Istanbul museums: opening hours and locations 2023
In this article you will find a list of museums in Istanbul, which exceeds the TOP-30! Great city has many historical sites and museums with unique exhibits that give us an idea of the greatness of Constantinople, as well as the Ottoman Empire.
We know all about museums in Istanbul: from most famous museums like Hagia Sophia, Topkapi palace, Basilica cistern and Dolmabahce palace to art galleries, fortresses and car exhibitions.
Are you ready for a journey through the wonderful world of Istanbul museums with Istanbulpoints.com? So let’s go!
Palace Museums and Churches
Topkapi Palace (Topkapı sarayı)
This palace museum is located near Gulhane Park, on the Golden Horn Coast. For hundreds of years, it was main residence of Ottoman rulers. Construction of palace was begun by Sultan Mehmed, then Roksolana, the beloved wife of Suleiman the Magnificent, took up the improvement of palace. Museum funds today store over 65,000 relics, including the relics of John the Baptist, cloak and sword of Prophet Muhammad, Abraham`s roaster, sword of David.
Topkapi outwardly resembles an impregnable fortress, protected on both sides by Sea of Marmara. In case of need to save the Padishah, there was an underground tunnel leading directly from Tulip garden to the bay, where there was always an equipped ship.
- Opening hours from April 1 to October 2: from 09:00 a.m. to 06:45 p.m. (ticket office are open until 06:00 p.m.). Museum is closed on Tuesday.
- Opening hours from October 2 to April 1: from 09:00 a.m. to 04:45 p.m. (ticket office are open until 04:00 p.m.). Museum is closed on Tuesday.
A tour of the Topkapi Palace takes at least 2.5 hours. You can visit Topkapi palace and Harem (free entrance and no queue) with Museum Pass card.
Dolmabahche Palace (Dolmabahçe sarayı)
Palace was designed and built in the 17th century by Karapet Balyan, one of the most famous Turkish architects born in Armenia. Literally, name of this architectural masterpiece is translated as “earth garden”. And this is no coincidence. To realize the idea, it was necessary to make a huge earthen embankment on Bosporus coast.
Dolmabahçe is a whole complex, which includes several exhibits: a Museum of Painting & Sculpture, a Clock Museum, as well as a Clock Tower and a Mosque. But it wasn’t right away. For a long time, palace was the main residence of Sultans. Kemal Ataturk subsequently lived and worked here, but after his death the palace emptied and turned into a chic museum.
Palace is open from 09:00 a.m. to 04:00 p.m. (except Mondays). Museum complex is large enough, so to get around it all, you need at least 2 hours.
Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya müzesi)
It used to be the main cathedral for Byzantines, but after the Ottoman army attacked Constantinople, it became a mosque. This masterpiece of architecture is located in the heart of Istanbul: in Sultanahmet District. Having become a museum complex more than 80 years ago, Hagia Sophia attracts millions of tourists every year. This is one of the most visited attractions in Turkey, which is under the protection of UNESCO.
Of great interest is mural, runes and mosaic paintings inside cathedral. First mosaic is dated 86 BC! You can see on the walls images of such emperors as Alexander, Julian and Constantine the Great, as well as the archangel Gabriel. Painting on columns was performed by East Slavs, and Scandinavian runes were the work of Varyags who were part of Byzantine Guard.
Since july 2020 the museum became a mosque — Ayasofya-ı Kebir Camii.
You can visit Hagia Sophia everyday, except the praying hours.
Hagia Irene (Aya İrini müsezi)
This is oldest of Christian shrines in Istanbul. Monastery was built in the 4th century, but then it was destroyed in a fire and restored by Justinian the Great.
Shrine was built not in honor of great martyr Irina, but as a dedication to the “Holy World”. Temple was considered the main one in Constantinople before the appearance of Hagia Sophia. History of Hagia Irene is very rich. It is known that Second Council of Constantinople was held here, on which doctrine of Holy Trinity was formed.
Church is located in the Topkapi Palace, so you can combine its visit with a visit to the palace. You can visit Hagia Irene with Museum Pass Istanbul (free entrance and no queue).
Museum opening hours: from 09:00 a.m. to 06:00 p.m. (except Tuesday).
Kariye Museum (Kariye müzesi)
This museum complex, also called the Chora Church, is under the tutelage of UNESCO. Building was erected in 1077, then destroyed, and later restored from scratch by Paleologs. During the siege of Constantinople, Turkish conquerors brought to monastery the Icon of the Virgin Hodegetria.
When Constantinople fell, Christian shrine was re-qualified as a mosque, and unique murals on the walls were plastering. Restoration was carried out only in the late 40s of the 20th century.
- Opening hours from April 1 to October 31: from 09:00 a.m. to 07:00 p.m. (ticket offices are open until 06:30 p.m.).
- Opening hours from November 1 to March 31: from 09:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m. (ticket offices are open until 04:30 p.m.).
Museum is located in Balat District, so you can plan a walk through the old streets, as well as a glimpse into the Iron Church. You can visit Kariye museum with Museum Pass Istanbul (free entrance included and no queue).
Beylerbeyi Palace (Beylerbeyi sarayı)
To visit this museum complex, you will have to go to Asian part of the city. Palace includes a large mansion and garden. Beylerbeyi used to be the summer residence of Padishah and his family. First, Mehmed II gave the order to build a wooden palace here, which soon burned down in a fire. After that, second building was built of marble, had 3 floors and a basement.
Adjacent to the palace is Beylerbeyi Pier and mosque. Here, in one of the cafes, you can drink hot tea and enjoy the view of Bosporus.
Museum is open from 09:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m. (except Mondays).
Kucuksu Palace (Küçüksu kasrı)
Initially, the palace was built of wood and was used only in the summer: Mahmud I rested in it. Of course, wooden building was unreliable, it required constant repair, so Abdul-Majid I gave the order to build other summer residence of stone and marble. Nikogos Balyan was chosen as the chief architect, who in 1857 built a two-story Kucuksu Palace.
Museum is open from 09:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m. (except Mondays).
Not far from the palace is Anatolian Fortress, which you should also look at.
Archaeological Museum (Arkeoloji müzesi)
Construction was started at the end of the 19th century on the initiative of Osman Hamdy Bay. Initially, exposition included only the tombs of great people, but gradually the museum expanded, and artifacts of Ancient East appeared in it. Later, a pavilion of tiles was opened here, which were previously exhibited in Topkapi. Museum collection continues to grow to this day.
With Museum Pass Istanbul you can visit museum for free with fast track entrance.
- Opening hours from April 1 to October 1: from 09:00 a.m. to 08:00 p.m. (ticket offices are open until 07:00 p.m.). Museum is closed on Monday.
- Opening hours from October 1 to April 1: from 09:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m. (ticket offices are open until 04:30 p.m.). Museum is closed on Monday.
Tour will take you at least 2 hours, but do not leave immediately. In the small garden of museum there is a cozy cafe where you can relax and enjoy delicious coffee.
Mosaic Museum (Büyük saray mozaikleri müzesi)
This museum is relatively young. Its opened occurred in the middle of the 20th century. This event was preceded by an invaluable archaeological find: during excavations, ruins of the columns of Corinthian order and the peristyle of the palace of Byzantine emperors, richly decorated with ancient mosaics, were discovered. Area of mosaic paintings exceeded 2000 sq.m.
Historians have proved that the exhibits of Mosaic Museum are many times older than the mosaic images of famous Hagia Sophia. This is incredible, but they are attributed to the period of Roman Empire!
- Opening hours from April 1 to October 1: from 09:00 a.m. to 07:00 p.m. (ticket offices are open until 06:30 p.m.).
- Opening hours from October 1 to April 1: from 09:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m. (ticket offices are open until 04:30 p.m.).
You can find the museum entrance if you go to the middle of Arasta Bazaar, which is behind the Blue Mosque. A pointer to museum is located above. This museum is included to Museum Pass Istanbul.
Sirkeci Railway Museum (İstanbul Demiryolu Müzesi)
This small museum complex is part of Sirkeci Train Station. Here you can admire the interior of old Orient Express carriages, silver dishes in the restaurant car, first-aid kits, heating stoves, information signs, station clocks, signal flags, communications, etc. The train layout is very interesting, especially for children. And adults are very fond of visiting the cab of a locomotive made in the early 50s of the 20th century. Exposition is fascinating, and viewing takes only 1 or 2 hours.
Museum is open from 09:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m. (except Sunday and Monday).
Cisterns that have become museums
Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan sarnıcı)
Initially, this building performed an important function: it served as a reservoir providing the city with fresh water. But now it is a famous museum, located near Gulhane Park and Hagia Sophia.
Construction of Basilica cistern began in 306 and lasted more than 200 years! This grand facility held 80,000 cubic meters of water. To maintain a ceiling of 8 meters in height, more than 300 columns were built, which differ from each other, as they were brought from different parts of the country. Walls are made of fireproof material. Previously, depth of Basilica Cistern reached 12 m, but today the water level in it does not exceed 50 cm.
You can combine a visit to the cistern with any object located in Sultanahmet.
Opening hours of the museum: from 09:00 a.m. to 05:30 p.m. (seven days a week).
Theodosius Cistern (Şerefiye sarnıcı)
Theodosius Cistern is one of the historical reservoirs in Istanbul. It was built by order of Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II and was intended to store water from Bozdogan Arch.
Entrance to the cistern is located on Pierre Loti Street, which used to be the municipality of Eminonu. In 2010, old town hall was demolished, and restoration work began in this area, which affected the Theodosius Cistern.
Restoration lasted about 8 years.
Reservoir area is 45 x 25 m (smaller than Basilica Cistern and Binbirdirek Cistern, but about 100 years older than these two famous cisterns).
Museum is open from 09:00 a.m. to 06:00 p.m. (Saturday from 09:00 to 15:00).
An ancient cistern is located between the Sultanahmet and Cemberlitas tram stops, just below the Pierre Loti Hotel.
Cistern of Philoxenos (Binbirdirek sarnıcı)
Many tourists have no idea about one more great cistern which located between other popular museums — the cistern of Theodosius and Basilica cistern.
It’s the third big cistern in Sultanahmet area, which possibly was also connected to another cisterns in Byzantine times.
For a long time this cistern was closed for visitors, but nowadays we have an opportunity to see one more beautiful historical object.
Museum is open from 09:00 unill 17:00 everyday except Mondays.
Entry fee is 50 lire.
Entertaining museums and for visiting with children
Galata Tower (Galata kulesi)
One of the best known symbols of Istanbul is famous Galata Tower. You can see it from many point’s of the city from Eminönü pier and Galata bridge, from ferryboats which crossing Golden Horn and high points of Beyoğlu district.
In 2020 Galata Tower was reconstructed and today is open as a museum. From it’s terrace you will face an incredible 360 view of the city. At night time when all of Istanbul lights is on, the view of Galata Tower looks mysterious then ever.
The museum opens at 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. In summertime, the hours are extended to 7:00 PM. Entrance fee — 100 turkish lira.
This museum is located on the Bosporus Coast. Three-story building accommodates hundreds of exhibits related to navigation: marine equipment, ropes tied with special knots, ship models, weapons, picturesque paintings depicting water battles.
Most of all tourists are attracted by the hall dedicated to Ataturk. This exhibition presents personal items of the national hero, household items, cruiser and yachts. Not far from the museum complex there is a park with the tomb of Hayreddin Barbarossa: it`s famous admiral of the Ottoman Empire.
Before visiting the museum, you can go to the Ortakoy Mosque: you can walk to it from the pier in 15 minutes.
Museum working hours: on weekdays from 09:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m., on weekends from 10:00 a.m. to 06:00 p.m. (closed on Monday).
Miniaturk Museum (Miniatürk)
This museum complex is a favorite place for both adults and children. In this unique place you can see many Turkish attractions.
Miniaturk Museum has recently been opened (since 2003), but has already managed to turn into a popular holiday destination. This park area is located in Sutluce District (this is in European part of the city).
Park-Museum is zoned into 3 parts: Ottoman, Anatolian and Istanbul. A lot of models here are exact copies of the architectural masterpieces that exist today. But there are many exhibits that copy the long-lost creations of ancient architects.
Park is open from 09:00 a.m. to 06:00 p.m.
Rahmi M. Koc Museum (Rahmi M. Koç müzesi)
The founder of this private museum complex was the engineer and billionaire Ramhi Koc. He decided to collect in one territory many amazing creations of man. It all started with the fact that Koc acquired the long-empty industrial workshops on Golden Horn Coast and restored them beyond recognition. At the end of the 20th century, museum was open to first tourists. Then, near this museum complex, Ramhi acquired empty shipyards. This made it possible to post new interesting exhibits. Later, he bought a huge open area on which today cars, steam locomotives and ferries are located. At the moment, Ramhi M. Koc Museum includes a diverse technique that can fly, move on the ground, swim on water and rotate.
Museum opening hours: from Tuesday to Thursday from 09:30 a.m. to 05:00 p.m., on weekends and holidays from 09:30 a.m. to 06:00 p.m. (closed on Mondays).
Aviation Museum (Hava Kuvvetleri Müzesi)
This is a paradise for fans of aircraft. On a huge open area exposed all the planes that have ever been in arsenal of the country. There are Turkish, Italian and South African airplanes. For visitors who want to relax and satisfy their hunger, there is a cozy cafe. It is noteworthy that the exposure can be viewed for several hours. This is a great option for transit passengers waiting for their next flight.
Museum is open from 09:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m., weekends and holidays from 10:00 a.m. to 06:00 p.m. (closed on Monday).
Toy Museum (Oyuncak müzesi)
This young museum complex was founded in 2005 at the initiative of writer Sunay Akin. Exposition features more than 4,000 toys. Such an exhibition will be fascinating for children, so if you plan a trip to Istanbul in the winter, you should definitely look into this museum. Not only children, but also adults will be delighted.
Museum is open from 09:30 a.m. to 06:00 p.m. (except Mondays).
Energy Museum (Enerji müzesi)
First two engine rooms of power station, built in 1913 and 1921, were strengthened and transformed into Istanbul Energy Museum.
Here visitors can see various turbo-generators from world manufacturers.
Room, which controlled the production of electricity and its supply to various parts of Istanbul, is preserved in its original form.
First floor of Energy Museum is reserved for the play area, which is a fascinating scientific space with 22 interactive exhibits. It is here that visitors can themselves generate electricity, turn into batteries, make magnetic sculptures and indulge in many more scientific experiments.
Museum is open from 09:00 a.m. to 06:00 p.m.
Hisart Live History & Diorama Museum (Hisart Canlı Tarih ve Diorama Müzesi)
This is a private museum, the founder of which, for 18 years of his life, independently collected suitable exhibits for a thematic exhibition and designed dioramas. Exposition has two main tasks. First: to study the past. And second: to try to “look” into the future, to model it. Exhibition gathered all the most important events for a planet.
Opening hours of museum: from Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 06:00 p.m. (Sunday from 12:00 a.m. to 06:00 p.m.).
Pelit Chocolate Museum (Pelit çikolata müzesi)
This museum complex began its history in 1957. Initiators of its creation were owners of Pelit Chocolate Factory. Museum has several rooms.
The main hall “History of Chocolate” includes chocolate waterfalls, a full-size chocolate house, Noah’s Ark, paintings describing the history of chocolate, and much more.
“Istanbul Hall” includes grandiose chocolate sculptures reflecting the main symbols of Istanbul.
“Hall of Turkish Leaders” is the chocolate busts of Ataturk, Mehmed ll, Osman Gazi and many other leaders who have left their mark on Turkish history.
There is also a “Hall of Artists” with chocolate copies of famous paintings and a “Hall of Civilizations” (Hittites, Ancient Greece and Ottoman Empire).
Museum is open every day from 10:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m.
Classic Car Museum (Mehmet Arsay Klasik Otomobil Müzesi)
All those who are not indifferent to cars and the history of their creation will be delighted with this exhibition. Exposition is located in Asian part of city, near Eminonu Pier. This private museum was opened in the late 80s of the 20th century by Genghis Artam, a collector and an avid motorist who, for many years of his life, collected automobile trash throughout the country, bought it and restored it, turning it into unique transport.
It should be noted that the owner of museum does not just show cars, but popularizes motorisation. Some of his cars took part in special retro races of 2004, and the famous Schumacher was driving one of them. These competitions went down in Turkish history (a documentary film was even made about this).
Opening hours: Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m.
Galata Mevlevi Museum (Galata Mevlevihanesi Müzesi)
Popularity of Dervish Order became so great that a museum was opened in their honor, which is now located in Galata District. It was on this territory at the end of the 15th century that the first monastery was built for wandering dervishes.
There was a period when Ataturk banned the Order, and an educational institution was made from monastery. Fairness was restored only in the 21st century. And now everyone has the opportunity to learn a lot of interesting things about whirling dervishes and their history.
In museum complex you can see the famous dance of dervishes, which, truly, is fascinating.
Central exhibition is a floor above. The exhibits include musical instruments, household items, clothing, as well as a few manuscripts.
Galata Mevlevi museum is included to Museum Pass Istanbul.
- Opening hours from April 1 to October 1: from 9:00 a.m. to 07:00 p.m. (except Monday).
- Opening hours from October 1 to April 1: from 9:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m. (except Monday).
Rumeli Fortress (Rumeli Hisarı)
Fortress was erected in 1452 by order of Mehmed II. Construction of walls took only 4 months. For the fastest possible construction of a defensive structure, more than 2,000 workers and 1,000 design architects were involved. But main among the architects was Muslihiddin Agha.
Previously, a Byzantine fortress stood on the site of Rumeli Hisari, but only the foundation with a thickness of 7 meters remained from it, which served as the basis for new defensive structure.
Fortress walls blocked passage through strait for military vessels in the most convenient place. Therefore, second name of fortress is Boğazkesen Hisarı (overlapping the Bosporus).
- Opening hours from April 1 to October 1: from 9:00 a.m. to 07:00 p.m. (except Wednesday).
- Opening hours from October 1 to April 1: from 9:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m. (except Wednesday).
After visiting the fortress, you can take a walk along the nearby beach.
Yedikule Fortress Museum (Yedikule müzesi)
All tourists visiting Istanbul want to see Golden Gate. This attraction is part of the fortress that surrounded Constantinople. When Constantinople fell, the Sultan Mehmed decided to supplement Golden Gate with 7 towers for greater stability. So seven-tower Yedikule Fortress appeared.
In the courtyard of museum you can admire the military cannons of 1453. High walls offer stunning views of Strait and Istanbul.
At the moment, museum is closed for restoration. But you can take a walk along the walls of Theodosius.
Painting, exhibitions, sculpture
Panorama 1453 (Panorama 1453 Tarih müzesi)
Panorama is completely devoted to one important historical event: the siege of Constantinople, which lasted 54 days. After this siege, Byzantium fell, and great Ottoman Empire arose.
Museum is a huge artistic painting depicting 100,000 soldiers who became participants in the battle.
In this museum you can get acquainted with various types of weapons used in that battle. Also, exposition gradually introduces visitors to the course of a long and bloody siege. For ease of movement, complex has an elevator, which is very convenient for people with limited mobility.
Museum is open from 08:00 a.m. to 06:00 p.m. (seven days a week).
Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum (Türk ve İslam Eserleri Müzesi)
This museum complex is located in a chic homeownership that Suleiman the Magnificent presented as a gift to his friend and colleague Ibrahim Pasha. Exposition of museum is huge: it has over 40,000 artifacts from the life of Turkish nobility. Ancient exhibits of the 16th century are stored here.
Museum is open from 9:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m. (except Monday). You can visit Turkish and Islamic Art museum with Museum Pass card (free entrance included).
Palace Collections Museum (Saray koleksiyonları müzesi)
This museum complex is located in one of the Dolmabahce Palace buildings, what used to prepared food for a Sultan’s family. Museum’s exposition is valuable in that it houses exhibits that belonged to various rulers of state: interior details, costumes, dishes, furniture, books, watches, etc.
Museum is open from 9:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m. (closed on Monday).
Painting Museum (Resim müzesi)
This museum complex was opened in the late 30s of the 20th century on initiative of Kemal Ataturk. For a country with strict foundations, such an exposition was considered revolutionary. Museum presents the work of Turkish sculptors and painters of the 19-20 centuries. Pride of exposition is sculptural works of Eyuboglu and paintings by Abidin Dino. Interestingly, in the halls you can see the paintings of Ivan Aivazovsky. Currently, restoration work is underway in some rooms, so it is closed to visitors.
Opening hours: weekdays and weekends from 9:00 a.m. to 04:00 p.m. (except Mondays).
Carpet Museum (Halı müzesi)
It was a small collection of carpets that fit in one of the Sultanahmet Mosque halls. But later collection grew, and in 2013 a special building, located near Hagia Sophia, was given over to the exhibition.
Exposition is divided into periods of carpet craft development. Visitors can see the work of masters of different eras. Here you can see both small mats for prayer, and chic Anatolian rugs.
Museum is open from 09:00 a.m. to 04:00 p.m. (closed on Monday).
Pera Museum (Pera müzesi)
This exhibition is located in Beyoglu District. Visitors will like a unique collection of weights and measures, samples of oriental painting, ceramics from Kutahya, paintings by Osman Hamdi Bey and other Turkish artists. This gallery often hosts expositions brought from around the world. There is a cozy cafe for everyone.
Museum opening hours: on weekdays from 10:00 a.m. to 07:00 p.m., on Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 06:00 p.m. (closed on Monday).
Istanbul Modern (İstanbul Modern Sanat Müzesi)
To open this museum complex, a port warehouse was renovated. Today, this museum is loved not only by tourists, but also by local residents.
The complex includes: a large cinema hall, a thematic library, a photo gallery, a sculpture hall. In addition, expositions and events devoted to contemporary art in all its areas are constantly held here. Each exhibit has an explanatory plate in Turkish and English. You can also use the services of an audio-guide.
Museum is open daily, except Mondays, from 10:00 a.m. to 06:00 p.m. It is located near Istiklal Street.
Museum of Innocence (Masumiyet müzesi)
This exhibition will especially appeal to lovers. Museum complex was opened after the release of literary work “Museum of Innocence” by Orhan Pamuk. All rooms in house are filled with things from the novel, which were bought at flea markets.
None of the visitors can be indifferent to the lively atmosphere of exposition, to each of its details, whether it be worn shoes or cigarette butts in an ashtray. All this causes a desire to read the novel from beginning to end.
Museum is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 06:00 p.m. (except Mondays). It is located a little further from Istiklal Street, behind the Galatasaray Lyceum.
Yildiz Porcelain Factory (Yıldız Porselen Fabrikası)
Turkish government at the end of the 19th century did everything possible to develop porcelain manufacturing. To do this, they had to invite French engineers and technologists. As a result, Turkish porcelain conquered all of Europe.
But in the 30s of the 20th century, prosperous factory closed, and production resumed only after 20 years. Since then, factory has been working continuously. And in 1995, a museum was opened on its territory. Now for tourists and local residents in the workshops arrange tours, talking about the intricacies of porcelain production. You can also purchase finished products here.
Museum is located in Yildiz Park (Besiktas District).
Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
Since the museum was opened more than 250 years ago, it has become incredibly popular with tourists. There are many reasons for such continued success, but at the heart of everything is ordinary human curiosity.
Museum is open from 10:00 a.m. to 09:00 p.m. (seven days a week). It is located on Istiklal Street.