Süleymaniye Mosque, Süleymaniye
Concierge.com's insider take:
Escape the Sultanahmet crowds and head for this impressive and undervisited complex, just a short walk past the University from the back of the Grand Bazaar. One of the greatest achievements of 16th-century architect Mimar Sinan—responsible for a large part of what we appreciate as Istanbul's remarkable historic landscape—the mosque and the surrounding buildings were commissioned by one of the Ottoman dynasty's more successfully expansionist sultans, Süleyman the Magnificent. Süleyman was also known for his softer side—his love of poetry and of his Ukrainian slave-wife Roxelana, with whom he was hopelessly enamored. The pair are buried in adjacent mausoleums inside the mosque's cemetery, on the opposite side of the complex from the architect's own humble little tomb. The mosque itself is open to visitors except at prayer times, and headscarves are provided for ladies at the door. Spanning an area of 36,000 square feet, with a dome whose keystone hangs at a height of 165 feet, the interior is no less impressive than that of the Blue Mosque. The complex also includes a row of buildings opposite the south entrance that functioned as a medrese, or school, now occupied by little tea shops; you can see the old caravansary and a hammam around the peripheries. There's also a former Ottoman soup kitchen that's been converted into a restaurant with a leafy courtyard, Dârüzziyafe—perfect for a postmosque cuppa (6 Şifahane Caddesi; 90-212-511-8414; www.daruzziyafe.com.tr).