Top 10 Museums in Istanbul

March 3, 2019

by Salpi Ozgur


Istanbul is famous for it’s Bosphorus, historic peninsula, mosques, bazaars and great food. All of these are true, and even though travelers enjoy the treasures of Istanbul all these great places overshadow Istanbul’s most prominent museums. Personally, when I visit a city, museums are the best places to begin sightseeing for me. Because I believe, museums hold history and culture. In this article, I am going to write about the 10 best museums you can visit during your trip to Istanbul! Even if you already live in Istanbul, this article has great tips for you! 

1-Istanbul Archeology Museums

Established by infamous Osman Hamdi Bey, Istanbul Archeology museum offers a lot for both tourists and enthusiasts. The museum consists of three buildings: Museum of the Ancient Orient, Archeological Museum and the Museum of Islamic Art. In the collection, you can see the world known Alexander Sarcophagus, Amazing tiles from the Ishtar Gate, one of the oldest love poems ever written and many more! Istanbul Archeology Museum is just a couple of tram stops away from Sultanahmet and all the other historical sights, so I would suggest planning a day where you both visit Archeology Museums and the districts nearby. The museum can be visited every day except on Mondays.

2-Topkapı Palace Museum

One of the most visited touristic attractions, Topkapı Palace used to be the residence of the Ottoman Sultans. Its history aside Topkapı Palace Museum has a vast collection of items on display. Constructed between 1460 and 1478 by Sultan Mehmed II. The palace was used until the mid 19th century after that Sultans moved to Dolmabahçe palace in Bosphorus. Despite the move, some important objects were left in Topkapı, such as holy relics. The archives also remained at Topkapı. This is why when you visit the palace you can see a lot of people trying to kiss and adore objects. For people in Turkey, the palace and objects in it have great value and meaning. Topkapı Palace has opened its doors as a museum on April 3rd, 1924, this was ordered by Turkey’s modern leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. I would recommend visiting the palace on weekdays because on weekends it is much more crowded. A lot of people with their families like to visit the palace. The museum is open every day except Tuesdays(check for holidays).

3-Sakıp Sabancı Museum(SSM)

Sabancı Museum is one of the most prominent museums in Istanbul. Besides the permanent collection, Sabancı museum hosts the most important exhibitions in Istanbul, such as Dali, Monet, Miro and Weiwei

Sakıp Sabancı Museum is located inside the Atli Kosk(the mansion with the horse). Mansion took its name from the horse statues. Sabancı museum has a collection of both arts and furniture. In 1998 the mansion was opened to visitors as a museum. Sabancı Museum is one of the favorite spots for all sorts of cultural events, and one of my favorite places to go to. The museum has a great view, make sure to take lots of pictures. Also, because of the museums’ location, you will be visiting one of the greatest districts in Istanbul. Make sure to check out Istanbul’s excellent fish restaurants as well. The museum can be visited every day except on Mondays.

4-Rahmi M.Koç Museum

The Rahmi M. Koç Museum is a private industrial museum. The collection consists of trains, cars, machines and even a submarine. Building its located was purchased in 1991, but after a fire, it was used as a warehouse for a long time. The restoration took two and a half years. Since it was a class II historical monument the restoration was long and very careful. In 2001, they bought another building for better displays.

The permanent exhibition has racing cars, sports cars, old Istanbul tram, Istanbul Tunnel Carriage, Bosphorus Passenger ferryboat and many more. Rahmi M.Koç Museum is one of the most fun museums to visit and spend time for both grown-ups and kids. It is the perfect museum of families and school groups. The museum also holds temporary exhibitions. I would suggest giving at least half a day to visit this beautiful museum. I promise you will leave satisfied. The museum can be visited every day except on Mondays.

5-Pera Museum

Established on 8 June 2005, Pera Museum has been dominating the Istanbul art scene ever since. The museum is famous for its temporary exhibitions and having Turkey’s most famous painting: The Tortoise Trainer. Museum’s permanent collections consist of Anatolian Weights and Measures, Orientalists Paintings, Photography, Kutahya Tiles, and Ceramics. The museum can be accessed through Google Arts&Culture. Make sure to check out their event calendar as well, hence Pera Museum offers much more than just exhibitions. Pera Museum is open every day except Mondays.

6-Dolmabahçe Palace

Built in the 19th century, Dolmabahce Palace was the residence and administrative center of the late Ottoman Empire. The palace is also the place Ataturk, famous Turkish leader died. Nowadays the palace can be visited by the public. There are many guided tours. It holds all the necessary information regarding Late Ottoman and Modern Turkish history. Dolmabahce Palace is a must visit for every person who’s visiting Istanbul. Dolmabahce Palace can be visited every day except Mondays.

7-Museum of Palace Collections

In 2006 establishing a depot-museum was decided. At first, around 20.000 objects were transported to the museum and it was open to public visit. After it was obvious that there wasn’t enough displays and mechanisms to exhibit all of the collection, the project of the Museum of Palace collections was realized. The Museum of Palace collections consists of museum, gallery, and depots. The collection consists of 19th-century objects from Ottoman Palaces. It is also near to other museums and Dolmabahce. So it would be best if you planned your visit to see them all. The museum can be visited every day except on Mondays.

8-Sadberk Hanım Museum

The museum gets its name from the wife of Vehbi Koç. The museum was opened on 14 October 1980 at the Azaryan Mansion. Initially, the museum’s collection consisted of the private collection of Sadberk Koç, later the collection of Hüseyin Kocabaş was added to the museum. Museum’s collection consists of Archeological Artefacts and Turkish-Islamic artifacts. Personally, it is my favorite museum in Istanbul, Turkey. It also hosts many temporary exhibitions related to collections. You could access the museum with ferry and a bit of walking or a bus. It is definitely the best to hop on a ferry, you would be enjoying the Bosphorus to its fullest. The museum can be visited every day except Wednesdays.

9-Borusan Contemporary

Borusan Contemporary is probably the most interesting museum among all. The collection is located at the Haunted Mansion in Istanbul. Choosing such a building as a museum makes their mission much more alluring. When it comes to contemporary art, Borusan is the one with the most interesting exhibitions and installations. Their collection includes over 700 works. The museum can only be visited on weekends.

10-Istanbul Modern

Istanbul Modern was founded in 2004 as Turkey’s first museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. The museum attracted people all around the world with its collection. Museum’s Collection consists of the works of great artists such as Olafur Eliasson, Doug Aitken, Sarkis, Aliye Berger and many more. Istanbul Modern’s collection can also be visited by Google Arts&Culture. Nowadays, Istanbul Modern has moved to its new location and waiting for visitors. The museum also has many temporary exhibitions throughout the year. It is possible to visit Istanbul Modern every day except Sundays.

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