Istanbul is a city famous for its historic fabric and diverse culture. Having witnessed several countries as well as empires through its long history, Istanbul now houses countless museums shedding light on the historical, cultural, and artistic aspects of the city. The list we have prepared here is going to acquaint you with some of the most famous and interesting museums in the city.
Museum of the Princes’ Islands
Being the first contemporary city museum of Istanbul, Museum of the Princes’ Islands focuses on history of the Princes’ Islands with its vast collection of objects and documents from the Ottoman archives. In addition, thousands of digital photographs and videos tell the story of the islands from the past till the very present day, thus highlighting their multi-cultural aspect. The museum is located in St. Nicholas Hangar Museum Site, Büyükada. It is closed on Mondays.
Aşiyan is the home of the famous Turkish poet Tevfik Fikret. Aşiyan is a Persian word, meaning “home”. The famous poet always wanted to live in a house overlooking the Bosphorus, a dream which he realized in 1906. Tevfik Fikret drafted the architectural plan of the house himself. The original drafts are exhibited in the museum.
Tevfik Fikret’s tomb is in the garden of the museum. This museum is a must see since it sheds light on one of the most important intellectual figures and artists and other letter of men of his period in Aşiyan Museum and exhibits a rich piece of Turkish cultural heritage. Aşiyan museum is definitely worth seeing with the many important works it hosts and its bedroom which has a window known as the most beautiful one opening to the Bosphorus.
Hagia Sophia Museum
Hagia Sophia Museum in Sultanahmet is one of the most visited attractions in Istanbul. Having been used as a church for 916 years, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque after the conquest of Istanbul in 1453. In 1935, Hagia Sophia became a museum under the order of Atatürk and the decision of the Council of Ministers.
In Hagia Sophia Museum, there are several things to see both inside and outside. The Dome, Mosaics and Tiles of Hagia Sophia, Sultan’s Loge, and the Library of Sultan Mahmud I are just a few of the attractions inside Hagia Sophia. On the other hand, visitors may visit Sultan Tombs, Elementary School, Public Fountains and Minarets on the outside. Hagia Sophia is open for visit every day.
Located in Şişli, Istanbul, Atatürk Museum houses a collection about the personal life, paintings, medals, military uniforms, and photographs of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and the first president of the Republic of Turkey. The museum was once the private residence of Atatürk, a house he rented right after World War 1 and lived with his mother and sister until May 1919, the beginning of Turkish War of Independence.
Istanbul Naval Museum
Located in Beşiktaş district, Istanbul Naval Museum (Deniz Müzesi) is the first military museum in Turkey. The museum was established in 1897 by the Ottoman Minister of Navy, Bozcaadalı Hasan Hüsnü Pasha. It is among the most outstanding museums in the world in terms of the diversity of its collection. In Istanbul Naval Museum, there are approximately 20,000 items on display, most of which are military artefacts dating back to the Ottoman Navy.
Unlike the other museums mentioned above, Borusan Contemporary hosts several exhibitions by artists working with time, light, technology, video, software, and beyond. Most of the exhibitons are held in Perili Köşk in Rumeli Hisarı.
Borusan Contemporary is a multi-platform program of exhibitions, events, educational activities, new commissions and site specific installations rooted in Borusan Contemporary Art Collection.
Speaking of modern art, Istanbul Modern aims to popularize the artistic creativity in Turkey. It was established on an area of 8,000 sqm, right by the Bosphorus in 2004. Istanbul Modern is the first private museum in Turkey organizing modern and contemporary art exhibitions.
In addition to the permanent and temporary exhibition halls inside the museum, there is also a movie theater and a library. The wonderful location of the museum makes it the perfect place to spend the day. Should you want to take a breather, keep in mind that Istanbul Modern Café & Restaurant awaits you with its dazzling view and delicious meals!
Miniatürk, the largest miniature park in the world, is an amazing open air museum located in Sütlüce, Beyoğlu. In Miniatürk, models of 1/25 scales of selected works of Turkish and Ottoman geographies are exhibited. 126 miniatures, 59 of which are from Istanbul, 55 from Anatolia and 12 from the Ottoman geography are shown in perfect detail. What’s more, there is an amphitheater, a shopping center, a helicopter simulation tour, and play areas for children in Miniatürk. All of these combined, the visitors of Miniatürk are guaranteed to have great time and a day full of culture!
A private museum founded by Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation, Pera Museum houses the best examples of contemporary art thanks to its collaboration with the most distinguished museums in the world, such as Tate Britain, Victoria and Albert Museum, St. Petersburg Russian State Museum, JP Morgan Chase Collection, New York School of Visual Arts, and the Maeght Foundation. Pera Museum has introduced Turkish audiences to countless internationally acclaimed artists. Some of the most illustrious amongst these include Jean Dubuffet, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Rembrandt, Niko Pirosmani, Josef Koudelka, Joan Miró, Akira Kurosawa, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Fernando Botero, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Goya.
Furthermore, the museum organizes annual exhibitions with the aim of supporting young artists.
Dolmabahçe Palace Museum
One of the best known attractions in Istanbul, Dolmabahçe Palace is located in Beşiktaş. It was constructed between the years of 1843 and 1856, during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Abdulmecid I.
Dolmabahçe Palace is extensively decorated with gold and crystal. In addition to its magnificent decoration, the palace also houses a large number of Hereke carpets and a significant collection of oil paintings.
Another important fact about Dolmabahçe Palace is that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk spent his last days in this palace. He died at 9:05 a.m. on November 10, 1938, in his bedroom, which is located in the former Harem section of the palace. The clock in the room was stopped and set to 9:05 after his death.