Museums in Istanbul
Museums info in Istanbul for travelers.
The Basilica of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), now called the Ayasofya Museum, is unquestionably one of the finest buildings of all time. Built by Constantine the Great and reconstructed by Justinian in the 6th century, its immense dome rises fifty-five meters above the ground and its diameter spans 33 meters. Linger here to admire the building’s majestic serenity as well as the fine Byzantine mosaics. The Archaeological Museums are found just inside the first court of the Topkapi Palace. Included among its treasures of antiquity are the celebrated Alexander Sarcophagus and the facade of the Temple to Athena from Assos. The Museum of the Ancient Orient displays artifacts from the Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Hatti, and Hittite civilizations (Open every day except Monday). Originally built in the 15th hundred years as a kosk, or pavilion, by Mehmet the Conqueror, the Cinili Kosk, which houses the Museum of Turkish Ceramics, contains beautiful 16th-century specimens from Iznik and fine examples of Seljuk and Ottoman pottery and tiles (Open every day except Monday). Like the Ayasofya Museum, St Irene Museum was originally a church. It ranks, in fact, as the first church built in Istanbul. Constantine commissioned it in the fourth century and Justinian later had the church restored. The building reputedly stands on the site of a pre-Cristian temple (Open every day except Monday but requires special permission for admission).
The dark stone building that houses the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art was built in 1524 by the Grand Vizier to Suleyman the Magnificent, Ibrahim Pasa, as his residence. It was the grandest private residence ever built in the Ottoman Empire. Today it holds a superb collection of ceramics, metalwork, miniatures calligraphy, textiles and woodwork as well as some of the oldest carpets in the world (Open every day except Monday). Across the road from the Ibrahim Pasa residence may be the Museum of Turkish Carpets which contains exquisite antique carpets and kilims gathered from all over Turkey (Open every day except Sunday and Monday). Near Hagia Sophia may be the sixth-century Byzantine cistern known as the Yerebatan Cistern. Three hundred and thirty-six massive Corinthian columns support the immense chamber’s fine brick vaulting (Open every day). The Mosaic Museum preserves in situ exceptionally fine fifth and sixth-century mosaic pavements from the Grand Palace of the Byzantine emperors (Open every day except Tuesday). The Kariye Museum, the 11th-century church of “St. Savior” in the Chora complex, is after Hagia Sophia, the most important Byzantine monument in Istanbul. Unremarkable in its architecture, the walls are decorated with superb 14th-century mosaics.
Illustrating scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary, these brilliantly colored paintings embody the vigor of Byzantine art. In restored wooden houses in the area surrounding the church, you can enjoy tea and coffee in a relaxed atmosphere far removed from the city’s hectic pace (Open every day except Wednesday). The Aviation Museum in Yesilkoy traces the development of flight in Turkey (Open every day except Monday). In the Military Museum, the great field tents used by the Ottoman armies on campaigns are on display. Other exhibits include Ottoman weapons and the accouterments of war. The Mehter Takimi (Ottoman Military Band) can be heard performing Ottoman martial music between 3:00 and 4:00 pm. (Open every day except Monday and Tuesday).
Ataturk’s former residence in Sisli now serves as the Ataturk Museum and displays his personal effects (Open every day except Saturday and Sunday). The grand imperial caiques used by the sultans to cross the Strait are among the many other interesting exhibits of Ottoman naval history that can be seen at the Naval Museum located in the Besiktas district (Open every day except Monday and Thursday). Also in Besiktas is the Museum of Fine Arts which houses Turkish paintings and sculptures from the end of the 19th century to the present (Open every day except Monday and Tuesday). The City Museum, located within the gardens of the Yildiz Palace, preserves and documents the history of Istanbul since the Ottoman conquest (Open every day except Thursday). Also within the gardens are the Yildiz Palace Theatre and the Museum of Historical Stage Costumes, with its richly decorated scenery and stage, and its exquisite costumes (Open every day except Tuesday). The Rahmi Koc Industry Museum, in the suburb of Haskoy on the coast of the Golden Horn, was an Ottoman-period building, formerly called Lengerhane, for iron and steel works. Today it houses exhibits on industrial development (Open every Monday).