Hagia Sophia is right next to it. If that is closed as well (happened to me), the Topkapi palace is in 10 minutes' walking distance. Both these alternatives are IMO worth seeing as much as the Mosque. –  Michael Borgwardt Jul 20 '13 at 0:00
    
@MichaelBorgwardt I actually think Topkapi is a must see, but 1 hours is not enough.. –  user1712 Jul 20 '13 at 4:04
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@Kate Gregory: The Hagia Sophia is currently a museum, not an active mosque. It is closed on Mondays. –  Michael Borgwardt Jul 20 '13 at 22:32
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1 Answer

up vote 5 down vote accepted

You will need an hour with the public transportation, a taxi will do it in 30-40 minutes. VOA line in IST is long sometimes (last time it took 30 minutes for me). Your arrival times (3:40pm-7:35 pm or 2:45pm-6:50pm) is in the rush hours and even if you obtain visa in time and run to the mosque right away it will be time for Asr prayer (around 5:20 pm these days) and the mosque will be closed for 90 minutes for prayers. The best time to visit the mosque is in the morning because the time between the first prayer (early morning) and second prayer (noon time) is quite long and gives you a better chance. You also will need another trip (1 hour?) to be back to the airport before the boarding time. I do not think you can do it with your current arrival times.

Here is a map for Istanbul public transportation just in case, you will ride starting from the airport (red line) and then change to the dark blue line to reach Sultan Ahmet area at the end of the line where the mosque is located.

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Does the time of prayers vary through the year? This trip is Sept/Oct. Would you have a link to when prayers are? –  Kate Gregory Jul 19 '13 at 23:10
    
Yes, the time of the prayers vary through the years. It depends on the sunrise and sunset times. –  user1712 Jul 19 '13 at 23:11
    
September prayer times in Istanbul. –  user1712 Jul 19 '13 at 23:16
    
I accepted this answer because it gave me the details I needed to realize that none of the schedules being offered to me would let me leave the airport to see anything. That was kind of a shame. But on the up side, the Turkish Airlines business lounge is really amazing and you can while away 3 or 4 hours in it without any problems at all. –  Kate Gregory Oct 9 '13 at 15:17
    
@KateGregory the last part of the comment was not clear, I guess you missed a word :) –  user1712 Oct 9 '13 at 16:16
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