You can find out our ultimate guide on the most visited and best museums in Istanbul to visit and see. From Topkapi Palace to Istanbul Archaeology Museums, the city has plenty to offer for culture and lovers.
Insider Info & Suggestions
– The most significant part of Istanbul’s museums is open six days a week. The vast majority of them are closed on Mondays.
– Several have later weekend opening and closing dates, while some of the more popular museums are closed one day (usually a weekday) of the week.
– During the winter season, several attractions may open later or close sooner. Omit the lines Tickets are essential to avoid long lines, especially at the most famous museums like Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and Dolmabahce Palace.
– Suppose you are a museum enthusiast and want to visit as many of Istanbul’s top museums as possible. In that case, we recommend purchasing tourist discount cards such as Istanbul Welcome Card, Istanbul E-Pass, or Istanbul Museum Pass. You will save a lot of money and get a more accessible entrance with the discount cards.
15 Best Museums in Istanbul
1. Topkapi Palace Museum
Topkapi Palace is the Ottoman Empire’s true essence. Fatih Sultan Mehmet, fresh from his conquest of Constantinople, constructed Topkapı Saray as his primary house between 1460 and 1478.
Topkapi Palace is the world’s biggest and oldest surviving Palace and the repository of numerous artifacts. Among them is one of the world’s largest diamonds, the most precious Islamic relics, a map with the earliest portrayal of America, high-quality Chinese porcelain, rare Islamic gilded miniatures, and calligraphy examples from numerous Muslim Asian empires. The artifacts are a sight to behold.
- check hours and fees from millisaraylar.gov.tr
2. Dolmabahce Palace Museum
Dolmabahce Palace is one of the most spectacular palaces in Besiktas, located on the shores of the Bosphorus. The palace’s interior reflects the grandeur of the era and is created in the style of opulent European palaces. The entire palace structure is breathtaking. Over 50,000 artifacts are housed in the palace’s hundreds of chambers. And it was also home to six sultans and their families.
Dolmabahce Palace is the largest palace in Turkey, with 285 rooms, 6 hammams, 46 halls, and 68 restrooms spread across 45.000 m2. The palace’s interior and external design includes elements of the Rococo, Baroque, Neoclassical, and Ottoman architectural styles. It was built by Sultan Abdülmecit and continued until 1856, and since 1984 it serves as a museum.
- check hours and fees from millisaraylar.gov.tr
3. Basilica Cistern Museum
One of the city’s most remarkable and mysterious buildings is the Basilica Cistern. The two Medusa Heads, which serve as supports under the two columns on the northwest side of the cistern, pique the visitors’ curiosity. The atmospheric reservoir was built in the sixth century for the Byzantine emperor Justinian and is reinforced by 336 columns, many of which have been reused from other ruins throughout the years.
The Medusa-head column bases and the carp that swim silently in the poorly lighted waters are popular subjects for photographers. The best time for you to visit is anytime the queue appears to be short, particularly on a hot summer day—it is always cooler beneath.
- check hours and fees from yerebatan.com
4. Istanbul Archaeology Museums
Istanbul Archaeology Museums is considered to be among the top 10 historical museums in the world. The museums consists of three main museums that include; the Archaeology Museum, the Museum of the Ancient Orient and the Tiled Pavilion. And so general name is called “museums”.
You can see different historical artifacts from many parts of the world, as well as royal sarcophagi discovered near Sidon, Lebanon. Important artifacts belonging to the from the pre-Islamic Arabian Peninsula, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Anatolia are exhibited in the Museum of the Ancient Orient. Tiles collected from various regions of Anatolia are exhibited in the Tiled Kiosk.
- check hours and fees from muze.gen.tr
5. The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts
The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts is the first museum where Turkish and Islamic art works are exhibited collectively and regularly. The museum is situated in the palace erected by Suleiman the Magnificent’s Grand Vizier, Ibrahim Pasha (c.1493–1536), along the western part of Sultanahmet Square.
The museum has a collection of about 40,000 relics spanning from the 7th century to the present and exhibitions of fine art, crafts, carpets, manuscripts and calligraphy, wooden works, stonework, glass, metal and ethnography sections.
- check hours and fees from muze.gen.tr
6. Istanbul Modern Art Museum
A museum of modern and contemporary art, including permanent and temporary exhibition galleries, a photographic gallery, a cinema, a café, a design store, and a library.
- check hours and fees from istanbulmodern.org
7. Private Rahmi M Koç Transport Museum
This one-of-a-kind museum on Istanbul’s Golden Horn waterfront houses a massive collection of historical Turkish exhibits related to transportation, industry, and communications.
There are historic automobiles, trains, vintage airplanes, and even a submarine. There is also a planetarium on-site. Kids may attempt scientific experiments in the interactive museum or explore the cockpit of a Bellanca jet for a fascinating, hands-on experience. The Rahmi M Koç Museum costs roughly 21 lira to enter, with extra prices for the submarine and planetarium.
- check hours and fees from rmk-museum.org.tr
8. Private Sakip Sabanci Fine Arts Museum
This is a private fine arts museum with collections of Ottoman Calligraphic Art, religious and state documents, Ottoman-era paintings, archaeology and stone works, furniture, and decorative arts.
The Sakip Sabanci Museum established after Turkey’s famous Sabanci family’s Atli Mansion’s being organized as a museum. It blends the Sabanci family’s private collection with contemporary works of art and world-famous exhibitions.
The museum has also many international awards in the field of modern museology. The collection consisting of more than 400 lines and more than 300 paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries is exhibited in an exhibition area of 3500 square meters.
- check hours and fees from sakipsabancimuzesi.org
9. Private Sadberk Hanim Museum
Sadberk Hanım Museum, located in Sarıyer Büyükdere and established in 1980 as Turkey’s first private museum upon the will of the deceased wife of Vehbi Koç, the founder of Koç Holding, draws attention with its impressive wooden architecture overlooking the Bosphorus.
Islamic artifacts from the 9th and 10th centuries, household items jewelery from the Ottoman period, Iznik tiles, Kütahya and Çanakkale ceramics, artifacts from the early Chalcolithic period to the 1500s of the Ottoman Empire, Assyrian cuneiform tablets dating from 2 thousand BC. Phrygian metal objects dated 750 BC, ceramic Athenian vases, gold Roman jewelry and Byzantine icons and religious objects are the top collections worth seeing.
In addition to its collections of archaeological and ethnographic artifacts, the museum, which has been deemed worthy of many international prestigious awards for its contemporary museology practice, also has temporary art exhibitions.
- check hours and fees from sadberkhanimmuzesi.org.tr
10. Private Pera Museum
Located along Tarlabasi boulevard in the Beyoglu district and close to famous Istiklal Street, the Private Pera Museum is one of the city’s active cultural and artistic venues. Housed in the magnificent Hotel Bristol building, originally built in 1893, the museum was opened by the Suna and Inan Kirac Foundation in 2005 and you can enjoy the special collections belonging to the foundation. There are also multi-purpose exhibition halls, auditorium, education room, Artshop and Pera Cafe.
Orientalist Painting Collection, Anatolian Weights and Measures Collection, Kütahya Tile and Ceramics Collection, and Includes Photo Collection are among the permanent exhibitions you can see at the Pera Museum.
- check hours and fees from peramuseum.org
11. Naval Museum
Located in the Besiktas district of Istanbul, overlooking the Bosphorus, the Naval Museum is the largest in Turkey in the field of maritime and at the same time one of the few museums in the world in terms of the diversity of its collections.
It consists of the Main Exhibition Building, Historical Boats Gallery, Cultural Site and Open Exhibition Areas. The sections that show the most interest to the visitors coming to the museum are the Sultan Boats section, where the decorated boats are exhibited, and the Atatürk Room.
Among the most popular works in the museum collection are; Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s belongings, historical boats, wooden and metal objects, textile weaving works, stone, paper and works of art come first.
12. Miniaturk (Miniature Turkey Museum)
A spectacular open-air museum showcasing the miniature version of Turkey’s most famous sights and architectural masterpieces. You will witness miniature versions of Turkey’s most famous sites and structures, scaled down to 1/25 of their actual proportions.
Enjoy a fun family tour that allows you to explore all of Turkey’s most renowned sights in one trip. Miniaturk’s 650,000 sq ft garden grounds are packed with over 100 amazingly designed 1:25 size structures. The Istanbul Crystal Museum and the Panorama Victory Museum are housed in the museum. The park is located on the northeastern shore of Golden Horn, about 20 minutes north of Istanbul.
- check hours and admissions from miniaturk.com.tr
13. Tekfur Palace Museum
Tekfur Palace has an important place in world art history as a surviving Byzantine Palace. The impressive palace building is located on the land walls of Istanbul and the construction date is still not known. The building, which underwent significant restorations between 1955 and 1970 and in the 2010s, is used as a museum today.
The place was used for purposes such as an elephant barn and warehouse after the conquest of Istanbul, as well as a tile workshop for a period. The Tekfur Palace tiles from this period also have an important place in the Turkish tile art of the recent period. It is also rumored that the world-famous “Kasikci Diamond” on display in Topkapi Palace is among the ruins of the Tekfur Palace.
14. Istanbul Toy Museum
At one time, Istanbul Oyuncak Müzesi was a well-known toy store that carried a wide range of traditional Turkish dolls and toys.
It was eventually transformed into a museum in Istanbul’s Göztepe neighborhood, on the city’s Asian side, displaying over 4,000 distinct toys, puppets, and miniature sets from all around Turkey, Europe, and the world. It provides you and your children with fascinating insights into the history of toys, with many of its components dating back centuries.
15. Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
The famed Madame Tussauds Wax Museum Istanbul branch, featuring 60 foreign and Turkish stars, is located on Istanbul’s most famous thoroughfare, the Istiklal Street. Meet Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, Madonna, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Marilyn Monroe, Bruce Willis, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Muhammad Ali, Usain Bolt, Albert Einstein, Atatürk, Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, and many more celebrities to take photos with.
It’s a great activity to do with your children. You may have them guess who the characters are and teach them about a variety of subjects such as movies, history, and music.