Visiting Museums in Istanbul
Art, archaeology, history and antiques. Find out how to make the most of the museums using the Istanbul Museum Pass...
Istanbul's history dates back more than 9,000 years, and its many museums are filled with exhibits from ancient and modern history.
Museums and monuments may be closed one day a week, generally on Mondays or Tuesdays.
Istanbul Museum Pass
The Istanbul Museum Pass is for tourists only; pass holders can visit certain museums without paying an entrance fee, and they also do not have to wait in queues. The pass also allows a discounted rate at some private museums and entertainment venues in Istanbul. The pass is valid for 72 hours (three days) and validity starts from the first visit.
The pass can be purchased from the following museums: Chora, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul Archaeological, and Topkap? Palace. It is also possible to buy a pass from many hotels, from mobile sales outlets and online.
Istanbul Museum Pass holders do not pay an entrance fee for the following museums:
- Chora Museum
- Hagia Sophia Museum
- Istanbul Archaeological Museum
- Istanbul Mosaic Museum
- Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts
- Topkap? Palace Museum (excluding the Harem section)
Note: Another museum pass (Müzekart and Müzekart +) exists, allowing free entrance to most historical sites and museums in Turkey for a year. However, it is for Turkish citizens only.
Museums and Monuments in Istanbul
Hagia Sophia: Built in the sixth century, the Hagia Sophia is the biggest Byzantine church in Istanbul. It was first called the Megale Ekklesia (Great Church), but after the fifth century it was renamed the Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom). Within the edifice, visitors can discover the famous Byzantine frieze, the nave covered by a dome measuring 56m, the church's Byzantine mosaics and the Ablutions Fountain, a beautiful example of Turkish Rococo style.
- Hagia Sophia Museum
At: Sultanahmet Meydan? No. 1, Istanbul
Open: Summer: 09:00 to 19:00; Winter: 09:00 to 16:30; closed on Mondays
Access: Take the tram from Eminönü and get off at at Sultanahmet. A ferry leaves every 30 minutes from the Anatolian side
Istanbul Archaeological Museum: Built at the end of the 19th century, it includes the exquisite Tiled House and the Museum of the Ancient Orient. It also has about 15,000 artefacts and works of art from both the ancient Greek and Roman civilisations dating back to the sixth century BC.
- Istanbul Archaeological Museum
At: Alemdar Road, Osman Hamdi Bey Yoku?u Str. 34122, Sultanahmet, Istanbul
Open: Summer: 09:00-19:00; Winter: 09:00-17:00; closed on Mondays
Access: Take the tram from Eminönü and get off at at Sultanahmet. The Museum is close to the Topkap? Palace. A ferry leaves every 30 minutes from the Anatolia side
Topkap? Palace Museum: This was the official residence of the Ottoman sultans. It was built between 1460-1478 after the conquest of Istanbul (1453) by Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror. After it was finished, the palace was extended by other sultans. It has one of the world's richest collections with over 80,000 artefacts including ceramics, glass, silverware, arms and armour, imperial costumes, clocks, miniatures and manuscripts. The highlight of the museum is the Treasury collection, which features the gold-plated Bayram Throne, the Topkap? dagger and the 86-carat Spoonmaker's diamond among other spectacular objects made with precious and semi-precious stones.
For an additional fee, visitors can also see the Harem section of the museum which was the residence of the Sultan's wives, children and concubines, guarded by slave eunuchs. The harem (from the word forbidden) includes apartments, courtyards, the Paired Pavilions and their exquisite Iznik tiles, the courtyard of the eunuchs and the dining room of Ahmet III.
- Topkap? Palace Museum
At: Sultanahmet, Eminönü, Istanbul
Open: Summer: 09:00-19:00; Winter: 09:00-17:00; closed on Tuesdays
Access: Take the tram from Eminönü and get off at at Sultanahmet
Istanbul Modern Arts Museum: This museum was opened in 2005 and features many works from the private collection of the Ecac?basi family. It is the first and only modern art museum in Istanbul and is home to a collection of abstract art, watercolours, landscapes, sculptures and black and white photography. In addition to the exhibition halls, there is a photograph gallery, library, sculpture courtyard, cinema, theatre, souvenir shop, and a café that offers a unique view of the Historic Peninsula of Istanbul. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions. Entry is free of charge on Thursdays. The cinema is free to museum visitors.
- Istanbul Modern Arts Museum
At: Karaköy Pier, Karaköy, Istanbul
Open: 10:00-18:00; closed on Mondays, 1st January, and the first day of religious holidays
Access: Visitors should get off at Tophane when taking the tram or bus. From there it takes five minutes to walk to the museum
Sak?p Sabanc? Museum: Also known as the Horse Mansion (Atl? Ev) this museum belongs to the Sabanci family, one of Turkey’s wealthiest families. The mansion was converted into a museum enabling the public to see its antique furnishings and art collections, which include Ottoman calligraphy, and Koranic and secular art as well as pieces by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Rodin, and Dali. Wheelchairs are available, but the museum must be contacted one day in advance. Entry is free of charge on Thursdays
- Sak?p Sabanc? Museum
At: Emirgan, Istanbul
Open: 10:00-18:00; Wednesdays: 10:00-20:00; closed on Mondays
Access: The nearest bus stop is at Emirgan-Ç?naralt?. There are ferry services to Be?ikta? and Kad?köy from the ?stinye quay
Sadberk Hanim Museum: This museum belongs to the Koc family and was the first private museum to be opened in Turkey. It consists of three beautiful Ottoman-style yal?s (villas) housing Anatolian antiques and artefacts, Roman gold jewellery as well as a collection of oya (Turkish embroideries), some of which were made in harems in the 18th century. There is an archaeological section and a Turkish-Islamic art section in the museum, as well as a library. Visitors can take a virtual tour on the museum’s website and purchase items from the gift shop as well. The museum has its own parking area.
- Sadberk Hanim Museum
At: 27-29 Sar?yer, Istanbul
Open: 10:00-17:00; closed on Wednesdays
Access: By bus – Bahçeköy-Sar?yer (No.153); Rumeli Kava??-4; Levent Metro (25A), Sar?yer-Kabata? (25E); Sar?yer-Taksim (25 T). For information on the ferry service: Click here