List of the Great Museums in Istanbul City
Thanks to the Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar, and Golden Horn, to name just a few of its attractions, walking around the vibrant city of Istanbul is an education in itself. Since its foundation in approximately 660 BC, Turkey’s sprawling capital city has been home to four transcontinental empires (Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman), the western terminus of the Silk Road trade route and, for the last 28 years, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With such a colorful history, this vivid conglomerate of cultures reflects a range of influences across its 5.3 square kilometer ambit. Although it would take years to fully explore this metropolis, travelers are recommended to visit some of Istanbul’s preeminent museums and benefit from their curators’ ability to procure and examine the very best of the city’s history in a condensed setting.
Chora Church houses the Kariye Museum, boasting a collection of mosaics and frescoes illustrating Christian beliefs. This museum was recently listed in “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” as one of the world’s top 30 museums, establishing it as the Turkish rival to Bilbao’s Guggenheim and NYC’s Museum of Modern Art. Mosaic enthusiasts would also enjoy the ornate depictions of everyday life in the Byzantine era as featured in the Mosaic Museum near Arasta Bazaar. Built upon the ruins of the Grand Palace of Constantinople, it offers visitors a unique opportunity to see the remnants of the courtyard of this ancient royal residence.
Hagia Sophia Museum
Hagia Sophia Museum is well known for its collection of its Christian mosaics but primarily for its groundbreaking architecture, considered the peak of artistic construction in the Justinian era. Its transition from the cathedral to the mosque to museum grants it a keen insight into Istanbul’s changing beliefs and leadership. Further information on historic design is given at the Archaeological Museum, which exhibits a large number of artifacts from the Archaic period to the Roman Era, including Egyptian sarcophagi and other Middle Eastern treasures.
Those seeking contemporary collections of Turkish art should consider the Doğançay Museum, dedicated to the works of Burhan Doğançay, and the waterfront Modern Museum in Beyoğlu district, not far from Taksim Square and the Grand Hyatt Istanbul Hotel. These museums have prompted the opening of several modern galleries in the area, attracting numerous international artists.
Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum
Traditional art is hosted by the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum constructed in 1524. Its displays include tiles, carpets, calligraphy, woodwork, metalwork and nomadic antiquities. It is worth noting that this museum is closed for renovation until 2014. Check their website www.muze.gov.tr before scheduling a visit. In the meantime, examples of traditional calligraphy and bookbinding can be seen in the Korans displayed in Sakip Sabanci Museum, also featuring the tughra (sultan’s seal).
Rahmi M. Koç Museum
For a more technological rendering of Turkey’s history, visit the Rahmi M. Koc Museum in Hasköy suburb. Presenting the history of transport, industry, and communications, it offers exhibitions covering road and rail transport, marine and aviation developments, engineering and the evolution of scientific instruments.
Extra: Military Museum
Finally, for a thorough education on Turkey’s role in international warfare, particularly the Turkish-Cypriot conflict, the Military Museum organized by the Turkish Army houses an extensive collection of armor, weaponry, and information.