Istanbul Archaeology Museums: what to see, tickets, visiting tips

The Istanbul Archaeology Museums is a museum complex located in the Eminönü district of Istanbul, Turkey. It is one of the largest and most important museums in Turkey, and is home to a vast collection of artifacts dating back to various periods of human history.

Fast Facts about Istanbul Archaeology Museums

  • The museum complex was established in the late 19th century, with the first building, the Archaeological Museum, opening in 1891.
  • The museum’s collection includes over one million artifacts from ancient civilizations, including the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans.
  • One of the most notable exhibits in the museum is the Alexander Sarcophagus, which dates back to the 4th century BC and is intricately decorated with scenes from Alexander the Great’s life.
  • The Museum of the Ancient Orient houses an extensive collection of artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia, Persia, and Anatolia, including cuneiform tablets, jewelry, and pottery.
  • The Tiled Kiosk Museum is located in a 15th-century Ottoman building and is home to a collection of Islamic ceramics and tiles from the 9th to 19th centuries.
  • The museum complex is located near the Topkapi Palace and the Hagia Sophia, making it a popular destination for tourists visiting Istanbul.
  • The Istanbul Archaeology Museums are considered to be one of the largest and most important archaeological museums in the world.
  • The museum complex underwent a major renovation and modernization in 2012, which included the construction of a new entrance, exhibition spaces, and a conservation laboratory.

What to Expect & See?

Istanbul Archaeology Museums is a fascinating museum complex that houses a rich collection of artifacts from various civilizations and cultures that have influenced Istanbul’s history. This museum is one of the largest archaeological museums in the world, and it offers visitors an opportunity to explore the rich history of Istanbul and its surrounding regions.

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The museum complex consists of three separate museums: the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of the Ancient Orient, and the Tiled Kiosk Museum.

The Archaeology Museum

The Archaeology Museum is the main museum of the complex, and it houses an extensive collection of artifacts from ancient Greek, Roman, and Byzantine civilizations, including marble statues, sarcophagi, mosaics, and coins. The highlight of the museum is the Alexander Sarcophagus, a magnificent and elaborately decorated sarcophagus from the 4th century BC that depicts scenes from the life of Alexander the Great.

Other notable exhibits in the Archaeology Museum include the Tomb of Kar-salman, a Hellenistic tomb from the 2nd century BC; the sarcophagus of the Mourning Women, which depicts the story of Meleager and the Calydonian boar hunt; and the Roman-era Vase of Sarcophagus, which is decorated with scenes from the Trojan War.

In addition to the Archaeology Museum, visitors to the complex can also explore the Museum of Ancient Orient, which houses a collection of artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and Egypt, and the Tiled Kiosk Museum, which features a display of Ottoman ceramics.

The Museum of the Ancient Orient

The Museum of the Ancient Orient houses an extensive collection of artifacts from ancient Near Eastern civilizations. The museum was founded in 1883 by Osman Hamdi Bey, a prominent Ottoman archaeologist and artist, and it was originally housed in the Imperial Museum of Archaeology in Istanbul.

The museum’s collection includes artifacts from Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. The exhibits range from prehistoric times to the late Ottoman period and include pottery, metalwork, jewelry, sculpture, and textiles.

One of the museum’s most significant exhibits is the Sumerian King List, a tablet from ancient Mesopotamia that lists the kings of the Sumerian city-states in chronological order. The tablet is one of the earliest written records of human history and provides valuable insights into the political and social structures of ancient Mesopotamia.

Another notable exhibit is the Treaty of Kadesh, a peace treaty between the ancient Hittite and Egyptian empires. The treaty, which dates back to the 13th century BCE, is the oldest known peace treaty in the world and is written in both Hittite and Egyptian hieroglyphs.


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In addition to these exhibits, the Museum of the Ancient Orient also has a collection of ancient manuscripts, including the 9th-century Topkapi manuscript, which contains the earliest known Arabic translation of the Greek philosopher Aristotle’s work on metaphysics.

Visitors to the museum can also see a reconstruction of an ancient Hittite temple and a replica of the Ishtar Gate from Babylon, which was built during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II in the 6th century BCE.

Tiled Kiosk

Tiled Kiosk, also known as Çinili Köşk, is a historical pavilion located within the grounds of the Istanbul Archaeology Museums. It was built in the 15th century during the Ottoman Empire and served as a place for the sultans to relax and entertain their guests.

The pavilion is known for its beautiful tile work, hence the name “Tiled Kiosk”. The tiles were brought from the city of Iznik, which was famous for its ceramics during the Ottoman period. The intricate designs and vibrant colors of the tiles make the pavilion a must-see attraction for visitors interested in Turkish art and history.

The Tiled Kiosk has undergone several renovations over the centuries and was converted into a museum in 1953. Today, it houses a collection of Turkish ceramics from various periods, including examples from the Seljuk and Ottoman eras. Visitors can admire the intricate designs of the ceramics and learn about their historical significance.

In addition to the ceramics collection, the Tiled Kiosk also features exhibits on Ottoman calligraphy and Turkish ethnography. Visitors can learn about the history and cultural traditions of Turkey through displays of traditional costumes, musical instruments, and household items.

Visiting Information

Location

The Istanbul Archaeology Museums are located in the Sultanahmet neighborhood, near Topkapi Palace and the Hagia Sophia.

Opening Hours

The museums are open every day except Monday from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm. However, the last tickets are sold at 6:00 pm, so make sure to arrive before then to have enough time to explore.

Guided Tours

Guided tours are available in English, Turkish, and other languages for an additional fee. You can also rent an audio guide in several languages for a more self-paced tour.

Visiting Tips

  • The Istanbul Archaeology Museums are large, so give yourself plenty of time to explore each section.
  • Photography is allowed but with no flash.
  • The museums can get busy, especially on weekends and holidays, so consider visiting during the week if possible.
  • Wear comfortable shoes as there is a lot of walking involved.

How to Get There

The easiest way to get to the Istanbul Archaeology Museums is by public transportation. The museum complex is located within walking distance of the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and the Grand Bazaar.

For those coming from TaksimGalata or Besiktas areas, can take the Kabatas-Bagcilar T1 tram line passing through Kabatas, Karakoy, and get off at Sultanahmet stop.

For those on the Asian side of Istanbul, can take the ferry to Eminonu or take the Marmaray line from Uskudar and get off at the Sirkeci stop. And than you can take the Kabatas-Bagcilar tram line passing through Eminönü and Sirkeci stops, and get off at Sultanahmet stop.

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