Turkey to charge admission for Hagia Sophia as of January

Tourists wishing to visit Hagia Sophia in Istanbul will have to pay admission starting in January 2024, the country’s culture minister announced on Tuesday.

The 1,500-year-old Byzantine cathedral, which was converted from a museum into a mosque by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2020, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and receives over 3.5 million visitors a year.

“We will be introducing a visitor management system at the Hagia Sophia mosque that will increase the quality and safety of visits,” Culture Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy told a press conference at the Ataturk Cultural Center on Tuesday.

He said that Turks coming to worship at the mosque will be admitted through one entrance, free of charge, and tourists through another, where they will have to pay a fee. He did not specify how much the admission fee would be or how visitors are expected to demonstrate the purpose of their visit.

The decision, he said, will come into effect on January 15.