GaN epilayers were grown on lens shaped patterned sapphire substrate (PSS) (0001) and unpatterned sapphire substrate (UPSS) (0001) by metal-organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD). The quality of the grown GaN epilayers on the PSS and UPSS were compared. Structural characteristics, surface morphology and optical properties of the GaN epilayers were investigated using double crystal X-ray diffraction (DCXRD), atomic force microscopy (AFM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and photoluminescence (PL). A lens shaped pattern was formed on the sapphire substrate to reduce threading dislocation (TD) density and also to improve the optical emission efficiency by internal reflection on the lens. Scanning electron microscopy images show the growth of GaN epilayers at various times. Full coalescence is observed at a growth time of 80 min. It is seen from the DCXRD rocking spectrum that full width at half maximum (FWHM) of the GaN grown on PSS was 438.7 arcsec which is less than UPSS value. The lower value of FWHM indicates that the crystalline quality of the GaN epilayers grown on PSS is improved compared to GaN grown on UPSS. It is clearly seen from the AFM images that the dislocation density is less for the GaN grown on PSS. A strong and sharp photoluminescence (PL) band edge emission was observed for the GaN grown on PSS compared to UPSS. Defect related yellow luminescence was observed for GaN grown on UPSS which did not appear for PSS. The FWHM at the 364.3 nm peak position was evaluated to be 50.7 meV from the PL spectra for GaN grown on PSS. The above result indicates GaN epilayers can be grown on PSS with low TD density and will be useful for optical emission.