Arts & Life
Top 10 museums in Istanbul, ranked by our jury
Top 10 museums in Istanbul, ranked by our jury
Being the capital of three empires, Istanbul hosts 82 different museums. The Hürriyet jury, composed of eminent historians, travelers and journalists, has picked the top 10 museums in Istanbul. Click through for the full list...
1) Istanbul Archaeology Museum - Formed by three main divisions as an archeology museum, a museum of oriental antiquities and a tiled pavilion museum, this complex is among the biggest museums in the world with its over one million historic artifacts. It was founded as the Imperial Museum in 1891. (All photos by Alamy)
Works, which once belonged to Ottoman territory, from Northern Africa, the Balkans, Mesopotamia, Anatolia and the Arabian Peninsula, are exhibited.
“While walking down the corridors, you will feel like you are wandering in ancient centuries. I come to this museum frequently for spiritual therapy,” said researcher Haldun Hürel in amazement about this museum.
2) Topkapı Palace - The heart of the Ottoman Empire is a place that proceeds 400 years of world empires. Expanding over a 700,000 square meter area in the Fatih district, it is one of the largest palaces in the world.
With its location, Topkapı Palace simply commands Istanbul from a hill.
The sultan’s personal belongings, the priceless Spoonmaker’s (Kaşıkcı) Diamond, sacred relics to the seraglio and weaponry and a variety of places and items are waiting to be seen in the palace tour.
3) Hagia Sophia Museum - The Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) was built in the year 537 A.D. in today’s Sultanahmet area by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I.
Known as the biggest sanctuary of the Christian community, it was used as a mosque after the conquest of Istanbul. With its mosaics and gigantic calligraphy paintings, the Hagia Sophia has objects belonging to two religious beliefs. With this specialty, it is a matchless and synthesized place for both cultures.
Serhan Güngör interprets this architectural miracle as something to be awed. “Even after one and a half millennia have passed, a structure this size has been able to stay standing. In my opinion, the Hagia Sophia is the most important architectural work of art,” said Güngör.
4) Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum - In 1913, the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum has become the first museum to collect Islamic and Turkish arts together.
It has carried over to the majestic palace of an Ottoman grand vizier İbrahim Pasha in 1983.
Reflecting all the features and aesthetics of the Seljuk period, the museum is filled with handiworks, manuscripts, books, blazonry, vitreous objects, textile items and 800-year-old handcrafted carpets, which are among the pieces of cultural heritage in the museum.
5) Chora Museum - Being a typical Byzantine structure, the building has a simple stone appearance and an artsy interior with many adornments. In the sixth century, it was built as a church.
After the Ottoman conquest, it was turned into a mosque. In the 20th century, it became a museum and continues to serve as one currently. The inside of it consists of unprecedented mosaics, frescos and symbols related to Islam.
Traveler Bahar Akıncı defines this place as “a must destination that should be on the lists of where-to-go in Istanbul.”
6) Harbiye Military Museum - “A journey into the war,” constructed in 1862 as a Turkish military school, the Harbiye Military Museum offers its visitors the chance to witness various aspects of technological military devices from the establishment of the Turkish Army to the Ottomans, from World War I until today.
Items such as the chain used by Byzantines for closing the Golden Horn during the siege of Istanbul in 1453 and weapons used in the 1915 Battle of Gallipoli are waiting to be seen.
There is an Ottoman army band (Mehter) concert held each day between 3-4 p.m.
7) Sakıp Sabancı Museum - It was opened in 2002 in the Cavalier Mansion, located in the Sarıyer district. The Sakıp Sabancı Museum has become prominent with its precious items, including Qurans from the 14th-20th century, calligraphy transcripts and a rich art collection providing a prehension of the Tanzimat reform era to the Republican period.
Former Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay characterized this experience as “an unutterable tranquility” and the museum as “unique.”
Additionally, its embodiment of special collections by world-renowned artists also adds to its prestige.
8) Rahmi Koç Museum - This museum opened its doors at the coast of the Golden Horn in 1994 with the support of businessperson Rahmi Koç. At the museum, visitors can observe Turkey’s industrial, transportation and communicative stories and their developing processes from their emergence until today.
Some of the pieces at the museum are the TCG Uluçalireis Submarine, the Fenerbahçe Ferry, which was built in 1952 and warplanes used in World War II.
Apart from these, the Rahmi Koç Museum includes an incredible classic automobile exhibition and various objects about the history of industrialization.
9) Dolmabahçe Palace - Dolmabahçe Palace was built in 1843 in Beşiktaş at the request of Ottoman Sultan Abdulmejid I. The palace has a baroque architectural design and compared to Topkapı Palace, Dolmabahçe Palace is an extreme beauty with its splendid structure.
“This place is one of the most magnificent palaces in the world. Besides, the Dolmabahçe Palace, which was completed by the Balyan Family, adds even more glory to the Bosphorus’s gloriousness,” according to famous traveler Saffet Emre Tonguç’s description
The room in which Atatürk passed away is also located inside this palace.
10) Istanbul Naval Museum – The Istanbul Naval Museum was built in 1879 in the Beşiktaş district. Today, with approximately 20,000 collections, it continues to provide enormous insight into Turkish marine history.
Within the museum, many special pieces are exhibited, such as a historical trireme dating back to the 15th century, Atatürk’s rowboats, marine uniforms, manuscripts, ship models, flags, maps, navigation instruments and weapons.
Baroque concerts are also held in the museum.
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