Besides the must visit palaces, historical and sacred monuments Istanbul hosts a vast number of museums. Becoming to known for its art scene Istanbul offers a choice of museums that hosts different collections from Ottoman calligraphy to contemporary art, from Byzantine mosaics to insights to daily palace life. We listed 10 must visit museums in Istanbul.
Istanbul Archaeology Museums
Located in Sultanahmet, the Istanbul Archaeological Museum consists of three different museums in their own building: the Museum of Archaeology, the Ancient Orient Museum and the Tiled Kiosk Museum.
With a beautiful garden that connects the buildings, the Istanbul Archaeological Museum is one of the 10 most important world-class museums originally designed for use as a museum building.
Today, on the ground floor of the Archaeological Museum, sculptures dating from the Ancient Age and Archaic Era to the Roman Era are exhibited. On the upper floor, there are the Treasury section, the Non-Islamic and Islamic Coin Cabinets and the Library.
On the first floor of the New Building, which opened its doors in 1998, the “İstanbul Through the Ages” collection is exhibited. On the second floor, visitors can find the “Anatolia and Troy Through the Ages” collection and the “Surrounding Cultures of Anatolia: Artefacts from Syria, Palestine and Cyprus” on the third floor.
The Ancient Orient Museum consists of the Pre-Islamic Arabian Art, the Egypt Collection, the Mesopotamia Collection, the Anatolia Collection, the Urartu Collection and Cuneiform Documents.
The Tiled Pavilion (Turkish: Çinli Köşk) of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, built in 1472, houses ceramic work and pottery from the Seljuk and Ottoman eras. Visitors can admire the about 2000 artefacts dating from 11th – 20th centuries which are exhibited here.
Museum of Turkish & Islamic Arts
The Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum was the first Turkish museum to include both Islamic and Turkish art together. The story of the museum dates back to 19th century. Housed in the 16th-century İbrahim Paşa Palace, Museum of Turkish & Islamic Arts has a rich collection from the Ottoman period, including many imperial fermans, charters, and endowments. The museum also hosts a carpet collection, at around 1,700 pieces is well worth seeing.
Istanbul Modern (Turkish: Istanbul Modern Sanat Müzesi) is Turkey’s first museum of modern art. Converted from a warehouse the museum opened its doors to visitors in 2004. With an amazing view, the museum a valuable collection of 20th Century Turkish art. With its frequently updated exhibitions, workshops for adults and children, and film screenings the museum has a large influence on the city’s art scene.
In addition to the continuous and temporary exhibition space the museum has a comprehensive library, a shop and a cafe-restaurant.
Located in the historical Bristol Hotel, Pera Museum offers a well-equipped and modern artistic space since 2005.
Visitors can see the Orientalist Painting Collection, the Osman Hamdi Bey Collection, the Anatolian Weights and Measurements and the Kütahya Tile and Ceramic Collections.
In addition to its rich collection, Pera Museum also hosts many important art events and exibitions. There are also a number of workshops for both adults and children.
The museum also has a cafe open certain days of the week.
Rahmi Koc Museum
Located on the shore of the Golden Horn in an old Ottoman shipyard, Rahmi Koç Museum is notable for being the first museum dedicated to the story of industry, transportation, and communication in Turkey.
Opened in 1994 by the Koç Group, the museum is built on an approximately 27.000 square meter area. Composed of the historical anchor house (lengerhane) and dockyard (tershane), and an open exhibition space the museum also has a cafe and restaurant.
Sakıp Sabancı Museum
Located on the Atlı Köşk in Emirgan, Sakıp Sabancı Museum opened its doors to visitors in 2002. With a rich collection of painting and calligraphy, the museum has exhibited the works of many famous artists.
The Book Art and Calligraphy Collection contains rare hand-written works, sultan decrees, Korans, and tools used in calligraphy whereas The Painting Collection consists of works from Turkish artists of the early Republican and Late Ottoman periods, as well as the work of foreigners who lived in Istanbul during these times.
In the garden there are archeological objects dating from the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods.
The Museum of Calligraphy hosts a collection of art and handcrafts dating from the 13th century. During the Ottoman period the site was used as a madrassa affiliated with the Beyazit mosque. Among other objects in the collection are Korans, seals of the sultans, and miniatures, as well as important examples of stone and glass work.
Sadberk Hanım Museum
Located in the 19th Century Azaryan Yalı built on the coast of Sarıyer, the museum exhibits the collection of Sadberk Hanım, the wife of an important businessman, Vehbi Koç. The first private museum in Turkey, the museum hosts traditional clothing, crafts, and decorated silver and porcelain objects. The collection also has artefacts dating from 6000 BC to the Byzantine period.
Great Palace Mosaics Museum
The Great Palace Mosaic Museum was constructed to preserve a surviving portion of mosaic covering the courtyard of the Great Palace of Constantinople which was uncovered during archaeological excavations in the Arasta Çarşı. Produced with great craftsmanship between 450-550 C.E., the mosaics depict daily life, mythological stories and nature scenes.
The Palace Collections Museum
Originally the site of the Dolmabahçe kitchens, it was converted to into a “Warehouse Museum” in 2006 in order to exhibit the many objects find in storage around the palace.
Opened to visitors as the Palace Collections Museum in 2011, the museum’s collections are made up of over 40,000 objects of daily life taken from the palace.