Straddling Asia and Europe, Istanbul is the biggest city in Turkey and home to a whole host of museums. This list aims to serve as a starting point for curious travellers so you can explore all the riches of the city.

The Hagia Sophia at sunset.
The Hagia Sophia at sunset. (Courtesy of / TRTWorld)

Istanbul is a bustling metropolis home to more than 15 million people, although informal accounts suggest the number is even higher.

As Turkey’s most populous city, it is also home to a whole range of fascinating public and private museums. In fact, in 2017 alone, close to nine million people visited Istanbul’s cultural hubs.

Throughout the whole of Turkey, there are about 400 museums, according to Turkey's Statistical Institute. Most of them are located in Istanbul, with a whopping 75 museums showcasing a whole variety of artefacts and offering the chance to explore the country’s rich heritage.

Turkey has 438 museums in total, 75 of which are in Istanbul.
Turkey has 438 museums in total, 75 of which are in Istanbul. (TRTWorld)

Of the 75 museums in Istanbul, 19 are affiliated with the Culture and Tourism Ministry of Turkey, based on the latest data available from 2017. There are also 56 private museums, representing more than one fifth of all the private museums in Turkey.

In 2017, the latest year that data is available, 4,884,790 people visited the 19 museums in Istanbul affiliated with the Culture and Tourism Ministry.

In the same year, 3,902,978 people visited the 56 museums in Istanbul that are privately run.

It is easy to visit the museums in Istanbul, you can choose to buy single-entry tickets or if you want to visit several cultural sites, you can buy a five-day Museum Pass for Istanbul which offers free entry at some museums and discounts at others. It costs 325TL (about $46).

29% of all museum visitors in Turkey visited museums in Istanbul in 2017.
29% of all museum visitors in Turkey visited museums in Istanbul in 2017. (TRTWorld)

If you are looking for inspiration, here are some great museums in Istanbul to visit, in no particular order.


Topkapi Palace Museum : Built soon after the fall of Constantinople by Sultan Mehmed II ‘The Conqueror’, this opulent palace served as the home of sultans and the court for several centuries, until the early 1850s, when the palace became inadequate to the requirements of state ceremonies and protocol, and so the sultans moved to Dolmabahçe Palace, located on the Bosphorus. It is a must-see for anyone visiting Istanbul.

Hagia Sophia Mosque: The Hagia Sophia is a relic of the East Roman Empire, built three times on the same site until Sultan Mehmed II ‘The Conqueror’ converted it from a church into a mosque. It served as a museum from 1935 to 2020, when it was designated  as a mosque again. It is in the proximity of many other sights in Sultanahmet.

Istanbul Archaeological Museums: The origins of the Istanbul Archaeological Museums (spread over three buildings) goes back to the late 19th Century during the Ottoman Empire. Originally housed in the Hagia Irene, it now occupies its own space on the hill going from Gulhane Park to Topkapi Palace in the Sultanahmet district, featuring a vast array of Greek, Roman and pre-historical findings from all over what was once the Ottoman Empire and present day Turkey.

Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum: Located in the former palace of Pargali Ibrahim Pasha, a grand vizier to Sultan Suleiman ‘The Magnificent’, this museum brings together exceptional examples of Islamic calligraphy, rugs, tiles, and ethnographic displays.

Galata Mevlevihanesi Museum: The oldest Mevlevi house in Istanbul was initially built in 1491. After suffering damage in an earthquake in 1509, the house went through many changes and eventually turned into a compound with additional buildings. The museum, established in 2011, offers information about Sufism and a chance to see regular live performances of whirling dervishes.


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Rahmi Koc Museum: Located in a former shipyard in Haskoy, the Rahmi Koc Museum in Istanbul offers fine examples of what the museum calls ‘industrial archeology’, such as communication and transportation items, including boats and a collection of classic cars.

Sakip Sabanci Museum: The former home of Sakip Sabanci, this museum features timed exhibitions as well as a permanent collection of the late industrialist which ranges from paintings to Islamic calligraphy.

Istanbul Museum of Modern Art: Temporarily housed in a historic building in Beyoglu, the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art showcases timed exhibitions in modern art (such as painting and sculpture) as well as film screenings and photography exhibitions.

Pera Museum: Also housed in Beyoglu, Pera Museum houses timed exhibitions of modern and contemporary art and film screenings, and features three permanent collections (Orientalist Paintings, Anatolian Weights and Measures, and Kutahya Tiles and Ceramics).

Rezan Has Museum: Established in 2007, the Rezan Has Museum, part of Kadir Has University in Cibali, showcases exhibitions that bring to view the great history of Anatolia and Turkey.

Source: TRT World